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Practicing Medicine

Four key steps to begin practicing medicine in the U.S.

Physicians who received their medical degree outside the U.S. or Canada must complete the following four steps to practice in the U.S. It is important to understand and follow these steps thoroughly.

ECFMG Certification
Certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Through its program of certification, the ECFMG assesses the readiness of international medical graduates to enter US residency or fellowship programs. The process for certification is described at www.ecfmg.org.

Residency Program Requirement
After ECFMG certification, physicians who wish to practice medicine in the U.S. must complete an accredited residency training program in the U.S. or Canada - this process will take at least three years. The physician will have to complete a residency program regardless of the training they have received overseas. Many medical graduates are placed in residency programs through the National Resident Matching Program.

State licensure
Every medical graduate must apply for a license in the state(s) in which they intend to practice. Generally, you have to complete 1-3 years of residency or years of practice outside of the U.S. or Canada before applying for a license.

Immigration (for non-U.S. residents)
The entry of foreign-born graduates of non-U.S. medical schools to the U.S. is governed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a Bureau of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

IMGs may also practice medicine under in the U.S. through these programs:

IMG Resources
For more information on certification, licensure, residency programs and immigration.

ECFMG certification information
Overview of the requirements to obtain ECFMG certification.

Immigration information for IMGs
AMA IMG Section - brief overview of immigration options for international medical graduates.

Licensure information for doctors on the move
The AMA's annual publication on state licensure requirements.

Residency program requirements
This page gives an overview of residency requirements for international medical graduates.

State licensure board requirements for IMG
Overview of the state licensure requirements for IMGs.