• Dec 20, 2023   MOKSH Academy

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Demystifying Visas Involved in the USMLE Process

If you're a medical graduate looking to pursue further training or residency in the United States, understanding the visa options available is crucial. The right visa can significantly impact your career path. Let's break down the categories of visa for USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) process and their key features. Getting a visa for USMLE is a crucial part to understand. With the help of this blog, you get enlightened on the important aspects of visa for USMLE.

Categories of Visa Involved in the USMLE Process

To get a visa for medical residency in USA, it is very important to understand the different categories that are involved.

  1. B-1/B-2 Visa (USCE): This visa is used for clinical experiences like USA Clinical Experience (USCE) by medical students, known as a tourist visa. A visa for clinical rotations in USA under B-1/ B-2 is valid for six months.
  2. J-1 Visa (Residency/Fellowship/Research): The J1 visa is a work visa commonly used for medical residency, fellowships, or research programs.
  3. H-1B Visa (Residency/Fellowship/Research): The H-1B visa is again a work visa offered for medical residency, fellowships, or research, but it comes with some differences from the J1 visa.
  4. F-1 Visa (Academic Programs): If you're studying to pursue academic programs like MPH (Master of Public Health), MHA (Master of Health Administration), or research, the F-1 visa is suitable.

By understanding all the categories, you can easily choose a visa for medical residency. It is important to remember that for residency, you get a salary, but if you are studying for a student visa or clinical rotations, you have to pay tuition fees to the universities.

Foreign National Physicians in US GME :

Understanding the background of foreign national physicians in US Graduate Medical Education (GME) is essential. There are different paths for international medical graduates, US graduates, and Canadian graduates, each with its requirements and considerations.

International Medical Graduates:

Need an ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) Certificate.
Must meet specific visa and visa status requirements.

US Graduates:

Have US diplomas and may have completed USMLE or COMLEX exams.
Must consider their visa and visa status.

Canadian Graduates:

May have Canadian diplomas and could have completed USMLE exams.
Visa and visa status are important factors.

Most Common USMLE Visa Options for GME: J1, H1-B, J2 with Employment Authorization (EAD)
ECFMG is the primary sponsor of J1 Physicians, and both J1 and H1B visas have distinct characteristics.


Basic Diffrences in J-1 and H1-B Visa –

Features J-1 Visa H-1B
Exchange Visitor Physician Speciality Occupation Worker
Funding Source Multiple: ECFMG Unique: US Employer (Such as a residency program)
Department of State & Department of Homeland Security
Requirements ECFMG Certification ECFMG Certification
USMLE step 1, step 2 CK USMLE step 1, Step 2 CK, Step 3
Visa Type Exchange visa – Non immigrant (Temporary visiter) Employment visa – Non-immigrant (Temporary visiter)
Time Limit Seven years maximum Six years maximum
Funding Generally, Hospital salary or home government/ other US employer salary only
Fees ECFMG –$160 Varies, often paid by the employer
SEVIS – $220
J-1 Visa – $370
Total - $750 Approx.
Processing time 1-2,5 months approximately 3-5 months (can be faster with premium processing)
Strong ties to Home Country required? Yes No
Mandatory return to Home Country after Residency? Yes, with a two-year return requirement, but it can be waived No Requirement
Spouse and family visa Dependents can get J-2 Visas; Spouses can work Dependents can get H-4 Visas; Spouce can’t work
Dual Intent (Can the visa holder pursue permanent residency, like a Green Card?) No. After completing the program, applicants must go back to their home country for two years or obtain a waiver for three years. Afterwards, they can apply for a job on an H1B visa and then start the process of obtaining a Green Card through their employer. Yes, Allowed.

J1 Visa

The J1 Visa offers several advantages for international students and professionals seeking opportunities in the United States. Its application process is simpler and faster, making it a more affordable choice. Notably, spouses of J1 Visa holders can work in the US through an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), providing a valuable option for dual-income households. Furthermore, the J1 Visa is widely accepted by various programs, including many fellowship programs, providing diverse opportunities for career growth. The J 1 visa sponsorship through ECFMG and Securing a J1 visa medical residency in the United States is a common pathway for international medical graduates.

Earning a J1 visa USMLE pathway is a significant achievement for international medical graduates pursuing their dreams of practising medicine in the United States.

H1-B Visa

The H1-B visa offers several advantages for international medical graduates (IMGs). It allows dual intent, making the path to permanent residency faster and doesn't require a mandatory return to the home country. It also provides more job opportunities after residency or fellowship. However, there are some downsides to consider, including higher application fees, restrictions on spouses' ability to work, and limited availability in certain residency and fellowship programs. So, while the H1-B visa can be a valuable choice for some IMGs, it's essential to weigh these pros and cons carefully before making a decision.

Securing an H1B visa for medical residency can be advantageous for international medical graduates, as it provides a smoother path to permanent residency. Many international medical graduates seek H1B-sponsoring residency programs to expand their opportunities for practising medicine in the United States.

Obtaining an H1B visa for international medical graduates is often a pathway to pursuing medical residency and practising medicine in the United States, but Securing an H1B visa without USMLE Step 3 can be a complex process, with some medical professionals opting for this route based on their individual career goals and visa eligibility.

It's important to remember that the choice of visa depends on your career goals. If you're aiming for permanent residency and considering a fellowship, plan your J1 Visa USMLE strategy carefully.

It is easier to get a fellowship on a J1 visa. Only 10% of medical aspirants get a fellowship on an H-B visa, and preference can be either. But fellowship chances are high on a J1 visa. Academic research positions are also easily available on a J1 visa. You don’t have to apply for any preferences, but you get them once you get the match.

All medical aspirants would have B1/ B2 tourist visas. To have a B1 visa for clinical rotations in the USA is very important and necessary.

The Visa medical residency in USA is significant to understand because there might be USMLE visa issues. Different scenarios can happen when you're applying for residency, so it's crucial to choose the right visa option. Consider two main factors: whether you want to become a permanent US resident and if you plan to do a fellowship after residency.

Permanent Resident Status:

If you want to practice medicine in the US permanently, the H1B visa is a good choice.

It's typically valid for three years and is extendable for another three years.

But, if you also plan on doing a fellowship and the fellowship is longer than three years, you need to plan carefully. Consider applying for a job and getting a green card during Medical residency to help with your fellowship application.

Obtaining the appropriate visa for USMLE Step 3 is vital for international medical graduates seeking to practice medicine independently in the United States.

Fellowship Interest:

Both J1 and H1B visas allow you to pursue a fellowship right after residency.

J1 visas have a two-year home residency requirement, but you can fulfil it after your fellowship.

In most cases, J1 visas are better for fellowships because many programs accept them, while H1B visas are less common.

After residency or fellowship, you can apply for a waiver to avoid the two-year home residency requirement with a J1 visa. Then, you can apply for an H1B visa and eventually a green card for permanent residency.

In Short:

  • H1B is best for permanent residency; you can apply for a green card after residency or do a short fellowship.
  • J1 is better for fellowships and offers more program options, but it might take longer to get permanent residency.
  • Regarding the two-year home residency requirement, there are ways to stay in the US, like the Conrad 30 J1 Program, the US Department of Health and Human Services, or working in underserved areas.


Choosing the right visa for your medical residency can be complicated, and the decision may not always be entirely up to you. For those pursuing an H1B visa, passing the USMLE Step 3 exam before Match Day is essential. There's no universal rule or definitive answer about which visa is best because it depends on your personal preferences. Securing the right medical residency visa for USA is essential for international medical graduates.

When you have to choose between programs that offer H1B or J1 visas for your Rank Order List (ROL), you should make a careful decision considering various factors.

Securing the right visa for IMG residency is a crucial step in the journey of international medical graduates pursuing their medical careers in the United States. Think about your main goals, your intention to become a permanent resident in the US, and the availability of programs offering both types of visas. Your choice should match your unique circumstances and dreams.

For more information, you can attend MOKSH live webinars, have personalized counselling sessions, access MOKSH Usmle live lectures, and try the free Usmle Step 1 mock test. If you have further questions, feel free to email us or call our team.