Immigration information for international medical graduates

International Medical Graduates who seek entry into U.S. programs of Graduate Medical Education (GME) must obtain a visa that permits clinical training to provide medical services.

The most common visa international medical graduates use to participate in U.S. GME programs is the J-1 visa.

The Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor foreign national physicians for the J-1 visa.

Information on eligibility and deadlines is available from ECFMG’s Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program.

To apply for a J-1 visa, an IMG must meet the following criteria:

  • Passed USMLE® step 1 and step 2 CK (or equivalent).
  • Have a valid ECFMG Certificate.
  • Have a contract or official letter of offer for a position in a program of Graduate Medical Education or training with a medical school.
  • Provide a statement of need from the Ministry of Health of the country of last legal permanent residence (LPR) regardless of country of citizenship.

Upon completion of training in the U.S., J-1 visa holders must return to their home country for a period of 2 years to transmit the knowledge they gained in the U.S.

An individual must fulfill this obligation before being eligible for a change or adjustment of visa status to certain types of U.S. visas. These visa types include:

  • H–Temporary worker
  • L–Intra-company transferee
  • U.S.–Permanent resident

The only exception to the 2-year home residence requirement of the J-1 visa program is to receive a waiver.

Under the law, the following 3 circumstances can provide a waiver of the 2-year residency requirement:

  • The waiver applicant can demonstrate that he or she will suffer from persecution in his or
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