Aussie Occupational Therapy Accreditation in the USA

Urszula Semerda (Bakonska)

The following is a guest post by Urszula Semerda (Bakonska).
About Urszula: By profession I am an Occupational Therapist (OT) currently working in the beautiful California (Silicon Valley) as a Occupational Therapist. Prior to this I spent 8 years working as a Occupational Therapy in Sydney, Australia.My skills & experience are primarily around working with children. I have achieved wonderful and rewarding results by working & helping children with physical disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders (Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Syndrome), ADHD, learning disabilities and sensory processing disorder.

Connect with me on LinkedIn here.

By the American Occupational Therapy Association executive board (1976) as: “The therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and to enhance the quality of life.”

As an occupational therapist organizing a move to the US (California) from Australia (Sydney) I was confronted by a number of challenges. My Australian degree did not allow me to automatically work in the US and thus I was required to 1st become certified by the NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy) and then obtain a state licence to work in California. This was a time-consuming and rather pricey process which should be started immediately to speed up the accreditation.

So to all of the readers who are or have partners in similar situation here is my road to the silicon valley 🙂

7 steps to Occupational Therapy accreditation

Note: The costs mentioned in this post are what I paid in 2009. They may have changed today so please check with the appropriate institutes mentioned here.

1. Check if your Occupational Therapy (OT) school is WFOT (World Federation of Occupational Therapists) accredited.

Only graduates in OT with a Baccalaureate Degree or a Post-Baccalaureate Degree from a WFOT accredited program are eligible to apply to the Occupational Therapist Eligibility Determination (OTED) program. To check if your school is WFOT accredited visit their website at

2. Complete the Occupational Therapist Eligibility Determination (OTED) Application.

The application process includes 8 steps. These are as follows:

  1. Determine if you are CATEGORY A or CATEGORY B applicant
  2. Category B applicants ONLY – Complete and submit a Determination of Masters Equivalence Content Evaluation Form
  3. Complete the OTED Application
  4. Take and pass English Language Proficiency Exams (Exemptions: Graduates of occupational therapy programs in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland,
    New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States.)
  5. Request transcript(s) from your OT school
  6. Request completion of the Program Director Form.
  7. Request completion of the Verification of Academic Credential Form.
  8. Request completion of the Verification of OT License, Registration, Certification, or Other form of Official Government Recognition Form, and temporary permit history

The application and detailed process can be found on the NBCOT website:

What you need to know:

  • Application processing time: 2-5 months
  • Investment:
    • OTED Application: $500.00 USD
    • OT Transcript: $150.00 AUD (This fee may vary depending on your University)

3. Complete Application for the OTR Certification Exam and the Authorization To Test Letter (ATT).

What you need to know:


4. Schedule and complete the NBCOT Certification Exam at your nearest Prometric Centre.

Note: You cannot schedule your exam untill you receive your ATT letter from NBCOT.

What you need to know:

My study notes

My study notes

My study notes

5. Apply for a Visa Credential Verification Certificate.

What you need to know:

  • Purpose: This application is required for immigration purposes.
  • Investment: $300.00 USD
  • Time: Approximately 1 month
  • Website:

6. Get your State Registration. I was applying for California.

What you need to know:

  • Each Application includes a Live Scan (obtaining your finger prints). It is the equivalent of the criminal record check in Australia.
  • Investment: Approximately $150.oo USD
  • Time: Approximately 2 weeks

7. Additional Investment (costs):

  • Score Transfer – $35 USD
  • Examination Registration & Eligibility Notice – $40 USD
  • Exam Check Fee – $35 USD

That’s it! there you have it. If you have any further questions please post them below or contact me via LinkedIn here –

In Summary, the total figures to obtaining Occupational Therapy Accreditation

  • Investment: Approximately $1,710 USD
  • Time: Approximately 7 months
  • Learnings: Start early! study hard, and don’t think / believe anyone that this is a fast process.

Oh, there is an additional 8th step.

8. Connect with me on LinkedIn. The world is truly a small place and we are here to help each other get further in life.

/ Urszula

Author: Urszula Semerda

Urszula Semerda (Bakonska) is a seasoned Occupational Therapist (OT) registered at Associated Learning & Language. With specialties in Pediatrics and Physical Disability Urszula is also a coach, leader and contributor to this blog. Urszula currently lives in Mountain View (California) where she services the Cupertino schooling districts. You can connect with Urszula Semerda (Bakonska) on LinkedIn or Google+ View all posts by Urszula Semerda

39 thoughts on “Aussie Occupational Therapy Accreditation in the USA”

  1. Hi! I am a U.S. citizen looking into studying for a Masters in OT in Sydney. Can you tell me any differences you’ve noticed between the field of OT in Australia vs. the U.S.?

    1. Dear Akgerber,

      I hope I can give you some useful information, however my
      insight is based on my experiences which may be limited to what you need.

      I have completed my degree in Australia
      and from the discussions in the US
      I don’t believe that there are any large differences between the two countries.
      The internships can be both good and bad in either of the countries and the
      knowledge that you get is dependent on you and the lead you take in your internships.
      Professional development opportunities I believe are better in the US.

      There are also differences in the actual health systems
      between Australia
      and the US hence many of the practices are ran differently but the basic therapies
      are the same.

      Hope this can answer your question.



      1. Hey. I am so glad I found this topic being discussed somewhere. I am a US citizen with a dual New Zealand citizenship. I would really like to take advantage of my citizenship status and live abroad for a few years. I am considering getting my Masters in Sydney, which would give me the opportunity to experience something different while finishing up my education. I would eventually want to practice in California though. It seems that this has been done by several of you here that have posted, i.e. studied in Australia and moved to practice in US/California. My question is: do you think this would be a wise choice or at least a reasonable one given my circumstances? Is it worth the trouble since I would be returning to practice in California? Thanks for any insight.


        1. Luke, any sort of work abroad will give you experience you would never get locally. All the tough times are a source of education and will help you to become stronger. If it was easy for everyone than everyone would be doing it and there be nothing special of it. I say go for it.

          1. Hey guys, so I did not get into University of Sydney. I’m pretty bummed as that was my top choice. I have not heard back from Curtin University in Perth yet. I am scared that if I leave California to study at Curtin, there is the possibility that the degree will not transfer back to California. I have looked at the eligibility determination form and the international studies manual and it just all seems so confusing and even a bit subjective to me. I think Urszula said she graduated from Sydney Uni, so that curriculum I felt more confident about but is anyone familiar with the curriculum at Curtin?

        2. Hi Luke,
          The fact that you already have US citizenship you don’t have to worry about the visa. You will however have to follow the steps that I did in transfering your degree to US from Australia.
          I personally think it’s a great experience to be living and working in different countries. Highly recommend it!

          1. Wow thank you both for the encouraging words. I do have one question for Urszula though about the program in Sydney. Which program did you complete at which University, and did it include this thesis/research paper that seems to be a criterion for the NBCOT eligibility determination? I just want to make sure that the program I complete will enable me with to practice in California. Also I live in Orange County, California, would I be able to contact you and pick your brain a bit about your experience?


  2. Hi Urszula
    I have a couple of questions for you.
    I am considering a career in occupational therapy with the view to moving to Los Angeles from Ireland.
    Were you able to complete the nbcot and gain your license from Australia or did you have to visit the US?
    When you got your license, how difficult was it to get h1b sponsored position (if indeed you did).
    Would you have any advice on how best to look for h1b sponsored positions?

    1. Hi Tom,
      I was able to complete all my paperwork and the NBCOT exam is Australia. There is no need to do it from the US. The only thing that I completed in the US is getting my California OT licence but this process was very fast (2 weeks) after I put in all my paperwork.
      In regards to visa I came to the US on a E3 dependant visa which is only between Australia and US and it was no problem getting it as my husband’s work organised it. I am currently on H1 B visa and my current work sponsored me. I do have however many OT friends who came here on the H1B visa and they usually got it not directly through an employer but an employment agency that contracts you out to different settings. If later on you want to move away from them then different agencies have specific rules about it so it may be good to look in to it i.e unable to work for the company that you have been contracted out for a certain period of time etc.
      If an employer sponsors you dierectly then you usually have to commit to that job for around a year or so but is also dependent on the company.
      What happens in either situation if you want to move on then your future employer needs to
      transfer the H1B visa onto them.

      Hope that this helps you.

  3. Hi Urszula
    Thanks for your post, it is a very clear summation of the process. I have been in the process of becoming a registered OT in the US for several years now. Mainly due to leaving big gaps between the individual steps, and life going on over here in Oz. So, now I have received notification by email that my VCVC is being drawn up and will be sent to me. I was wondering if that is the ‘visa’ and I am able to work in the US now (aside from rego)? Also, do you have any limits on your visa (like, do you have to be employed and working while ever you are in the US, or are you able to remain over there while not directly working? I am hoping to move over within a few months and want my trip to include some travel as well.

    Also, on another note, are you aware of the changes happening back here? All OTs have to be registered from the middle of this year to work in any state in Aust now. 

    Thanks again,

      1. Leanne, H1 or E3 are all tied to your employer. If you come on a dependent visa (H4 or E3D) then you do not have to work. H4 or E3D is only granted to spouses whom have received a H1 or E3.

          1. Hi Leanne,
            VCVC is not a visa it’s just another part of the accreditation. The best way to get a sponsorship for a H1 visa is to google employment agencies in the area that you want to move to and they usually organise the visa.
            Your visa is actually tied to your employment so you don’t have the flexibility to move around between different jobs unless they sponsor you for the visa as well. 
            If you want to travel around maybe you can choose to go to the US before you start work or choose to work in the school district and then you have all the school holidays off.
            Hope that helps 🙂
            Also an interesting development you mention in AU about the required accreditation. Is this required by all OT’s or only the graduating OT’s?

            Let me know if you have any other questions.

          2. Hi Urszula,
            The registration will be mandatory for all OTs who are practising. You can find out more information on the AHPRA website, who oversee the OT Board. There is a non-practising licence for people who are not working as an OT in Aust. I am tryign to find out more about that at the moment. 

  4. Hi Urszula,

    I was wondering about the opposite! What exam/license do you need to have if you wish to work as an OT internationally ie. What exam did you take in Australia to become an OT? What if I want to work in Asia or Europe as an OT, would I be able to work in those countries by passing the NBCOT exam?

    Thank you
    Jamie Jen

    1. Hello Jamie,
      Every country has different licencing procedures. I actually studied OT in Australia so I did not have to go through additional exams besides the actual completion of my degree. When coming to work in Australia from a non english speaking country you will be required to pass a exam that reviews your english speaking skills.  For further information about additional requirements I would check on the OT Australia website:
      I would recommend to check each countires OT association website to find out what are the requirements in working in their country.
      By passing NBCOT you will only be qualified to work in USA.

      Hope this helps.
      Urszula 🙂

  5. How is the process in reverse? I am a US citizen working as an OT and
    would like to work and live in Australia. I have looked at
    and have found that helpful, but I would appreciate any personal
    experience you or anyone can shed on the process. Thanks!


    1. Hi Courtney,
      I unfortunately don’t have any personal experience in the reverse process but I have worked with some US graduated OTs in Australia. This means it’s possible but unsure of the specifics.
      Urszula 🙂

  6. Cool info….I’m looking at a career change and I’m considering a graduate entry masters in OT thru USYD and I’ve got dual Aust/US citizenship…good to know that the degree would be recognized if I decided to relocate to the US!

  7. Hi Urszula, thanks for the information you provided. I sent my application in to NBCOT and was rejected because I didn’t do a thesis/research paper as part of my degree. Only honours students do a research paper. I did a bachelors of OT at Sydney Uni and graduated in 09. So I am really disappointed!
    @a416bb8467c0443b82c2095156ea58b0:disqus, the masters course in australia is different to the states, so I wouldn’t automatically assume that it would be accepted by NBCOT. From what I understand, the masters course here doesn’t involve a research paper/thesis, which is a requirement to get accepted. I am pretty stumped for ideas so if anyone knows what is the best way to get a work visa with a OT bachelors I’d really appreciated it! Regards, Eileen

    1. Hi Eileen,

      This is very strange. I only completed a Bachelors degree. I remember that they asked me about a research that I have done and in the final year of my Australian OT degree I completed a research subject and these were the documents that I presented and they accepted it.

      Hope this helps.

    1. Hi Anna,

      The switch took me around 2 months but as it was taking longer then expected I did have to pay the additional fees to expedite the process.

      It all depends on your lawyers and how quickly they put in the paperwork.

      If you pay the expediting fees the immigration office should look at your application within 2 weeks.

      Good Luck


  8. Hello Urszula,

    I am a California native and am currently in the process of applying for my masters in occupational therapy at Uni of Sydney and a uni in Oakland. I was wondering if you think it’s worth it to study in Oz because it seems like a very rigorous process to become OTR in the states after studying overseas. I visited my friends in Sydney a couple months ago and I love it there. So I also wanted to check that if I ended up settling in Sydney if I would be able to practise OT as an American citizen. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hello Urszula, I am right there with Tiffany! I love AUstralia and it seems so much more fun and honestly, a better program in Aus.. Do you think we both will be able to be certified in the US after? Thank you for all your time and help!

      1. Hello Tiffani and Serena,
        How did you both go with choosing where to study?
        For me I had no problem transferring my degree over from Australia to the US but it now has been over 5 years ago so I would check with both of the associations just to make sure.
        Good luck

  9. Hi Urszula,

    I am thinking of studying OT undergraduate, but i’m confused as to whether to study in the USA or Australia. What do you think is a better place to then settle and get a job? Being an international student, what would be a better place in terms of job opportunities?

  10. Hi UDear Urszula,
    My name is Marisa Crowe and I am an OT from Melbourne that is interested in moving to the USA to work as an OT.

    I was wondering if you would be interested in answering a few questions for me regarding working and an Australian OT in the USA?

    I tried to connect with you on Linkedin, but I couldn’t get it to work, (I don’t use Linkedin that often and I was using it from my iPad… All too difficult!)

    If you would be happy for me to ask questions, would you prefer me to post on this forum or via email?

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    Best regard,

  11. Hi Urszula,
    I read the comments and if you permiss me i ould like to say and ask about the our carrer in Sydney..sorrys about my english.. 😉 im in the process to evaluate my diplom/certificate of O.T for to try imigrate .. but saw the other colleges from Sydney and them want migration too situations its very hard now.. here in Brazil, its very difficult to find a job and very paygment.. In Sydney is it too?
    thanks for your attention and help

  12. Hi Urszula,
    We plan to move from Melbourne to Silicon Valley next month, and it sounds like my wife has similar challenges that you had. She is a Clinical Psychologist though. She couldn’t find a path to get a Californian Clinical Psychologist license without studying from scratch.
    I wonder if you can help, or maybe know someone who knows what our options are?

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