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One of the most common activities in which foreign national physicians engage while in the U.S. is graduate medical education (GME). Graduate medical education is commonly referred to as 'residency' or as a 'fellowship' to refer to more advanced specialized levels of medical training. This is a didactic activity in a medical specialty following completion of a recognized medical school. Such training is required in preparation for independent medical practice.

To undertake graduate medical training in the U.S. International Medical Graduates are required to:
  • Complete ECFMG certification by meeting examination and credentialing requirements
  • Apply for US Residency Training Position through an Electronic Residency Application System (ERAS), administered by AAMC, interview with teaching hospital programs, and enroll in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP).
  • Secure a contract / letter of offer from a medical training program
  • Seek appropriate US training visa / status. UTHealth Medical School recognizes the J-1 exchange visitor visa as the appropriate mechanism to sponsor foreign medical graduates interested in the exchange of medical knowledge and skills in education. The J-1 exchange visitor visa must be obtained through sponsorship from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Application for J-1 visa sponsorship from ECFMG requires a coordinated effort of the International Medical Graduate applicant (IMG), ECFMG Regional Advisor, and Training Program Liaison (TPL) from the UTHealth Office of International Affairs, and the Training Program Coordinator from the teaching hospital /school.

Note: UTHealth does not sponsor H-1B visas for purposes of medical training and therefore it is not an acceptable visa option for UTHealth clinical residents and fellows during their graduate medical education training.

J-1 Visa Sponsorship for Medical Training

While the J-1 Visa may be easier to qualify for than certain other categories, this particular visa type contains three important conditions:

  1. Enroll full time in the medical training program to maintain legal status. The J-1 Visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa.
  2. Provide a Statement of Need from the physician’s country of last legal permanent residence which serves as evidence of the home country support for the U.S. training and provides assurance of an applicant’s commitment to return home. This is because all J-1 physicians sponsored for clinical training are subject to the two-year home country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement of §212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. J-1 exchange visitors are required to return to their home country for a period of two years prior to obtaining other work-authorized nonimmigrant status, or obtaining permanent residence.
  3. Prove strong ties to the home country and a clear intent to return home upon completion of training.

This J visa category is exclusively sponsored by the ECFMG Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program (EVSP). As indicated, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), is the only organization authorized to sponsor graduates of foreign medical schools to come to the U.S. to participate in medical residencies and clinical fellowships.

Contact us for questions related to UTHealth J-1 sponsorship for medical training.