Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Non-US Health Care Professionals

(updated 2.2014)

I am a physician assistant who was educated outside the United States. How do I become a PA in the US? Do I have to attend a US PA program to work as a PA in the United States? I have heard that some states allow for this without attending a US based PA program. Is this true?

Before you can work in the US, you must contact the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS International) to complete a visa screening program which, in part, will determine if your education was equivalent to that from a US PA Program. If your education is equivalent, you are eligible for a certificate that you can submit with your visa application to the US State Department. The State Department’s approval of your occupational visa may help you enter the U.S. but you are still not eligible to work as a PA in the U.S.

To become a PA in the United States, individuals must also attend and graduate from an ARC-PA–accredited entry-level PA program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certifying of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

For information on PA programs contact the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). Eligibility criteria for taking the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) are available on the NCCPA web site.

Additional information on practicing as a PA in the US can be found at the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ (AAPA) web site.

To determine if an individual state allows non-US educated physicians to practice as PAs without additional education and national certification, you would have to contact the licensing bodies of the specific states.

Will a physician assistant educational program give me advanced standing if I am already a physician or PA trained outside the US?

Decisions on issues such as advance standing in a PA program based on prior education are made at the individual PA program level and therefore individuals should contact the specific programs about their policies. For information on PA programs contact the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).

I am a foreign trained physician. How do I become a PA in the United States?

From the standpoint of the ARC-PA, individuals educated as physicians outside of the United States are not treated any differently than any other prospective PA student. To practice as a PA in the United States one must graduate from an ARC-PA accredited program and be certified by the NCCPA. If interested in applying to a PA program, such individuals should contact the PAEA for information on specific programs.

Is licensure required to practice as a PA in the United States?

Licensure is required for medical professionals in the U.S. Each state sets its own requirements for a license as a physician assistant. To obtain a license, an individual, even one educated as a PA or physician in another country, must graduate from an ARC-PA accredited U.S. physician assistant program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certifying of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). There are NO states that have an exception to this rule.

I am a physician assistant trained outside the United States and someone has offered me a PA job in the U.S. Can I take it?

No. You cannot practice as a PA in the U.S. without a license. You cannot get a state license if you have not passed the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certifying of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). You cannot take the NCCPA exam unless you are a graduate of an ARC-PA accredited PA program.

What is CGFNS?

The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS International) is an organization that, for a fee, will evaluate your educational background as a physician assistant and determine if it is equivalent to PA education in the United States. If your education is equivalent, you are eligible for a certificate that you can submit with your visa application to the US State Department. The State Department’s approval of your occupational visa may help you enter the U.S. but you are still not eligible to work as a PA in the U.S. You must have a state license to work as a PA. (See above.)

What is ICHP?

The International Commission on Healthcare Professions (ICHP) is a division of CGFNS International. It administers a VisaScreen program, which is a federally approved screening program for foreign healthcare workers seeking occupational visas in the United States.

U.S. immigration law requires that healthcare professionals other than physicians complete a screening program in order to qualify for certain occupational visas. VisaScreen enables healthcare professionals to meet this requirement by verifying and evaluating their credentials to ensure that they meet the government's minimum eligibility standards.

Where can I find information on Visas?

For information on the visa screening process required for an occupational visa, you should contact the International Commission on Healthcare Professions (ICHP), a division of CGFNS International.

Information on obtaining student visas and studying in the United States can be found on the United States Visa website.