Foreign Medical Graduates

The J-1 exchange visitor category is often utilized by international medical graduates (IMGs) for U.S. graduate medical education programs as well as training at U.S. medical schools. The J-1 clinical programs are sponsored exclusively through the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). All J-1 clinical participants are subject to the two-year home residency requirement following completion of the training. The duration of J-1 clinical status is limited to the time required to complete the particular program, with a maximum timeframe of seven years.

The J-1 category is also used by IMGs who are engaged in nonclinical programs, such as observation, consultation, teaching, or research. These research scholar programs are sponsored by hospitals and educational institutions. ECFMG will act as the sponsor if the program is not designated as a J-1 sponsor.



  • Acceptance in an accredited U.S. graduate medical education program, documented by a signed contract.
  • Statement of Need from the home country, establishing the need there for the skills sought through the J-1 program
  • Appropriate prior medical education and training
  • Screening and certification of qualifications via ECFMG [ECFMG certification requires satisfactory results on the United States Medical Licensing Exam, Step 1 and Step 2.]
  • Satisfactory results on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), unless subject to exception


  • Acceptance in a program solely or predominately for purposes of observation, consultation, teaching, or research
  • If no patient care is involved, certification required from a sponsoring U.S. university or academic medical center verifying that the sole purpose of the program is observation, consultation, teaching, or research and that no element of patient care is involved
  • If patient care is involved, certification required from the dean or designee of the appropriate accredited U.S. medical school that the program is predominantly for observation, consultation, teaching or research [The certification must verify that any incidental patient contact will be under direct supervision of a properly licensed U.S. physician, with no final diagnosis or patient treatment responsibility given to the IMG, and that all activities will conform with state licensing requirements and regulations.]

How We Can Help You

  • The Murthy Law Firm guides IMGs as to their immigration options and related requirements, including J-1 status.
  • Our attorneys assist with the transition to J-1, including change-of-status requirements, and guidance in consular processing, if needed.
  • We represent physicians in J-1 status in connection with related needs, including waivers of the home residency requirement and physician-specific National Interest Waivers (NIW).