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Residency Program Requirements for International Medical Graduates

All physicians wishing to practice medicine in the United States are required to complete residency training in the USA or Canada at an accredited program. Residency training takes a minimum of 3 years.

All medical graduates must complete residency training, regardless of overseas training or licensure in other countries.

Becoming Eligible for USA Residency as an International Medical Graduate (IMG)

All IMGs must become ECFMG Certified before beginning residency training in the USA. Typically, ECFMG Certification requires the following:

  • Passing USMLE Step 1
  • Passing USMLE Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge)
  • Passing USMLE Step 2 CS (Clinical Skills - See 2021 Alternative Pathways)
  • Graduation from medical school (as listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools)

All USMLE Exams must be passed within 7 years since taking the earliest exam. According to the ECFMG: “This seven-year period begins on the exam date of the first Step or Step Component passed and ends exactly seven years from that exam date. If you do not pass all required Steps and Step Components within a maximum of seven years, your earliest USMLE passing performance will no longer be valid for ECFMG Certification.”

Choosing Medical Residency Specialties to Apply For

Choosing appropriate medical specialties to apply for is important to every applicant, especially IMGs. Although no specialty is impossible for an IMG to Match into, some of the most IMG friendly specialties are typically Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Pathology, General Surgery (Preliminary), and Neurology.

In addition to IMG Friendliness, applicants should consider these important points when

Choosing Residency Specialties
  • Should have 2-3 US-based specialty-specific LoRs for each and every specialty (3 LoRs are required - some programs require 4)
  • Will need 1 specialty-specific Personal Statement for each specialty
  • Should have strong background CV experiences to support pursuit of that specialty
  • Know how many compatible programs applicant can apply to in a given specialty

Preparing IMG Residency Application for Match

  • Make sure your MyERAS Application is flawlessly edited and content delivery is optimized. See Residency Experts for more information: Residency Experts | Application Editing & Optimization.
  • Make sure your Work, Research, and Volunteer Experiences are well-detailed, relevant, and highlight unique aspects of your candidacy.
  • Obtain hands-on US clinical experience (USCE). USCE helps IMGs prove themselves in US clinical settings, obtain strong US-based LoRs, and network for potential opportunities.
  • Write specialty-specific Personal Statements that address your unique abilities and experiences as an applicant. See Residency Statement for more information: Residency Personal Statement Editing & Writing Services.
  • Be prepared to answer questions pertaining to your immigration/visa status, gaps in medical training, attempts on USMLE exams, and other potential “red flags” in your application.
  • If you are applying for an H-1B visa, USMLE Step 3 is required. IMGs may additionally consider taking USMLE Step 3 before residency in order to help overcome other application weaknesses/red flags and improve the overall impression of candidacy.

Finding and Applying to Compatible Residency Programs as an IMG

Nearly every single residency program has some minimum requirements for residency candidates. Core residency application minimum requirements may include:

  • USMLE Step Scores
  • USMLE Attempt Cutoffs
  • Time Since Graduation
  • US Clinical Experience
  • Visa Stipulations

Additionally, IMGs must consider factors such as IMG Friendliness, the overall compatibility of the program, the program’s history of interviewing similar candidates, and the experiences of previous candidates who have interviewed at the program, to name a few.

Match A Resident IMG Friendly Lists to Apply for Medical Residency

Match A Resident Customized Residency Program Lists are the easiest and most efficient way for IMGs to complete residency program research in an instant and to save money by applying to only the most compatible residency programs in 18 of the most popular IMG friendly specialties.

Each list also comes complete with all kinds of information and features to help you pick programs such as:

  • In-depth program cards with minimum requirements, program contact information, and additional information from our phone calls with the program coordinators
  • Compatibility Score - Gives each program a score out of 100 to show you the most compatible programs in your Customized List
  • Interview Link - Shows programs that have interviewed members like you in the past​
  • Additional Filters - Filters for candidates with multiple attempts, don't have their ECFMG certification or CS, programs past their deadline, and more

Match A Resident is proud to have already served over 150,000 IMGs.

Find out which programs you are Compatible with now.

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