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Details about USMLE Visa: An Idiots Guide

Author: rxpg, Posted on Friday, April 04 @ 00:00:00 IST by rxpg  

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USA Visa

Visa details

International Medical Graduates (IMG) seeking U.S. residency training who do not qualify for permanent resident status in the U.S. usually seek either of two visas from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for U.S. training:

  • J-1 Visa
  • H-1B visa

Several recent events affect the use of those two visas by IMGs.

J-1 visa (Exchange visitor)

  • The J-1 visa is used for graduate medical education and training ( maximum period of seven years).
  • It should be noted that, upon completion of the J-1 stay in the U.S., the alien will be required to return to his home country for a period of at least two years.
  • This is the most common visa applied by the overseas doctors who are not planning to settle in the United states permanently.

(It should be noted that many doctors, after obtaining J-1 visa and completing their training, decide to settle down in the United states. Please refer the J-1 waiver section.)

Requirements for J-1 Visa

Several requirements apply when an alien physician seeks a J-1 visa.

  • He/she must provide a written assurance from the home country confirming that there is a need for his/her skills in this country.
  • There must be also a written agreement from an accredited school of medicine which will provide the training in the U.S.
  • He/she must prove sufficient skills that he/she has already achieved by having
    either: graduated from a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)
    or: possessing ECFMG certification.
  • The alien physician must already have prior education/ licensure abroad.


  • Spouse ( on a J-2 visa ) of an alien having a J-1 visa may obtain more easily a work permit.
  • There are no social security tax requirements 
  • No labor certification is needed.

H-1B Visa

  • Foreign graduates who wish to settle down in United States permanently, may prefer this visa, as this can be converted to green card later. 
  • Unfortunately, H-1B visas are open to all professionals (not just medical) and the US government has placed a cap of 115,000 on the number of such visas that can be issued in each fiscal year (October to September annually).
  • Note that the Match takes place in mid-March, and for a July start you would likely have only short period to secure a state medical license and submit your H-1B visa application.

Requirements for the H-1 Visa

For alien physicians who will primarily be teaching or performing research (with incidential patient care only) the following conditions apply:

  • He/she must be licensed in the State of intended employment.
  • He/she must be a graduate of a foreign or U.S. medical school, or have a full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in a foreign state.

Additionally, alien physicians intending to perform patient care services must have :

Either: graduated from a medical school accredited by the LCME

Or: passed Steps I, II, CSA and III of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), and have competency in written and oral English.

J-1 Waiver

An exchange visitor holding a J-1 visa cannot remain in the U.S. beyond the seven year limit to pursue other types of training or for practice, or for academic activities unless he/she qualifies for a waiver to the foreign residency requirement.

There are now four statutory justifications for such a waiver.

  • A finding by the INS of exceptional hardship for a spouse or child who is a U.S. permanent resident or citizen;
  • A finding by the INS that the alien would face persecution on returning home;
  • Support of a waiver from a U.S. government agency based on the alien
  • accepting a position that could not be filled by a U.S. citizen.

Typically, the latter have been issued by the U.S. Veterans Administration or less often, the Appalachian Regional Commission.

In October 1994, Congress approved a fourth important route for a waiver. This allows the State Department of Public Health to request a waiver from the United States Information Agency (USIA) which will make a recommendation to the INS.

These waivers will generally be based upon services in medically underserved areas.

For additional information on J-1 waiver on internet

Useful links for visa purposes

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