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Quick Question: IMG Requirements to Practice Medicine in U.S.

Posted by Ann Badmus | Oct 06, 2014 | 0 Comments

Quick Question:  I am a medical doctor from India with several years of experience.  I would like to practice medicine in the U.S. What is required?

To practice medicine in the U.S., international medical graduates (IMG) must prove that they have the same qualifications as graduates from U.S. or Canadian medical schools.  The organization responsible for qualifying IMG physicians is the Educational Council of Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), which issues a certificate confirming that the physician's medical knowledge is equivalent to U.S. or Canadian medical school graduates.

To get the ECFMG certificate, IMG physicians must:

  • Prove graduation from a medical school outside of the United States and Canada. The medical school and graduation year of the IMG must be listed in the International Medical Education Directory (IMED) of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER).
  • Pass Parts I and II of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The USMLE Part II test has been split into two parts:  CK (Clinical Knowledge) and CS ( Clinical Skills).
  • Pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Another prerequisite to practicing medicine in the United States is attending a residency (clinical training) program.  In fact, all state licensing authorities require physicians to attend a U.S. residency program (with some exceptions for Canadian trained physicians).  Typically, a medical residency lasts three to four years.  You can get assistance with medical residency program applications at

Physicians who wish to specialize must also enter fellowship programs in their chosen specialty. For example, an internist who wishes to specialize in infectious diseases must complete a three-year residency program in internal medicine and a one or two-year fellowship in infectious diseases.

Foreign nationals wishing to enter the United States for clinical residency or fellowship training must first obtain either an exchange visitor visa (J-1 visa) or a professional worker visa (H-1B visa).   Those wanting to enter U.S. to do a residency on H-1B status, must have taken and passed USMLE Part  III in addition to Parts I and II.  Those entering in J-1 status can take the USMLE Part III after one year of residency training.

After completion of residency or fellowship training, the physician must apply for and obtain licensing in the state where he or she will practice. Once licensed and with the appropriate work authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, you can practice medicine in the U.S.

The information provided in this article is intended to help you understand basic issues involved in the immigration process, and are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. This information is not offered as, nor does it constitute legal advice or legal opinions. You should not act or rely upon the information in this article without first seeking the advice of an immigration attorney.

About the Author

Ann Badmus

Principal and Managing Attorney


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