Visa for IMG (international medical graduate) doctors falls into three major categories – J1, H1B, or an O visa. This could be for the traditional residency where J1 is more common and the alternate entry path program where H1B is more common. These are sponsored by the employing hospital or relevant authorities or both. There may be others but they are mostly an exception.
There are two major categories of USA visas called nonimmigrant (temporary) and immigrant (permanent). There are 38 different nonimmigrant visa categories and 13 immigrant visa categories starting with an alphabet and sometimes a number. I will tell you about each of the visa for IMG types. I am neither an immigration consultant nor an attorney, but I went through this process and have seen many people living through this process. I will share my personal experience. This will give you my thoughts so you know the pros and cons of each and this will help you make a decision.
By Dr. Rajeev Iyer, MBBS, MD, FASA
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
University of Pennsylvania, USA
To obtain a J-1 visa, you have to meet the below eligibility criteria:
- Complete USMLE Step 1 and Step 2
- Obtain ECFMG certification
- Have a job offer from the hospital sponsoring your position
- You will need a letter called “statement of need” from the Ministry of Health from whichever country you are in as a legal permanent resident. This is irrespective of your country of citizenship. The statement of need is a way to say your home country requires you to undergo training in the USA system.
Can IMG doctors get an O visa for IMG?
I have seen very few O Visa for IMG although they do exist, and they have been successful. The “O” Visa is given to an individual who possesses extraordinary skill in the field of medicine and has demonstrated extraordinary achievement in their field and they’re recognized nationally or internationally. “Extraordinary” is the key here.
There are various categories like 01, O2, and O3 under the O Visa categories, however, one of the biggest cons of this is this has a three-year limit, and the extension of O Visa involves a lot of paperwork. The hospital sponsoring you should be willing to support an “O” Visa. Irrespective of the Visa type if your ultimate plan is to settle in the U.S., a petition for a green card must be applied, it has to be approved and then you change your status to be a green card, then you satisfy the residency requirements to be a U.S. citizen.
I have shown the features of O Visa in the below video