International recruitment of allied health professionals to the United States: piecing together the picture with imperfect data

J Allied Health. 2014 Summer;43(2):79-87.


Background: Research on the international recruitment of health professionals to the U.S. has focused almost exclusively on physicians and nurses; we are aware of no research on the migration of allied health professionals.

Objective: We examined the strengths and weaknesses of various public and private data sources on foreign-educated allied health professions in the U.S. and patched together a picture of these migrants. We focus on pharmacists, physical therapists (PTs), occupational therapists (OTs), speech language pathologists (SLPs), and medical and clinical laboratory technicians (lab techs).

Findings: Based on the American Community Survey, we found that 12% of PTs, 12% of lab techs, 8% of pharmacists, 4% of OTs, and 3% of SLPs are foreign-born and entered the U.S. at age 21 or older. Among foreign-born PTs, about half remain as non-citizens, suggesting the highest proportion of recent arrivals among the five professions.

Conclusions: As Congress debates comprehensive immigration reform, one of the much need changes to the system is better immigration data, disaggregated by occupation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / education
  • Allied Health Personnel / standards
  • Allied Health Personnel / supply & distribution*
  • Certification / standards
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Emigration and Immigration / trends
  • Foreign Professional Personnel / education
  • Foreign Professional Personnel / standards
  • Foreign Professional Personnel / supply & distribution*
  • Humans
  • Licensure / standards
  • Needs Assessment
  • Personnel Selection / methods
  • Personnel Selection / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Design
  • United States