Visa categories for international-born or -educated physicians applying to

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F1 ($160), J1($250), J2 ($100), H1B1 ($450), O1 ($450).

Security Requirement for All Physician Visas

U.S. Embassies/Consulates require face-to-face interviews for all initial visa stamps and for renewal of the same visa stamp; it could take a few months for a person to receive an appointment at the Embassy/Consulate to apply for the visa stamp. Embassy/Consulate security checks are underway, most taking 1 month. If the person’s application is chosen for a security check in Washington, DC, this could take up to 5 months for processing. Once this check is started, no one can interfere.

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

Sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), this is the most common type of visa category used by institutions offering graduate medical education training (residency or fellowships) to international medical graduates (IMGs). IMGs who seek to obtain this type of visa must first apply to the ECFMG for certification. ECFMG offers the USMLE exams and is the sponsoring organization providing assurance to residency programs that the candidates meet defined qualifications equivalent of a U.S. medical degree. See

IMGs applying to Residency Programs, requiring the J-1 Visa, must contact the International Students and Scholars Office where they have been accepted in a program to coordinate the J-1 visa sponsorship with the ECFMG. ECFMG will issue the visa document (DS-2019) after the institution submits the individual’s application to ECFMG.

  • An ECFMG Certificate is not required if the physician is a graduate of a Canadian or U.S. Medical School. Canadian Medical School graduates must have passed the equivalent Canadian medical licensing exam.

  • ECFMG Certificate is not required for physicians who are graduates of LCME-Accredited schools in Puerto Rico.

  • A visa is required if the physician is not a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident of the United States.

  • The ECFMG Certificate is required by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine to obtain a Limited License to practice medicine.

Summary of J-1 Visa for IMGs

  • SEVIS Fee of $100 must be paid by accepted applicant prior to U.S. Embassy interview in home country.

  • Annual application process with a fee ($200). Applicant is responsible for this fee.

  • J2 Dependents must enter with their own DS-2019.

  • Easy to coordinate/obtain for both the individual and institution

  • Possible tax advantages (for a limited period of time)

  • Recognized and accepted by most institutions for IMG residency training

  • Spouse may seek work permission while in the U.S. (need to process USCIS Form I-765)

  • Must receive J-1 visa status while in home country; we strongly recommend that status change not occur in U.S.

  • Mandatory two-year foreign residency requirement (Section 212[e]) for all IMGs attending graduate medical education programs in the U.S. at the completion of training

  • Very difficult and expensive to obtain a waiver of the foreign residency requirement

  • May be extended only for Board Certification; during this time, J visitor cannot work.

  • DS-2019 (J-1 application) is renewed yearly with a 7-year limit or length of residency program, whichever comes first.

  • The J-1 Exchange Visitor may enter the U.S. 30 days prior to the start of the J-1 visa and cannot be paid prior to the start date. The J1 visitor must NOT enter the U.S. 30 days AFTER the start date listed on the form DS-2019.

  • After the J-1 period ends, the exchange visitor has 30 days to exit the United States and cannot work during this “grace period.”

  • Moonlighting is not permitted.

  • It is very difficult to process J-1 applications to non-accredited Residency/Fellowship Programs. The ECFMG uses the ACGME’s Green Book for reference of accredited programs and their program duration.

  • The J2 visa status is acceptable for Graduate Medical Education training at UMMS but can create problems since the J2 depends on the J1 Primary Holder. The J2 must have a valid EAD card and must also maintain the EAD card.

F-1 Visa Status (the Student Visa)

U.S. Medical School Graduates on an F-1 visa are eligible for Residency and Fellowship Training at UMass. (Applicants on F-1 visas in PhD, MPH or other educational programs including test-preparation courses such as Stanley Kaplan are not eligible). Students are allowed to remain on the F-1 visa but must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) prior to start of training. They must change to another type of visa (H1B1) during the first year, preferably beginning the process after 3-4 months. The Office of International Students & Scholars must be involved with the F visa applicant.

If the F2 spouse of an F1 wants to study full-time, the spouse must change status to the intended school’s F1 visa.

See section on Security Requirements.

The H1B Professional in a Specialty Occupation

For IMGs seeking Graduate Medical Training in Residency or Fellowships

The H1B1 visa must be sponsored by the institution where the individual attends the residency training program. It is a non-immigrant visa and is more difficult to obtain, requiring the institution to make attestations to the Department of Labor about the position and job. More regulations and restrictions are imposed on the institution filing an H1B1. The H1B1 applicant must have sufficient time remaining on the H1B1 visa to complete their training program.

UMass supports the H1B visa in very limited and rare circumstances; the applicant file must be reviewed by both Graduate Medical Education, the International Students & Scholars Office, and possibly the Visa Committee for certain circumstances. UMass Medical School does not sponsor initial H1B clinical visas for first-year residents.  This means that an applicant holding an H1B visa for research or other non-clinical employment is NOT eligible for an H1B visa at UMass.  UMass will sponsor an H1B visa following an F1 OPT year for international citizens who attended a U.S. MEDICAL SCHOOL (not PhD or other graduate program) on an F1 visa. 
An H1B1 submitted by the institution to U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires additional documentation to be approved for clinical work, including but not limited to, the following:

  • ECFMG Certification (not required for Canadians or those educated in the U.S., including F-1 students)

  • PASS on the USMLE Exams, including USMLE Step 3 (exception: the F-1 Student does not need Step 3). If the applicant has NOT received Step 3 results by the Rank Order Deadline, they will not be considered for an H1B1 visa.

  • Must have a Massachusetts medical license before the application is reviewed by U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

  • Copy of home country medical registration and/or licensure (optional)

  • Copy of Medical Degree, translated to English

  • Filing fees to U.S. Department of Homeland Security

  • Curriculum Vitae

  • Other related immigration documents (passport copy, I-94, I-797 form, etc)

  • Institutional documents required by the institution.

  • Attestation that the Department will pay the cost of reasonable transportation back to the physician’s home country or last country of residence if the Department, for any reason, dismisses the physician on H during the duration of the dates listed on the H Approval Notice.

  • In order to be considered by the UMMS Visa Committee for an H1B visa, the applicant must provide documentation of Clinical Experience in the United States or recent (within the past 12 months) Clinical Experience in another country.

Advantages of the H1B1

  • No two-year home residency requirement at the completion of the residency program.

  • Institution may be able to retain high-skilled/qualified international-training physician for faculty and/or staff.

  • The H1B1 dates can be processed with a maximum of three years; it is renewable for an additional three years.

Disadvantages of the H1B1

  • Institutional policy restricting the use of H1B1 for IMGs (AAMC influence)

  • Intense documentation collection

  • Department must pay $500 anti-fraud fee for new H1B1 Resident or Fellow.

  • If the applicant is in the U.S. in another status while the H1B1 application is pending at USCIS, the applicant must not travel outside of the U.S.

  • The H visa is limited to 6 years; the applicant may not have enough time to complete the GME program.

  • Possibility of not being able to receive H1B1 by July 1st. If applicant is in the Match, there might not be enough time to process the H visa. USCIS is currently taking up to 3 months to review an application, which may take up to 1 month to prepare.

  • Premium Processing is available for an extra $1,000; USCIS will process the Premium Process application within 15 days. The applicant pays all immigration fees, with the exception of the $500 anti-fraud fee.

  • Spouse on H-4 dependent visa cannot work while in the U.S.

  • See section on Security Requirements.

  • The H physician may enter the U.S. 10 days prior to the start date on the H Notice and cannot begin employment until the H1B1 start date. After the H period ends or the person is terminated, the non-immigrant has up to 10 days to leave the United States. No employment is allowed during this 10-day “grace period.”

  • The Department incurs financial responsibility if the H physician is dismissed for any reason during the period of time listed on the H approval form and must pay costs of transportation for the physician to return to country of last permanent residence or home country.

If a residency/fellowship is considering an applicant who is requesting H1B1 visa status from UMMS, the program must complete the following H1B1 Visa Information Form BEFORE forwarding the applicant’s package to the International Office for review.
GradMedEd\Visa Categories: 9/6/05

International Students & Scholars Office - University of Massachusetts Medical School

Graduate Medical Education Applicant H-1B Visa Information Form


Today’s Date: _____________________________________________

Name (First/Last): _____________________________________________

E-Mail: _____________________________________________

Residency Program (applying for) ______________________________________

PGY level: _____________________________________________

Current Visa: ___________________________________ Expires : ______________________

Current Visa Sponsor : _____________________________________________

Current Visa Category : Clinical____ Research____

Current H # (if applicable): _____________________________ Date of initial H : _______________

Important : Forward copy of current visa approval form, EAD, or Alien Reg. Card to Residency Program Office.

Dates of Anticipated New H Visa (from XX/XX/XX to XX/XX/XX): __________________________

Have you been on any other type of visa in the U.S. within the past 5 years ? If so, describe fully : _______________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________

Country of Birth: _____________________________________________

Country of Citizenship: _____________________________________________

Date of Birth: _____________________________________________

Social Security Number: _____________________________________________

Date of Last Entry to U.S.: _____________________________________________

I-94 #: _____________________________________________

Medical School Name and Location ______________________________________________________

Date of Medical School Graduation: ____________________________________

Has applicant passed USMLE Step 3? _______________

If pending, give date of USMLE Step 3: _______________

ECFMG #: _____________________________________________

Is applicant eligible for Mass. Limited License? ___________________________

Residency Coordinator Name: _______________________________________

Date of Match: _______________________________________

Residency Program Comments:


Date Reviewed by International Office: ________________________________

International Office Comments: _________________________________________________________


Date Reviewed by GME Applicant Committee: ___________________________

Comments and Final Decision: __________________________________________________________

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