Your Complete Guide to National Interest Waivers and EB1 Green Cards

ECFMG Sponsorship for J1 Exchange Visitor Doctors

Foreign physicians wishing to enter the United States in J1 status to participate in a graduate medical education or training program must first obtain sponsorship from the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Through a Memorandum of Understanding between ECFMG and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) as well as federal regulations pertaining to the Exchange Visitor Program, the ECFMG is responsible for ensuring that the J1 exchange visitor physician and the institution which accepted the doctor in its clinical training program comply with the federal regulations related to the Exchange Visitor Program. In order to be eligible for ECFMG sponsorship, the foreign physician must meet certain requirements. Generally, the requirements are as follows:

  1. The physician must have passed the first two steps of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
  2. The physician must hold a standard ECFMG Certificate prior to the start of training.
  3. The physician must obtain a contract or an official letter of offer confirming a position in the graduate medical education or training program affiliated with a medical school.
  4. The physician must provide a Statement of Need from the Ministry of Health in your country of most recent legal permanent residence. This statement is required as documentation of your home country’s need for trained physicians in your proposed specialty, and as confirmation of your commitment to return to your home country upon completion of the training program.

Once you have taken the above steps, you will need to submit an application with ECFMG requesting J1 sponsorship. If the ECFMG determines that you have met the eligibility requirements, the ECFMG will issue the Form DS-2019. If you wish to have your spouse and children accompany you, you may request a Form DS-2019 on their behalf. You will then be able to apply for a J1 (and J2 for your spouse and child) visa at a consular post or apply for a change of status to J1 if you are currently in the U.S. in a different nonimmigrant status. When you begin your training program, your host institution will have a Training Program Liaison (TLP) serving as the official representative who will communicate with ECFMG. Upon entry to the United States, you will be authorized to remain in the country in J1 status for “Duration of Status,” which generally means upon the completion of your program (i.e., until the purpose of your J1 stay has ended). However, the duration is limited to seven years (as long as you are maintaining your status by advancing in an approved graduate medical education or training program). After the training is complete, however, you must return to your home country for two years before you are allowed to obtain a different nonimmigrant status or apply for an immigrant visa. This home country residency requirement may be waived. The experience of participating in a medical training program in the United States is attractive to may foreign doctors for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, the process of obtaining the proper visa to participate in these programs can be complex. To schedule a consultation with an Immigration Attorney, contact our office at 415-986-6186 or

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Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.
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