A complete guide for IMGs to get J-1 Visa Sponsorship

J-1 Visa for International medical graduate.

Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is the visa sponsor for all J-1 exchange visitor physicians in clinical training programs. The J-1 visa is the most preferred for IMGs.

Eligibility of getting J-1 Visa

Following are requirements for international medical graduate seeking J-1 sponsorship;

  • Hold a valid Standard ECFMG Certificate
  • Hold official acceptance letter in training program
  • A Statement of Need from the Ministry of Health of the country

Sponsorship Process of getting J-1 Visa:

ECFMG facilitates J-1 visa sponsorship through the coordinated efforts of training institutions and IMG. Following are the step by step process to get sponsorship:

  • ECFMG verifies that the foreign national physicians meet J-1 eligibility requirements.
  • The applied institution is oversees all the documentation for providing the J-1 physician with the approved clinical training.
  • Each institution arranges a Training Program Liaison (TPL) who is representative to regulate with ECFMG. This communication ensures that all the regulatory legality required for administration are met by J-1 physicians. All the required documentation and procedure of J-1 sponsorship will be handled through the TPL.
  • Immediately after obtaining a training contract, the IMG starts the sponsorship process by contacting the TPL at the host institution.

J-1 Visa Duration:

The duration of visa approval for participation of J-1 physicians in clinical training is the duration to complete the program. This generally refers to the minimum number of training years required by an American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) member board for specialty or subspecialty certification and the accredited length of training as defined by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The J1 visa extension is limited to seven years, provided that the J-1 physician is accepted in program of training or other accredited course.

J-1 Visa Form for USMLE program:

Associated training/employment authorization is specific to the approved activities stated on Form DS-2019. A Form DS-2019 obtained for a particular program may be used only for that program and is not transferable to another institution or program. The law bars working, training, and financial compensation for activities that are outside of the approved Exchange Visitor Program offered by the particular institution.

J-1 Exchange Physical Presence Requirement:

In accordance with federal law, all J-1 Exchange Visitors who are sponsored by ECFMG for the purpose of clinical training are obligated to return to their country of legal permanent residence for total of at least two years.

J-1 Waivers

Many J-1s have a clause of two-year foreign residence requirement after the completion of clinical training.  J-1 visa holder must return to their country for at least 2 years before being allowed to re-enter the United States in another visa category. Also, if the international medical graduate wants to stays in US, they have to apply for J1 waiver jobs.

A complete guide for IMGs and FMGs to get H-1B Visa

H-1B visa for International medical graduate.

H1-B visa is a temporary work visa which allows those in specialty occupations to work in the US. Because medicine is a “specialty occupation,” the H1B visa would be a good option for any foreign medical graduate (FMG) seeking residency or fellowship in the US and planning on continuing in the US to migrate after the completion of that training.

Therefore, if your intension is to practice medicine and settle in the US following your residency training, the H1-B visa is good route. With an H1B visa, you will be entitled to begin the procedure for Green Card. Keep in mind, however, that obtaining an H1-B visa and finding a program willing to sponsor you requires some advance planning, a good legitimate reason for the sponsor and an explanation to the issuing authority. Most FMG’s will want to begin this planning for visa documentation well before applications and residency match.

Requirements for getting an H-1B visa as an FMG

To obtain an H1B visa for a fellowship/intern/residency position, you must have the following requirements and documentations with you;

  • A medical degree from an accredited medical school (in the US or abroad)
  • An offer from a US fellowship or residency program that agrees to H1-B sponsorship
  • An ECFMG certification certificate, qualified in USMLE Steps I, II & III and State medical license or other legitimate authorization to practice medicine in the state of intended employment.

Note: Most states require medical residents to have state training licenses to practice medicine either a full license or physician in training license

Annual Cap for H-1B Visa:

One of the disadvantages of the H1B visa for doctors is that you will most likely be subject to the annular allotment lottery. In past years, the USCIS and US federal government has placed a cap on H1B petition approvals. However, no cap on submission of applications.

Duration of H-1B Visa:

After fulfilling the requirements and application process for the H1B visa for doctors, your H1B will processed and the result are on the discretion of the visa approval authority. If it is approved, H1B visa is granted initially for up to three years and can be extended  to a maximum of six years. The H1B is a non-immigrant visa which gives you the opportunity to obtain a US green card and to remain in the US longer to continue to pursue your medical career or settle in US.

Dependents of Doctors and Physicians:

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can enter and stay in the US with the H1B visa holder under the dependent visa category.  The dependent visa holder is allowed to live in the US as long as the H1B visa holder continues is allowed by the immigration authority along with H1B visa requirements to remain in legal status.