The IMG Advisors Network (IAN) is a free service of the ECFMG Certificate Holders Office (ECHO). IAN allows qualifying IMGs who plan to come to the United States to connect with advisors who can answer questions about applying to U.S. GME and living and working in the United States. To use this service to obtain advice, you must meet the qualifications of advisees. There are also qualifications for advisors, which include being in or having completed an ACGME-accredited training program in the United States.
IAN Advisors serve on a volunteer basis. The IAN database lists available advisors by name, medical specialty, U.S. GME institution, location in the United States, country of medical education, medical school, and other demographics and types of advice advisors are comfortable providing (application and/or acculturation). IMGs using this service will be able to select an advisor based on these criteria. Once an advisor has been selected, the e-mail address of the IMG seeking advice will be provided to the advisor, who can then begin communicating directly with the advisee. ECFMG is continuously recruiting IMGs to serve as advisors; refer to Information for IAN Advisors.
The communications between advisors and advisees are direct, rather than through ECFMG. However, there is an option to copy ECFMG on any particular e-mail, if the advisor or advisee chooses to do so. The purpose for this is simply to allow ECFMG staff to see what kinds of issues are being raised and to use that information to expand its resources for IMGs. If you choose not to copy ECFMG, correspondence between advisor and advisee will not be visible to ECFMG.
Nature of Advice
Applicants participating as advisees in the IAN program may access information and advice from IAN advisors in areas such as:.
Applying to U.S. GME Positions
- ECFMG is a resource for IMGs on the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS®) and can provide direction to IMGs using ERAS to apply for positions in U.S. GME programs. IAN advisees have special telephone and e-mail access to the staff of ERAS Support Services at ECFMG. In addition to assistance with the process, staff of ERAS Support Services at ECFMG can provide general information on the policies and procedures that relate to certain elements of the ERAS residency application, such as letters of recommendation and personal statements; provide general information on the National Resident Matching Service (NRMP) or The Match; and direct IMGs to resources provided by other organizations.
- IAN advisors can provide additional advice and information on applying to U.S. GME positions based on their personal experience. They may also be able to provide advice regarding selection of medical specialties and programs and application strategies.
Obtaining a Visa for U.S. GME
- ECFMG, as the sole J-1 visa sponsor for foreign national physicians in U.S. clinical training programs, offers the most complete and accurate information on using the J-1 visa to participate in U.S. GME. ECFMG’s Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program (EVSP) website is an excellent source of information on this topic. ECFMG’s EVSP staff can also answer questions on the J-1 visa and provide general information on other visa options, such as the H-1B visa, and other immigration issues related to entry into U.S. GME.
- IAN advisors may be able to provide additional general information on obtaining a visa for U.S. GME based on their personal experience, including how different visa options relate to program selection and future career planning.
Beyond Entry into U.S. GME
- IAN advisors may also be a good source of advice and guidance on training and career issues beyond residency, such as pursuit of subspecialty fellowships.
Daily Living Issues
Perhaps the most unique and personalized information and advice that IAN Advisors provide relate to beginning U.S. GME programs and living and working in the United States. These issues typically have included:
- Where to find housing
- Where to find ethnic restaurants and grocery stores
- Where to find houses of worship
- Setting up personal finances
- Obtaining a Social Security Number
- Buying/leasing an automobile; getting a driver’s license
- Spouses and children - employment opportunities, child care, schools
- Support groups - people from the same country or ethnic groups
- Expectations for work and call schedules, time off, vacations
- Recreational resources
- U.S. culture - books, TV shows, movies, music, sports
- Language - idioms, jargon, abbreviations (see also the “Medicalese” glossary)
- Unique features or characteristics of the program or the area in which it is located
IAN advisors are not authorized to provide advice on the following topics:
- ECFMG Certification. The policies and procedures related to ECFMG Certification are complex and subject to change. Advisees should refer to the ECFMG website or contact ECFMG’s Applicant Information Services at email@example.com or (215) 386-5900.
- ECFMG’s Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program (EVSP). The requirements for ECFMG J-1 visa sponsorship and related federal regulations are complex. Advisees should refer to ECFMG’s EVSP website or contact EVSP staff at (215) 823-2121. Advisors may comment on other visa options for participation in U.S. GME, however, ECFMG discourages advisors from providing specific immigration counseling.
- Details about the USMLE examinations, including USMLE Step 3. Although advisors can provide advice regarding preparation for the USMLE examinations, they must never disclose examination content. Examination content includes, but may not be limited to, questions, case content, and answers. Advisors giving such information and advisees receiving such information are at risk of sanction for irregular behavior and could have their USMLE and/or ECFMG records permanently annotated and be subject to bars from future examinations.
- Specific Program Requirements. Advisors must defer to program directors or administrative personnel of the individual teaching hospitals regarding internal policies and guidelines.
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