Overview of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
What are the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the J-1 sponsorship process?
ECFMG is the only visa sponsor for J-1 physicians who participate in U.S. clinical training programs. To ensure compliance with all federal requirements, ECFMG J-1 sponsorship requires close coordination between the U.S. teaching hospital, the J-1 physician, and ECFMG’s EVSP. See Roles and Responsibilities for additional details.
What are the key requirements of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?
ECFMG-sponsored physicians must accept the basic requirements of J-1 visa status as outlined in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (Section 22 CFR Part 62.27) including, but not limited to, full-time participation in an approved graduate medical education training program, ability to prove strong ties to one’s home country, acceptance of the two-year home country physical presence requirement (if enrolled in clinical training), and compliance with all U.S. laws and regulations pertaining to foreign nationals. See Basic Requirements for additional details.
What are the rules and regulations governing the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?
ECFMG administers its J-1 Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program (EVSP) in accordance with U.S. Department of State guidelines and the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (Section 22 CFR Part 62.27). See Selected Federal Regulations for regulations that pertain specifically to the J-1 sponsorship of foreign national physicians.
How does one maintain J-1 visa status?
ECFMG-sponsored J-1 physicians must be full-time participants in the approved program of graduate medical education at all times. In addition to meeting the academic standards required to progress through residency, J-1 physicians must maintain valid visa status in order to continue to train at U.S. teaching hospitals. Maintaining status requires strict adherence to the J-1 regulations and immigration laws as detailed in Maintaining J-1 Visa Status. Failure to comply with the requirements of J visa status can seriously impact an individual’s eligibility for a future U.S. visa application or stay.
Do I need to notify ECFMG or the Immigration Service if I change my U.S. residential address?
Yes. You must notify both ECFMG and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of any changes to your U.S. residential address. ECFMG can be notified by either:
- Updating your OASIS account
As indicated above, USCIS also must be informed of any changes to your U.S. residential address within 10 days of such a change. To report an address change, complete Immigration Form AR-11 (Alien’s Change of Address Card), available on the USCIS website under “Forms.” Please note that if you are classified as a “Special Registrant,” you must use Form AR-11SR.
If I am currently sponsored by ECFMG in J-1 visa status, may I change my specialty?
The regulations governing the Exchange Visitor Program state that “…the alien physician may once, and not later than two years after the date the ‘alien physician’ enters the U.S. as an Exchange Visitor (or acquires exchange visitor status), change his/her designated program of graduate medical education or training…” [22CFR62.27(f)]. ECFMG is authorized to issue a change in program specialty before the completion of the second year of training. Once an Exchange Visitor enters the third year of training, a change in specialty is no longer permitted. Please see the EVSP Reference Guide for additional information.
Am I allowed to work or train outside my training program?
The primary objective of each ECFMG-sponsored Exchange Visitor is to receive graduate medical training in the United States that ultimately will enhance his/her skills in a specialty field of medicine. Visa sponsorship, which is documented by Form DS-2019 [Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1 Visa) Status] and issued by ECFMG, authorizes a specific training activity and associated financial compensation. Federal regulations do not permit activity and/or financial compensation outside of the defined parameters of the training program. Therefore, employment outside of approved residency or fellowship training (or “moonlighting”) is not permitted. Detailed information on this subject is available at www.ecfmg.org/evsp/evspemot.pdf.
I am a Canadian citizen/legal permanent resident who graduated from a medical school located outside of the United States and Canada. Am I required to be certified by ECFMG before applying for J-1 visa sponsorship to participate in a clinical program of U.S. graduate medical education (GME)?
Yes, all international medical graduates (IMGs), regardless of country of citizenship, are required to complete ECFMG Certification to be eligible for J-1 visa sponsorship for clinical GME in the United States. ECFMG and its organizational members define an IMG as a physician who received his/her basic medical degree or qualification from a medical school located outside of the United States and Canada. The location of the medical school, not the citizenship of the physician, determines whether the graduate is an IMG. This means that Canadian citizens who graduate from medical schools located outside the United States and Canada are considered IMGs and must be certified by ECFMG.
Can I request an extension of sponsorship for training if I have been recommended for a waiver by the U.S. Department of State?
Applications for J-1 waivers involve very careful planning and decision-making. Once a J-1 physician receives a U.S. Department of State waiver recommendation, he/she is no longer eligible for an extension of ECFMG J-1 sponsorship for any training activity. J-1 physicians who are considering fellowship options while simultaneously pursuing waiver employment opportunities must understand that an approved waiver recommendation cannot be withdrawn should a fellowship be received. ECFMG has no authority to make exceptions to extend J-1 sponsorship in any waiver case; this includes cases involving physicians who are enrolled in multiple-year programs. Sponsorship extensions for waiver recipients to prepare to sit for an American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) member board exam are permitted. Such extensions carry no training authorization.
The Sponsorship Application Process
How do I submit an on-line sponsorship application?
For complete information on the on-line sponsorship application process, see the On-line Applications Overview.
How do I submit documentation in support of my sponsorship application?
Both TPLs and applicants have functionality in their respective systems to upload supporting documents; TPLs through EVNet and applicants through OASIS. Once the TPL has added an applicant to an appointment profile in EVNet, the TPL can upload supporting documents to that individual applicant’s EVNet record. Once the TPL submits your appointment profile in EVNet, you can review the details of the appointment profile in OASIS and upload any required supporting documentation not provided by the TPL.
NOTE: Supporting documents uploaded through EVNet and/or OASIS must be in Portable Document Format (PDF), and files must be uploaded one at a time. Faxed documentation is also accepted, although upload of all supporting documentation through EVNet and/or OASIS is preferred.
Do documents uploaded through EVNet or OASIS in support of my application still need to be faxed or mailed to ECFMG?
No. Documents uploaded by either the TPL or applicant should not be faxed or mailed to ECFMG.
How long will it take to process my sponsorship application?
Processing times vary depending upon application type. EVSP reserves four to six weeks to review applications for sponsorship in accredited programs, and six to eight weeks to review applications for non-standard programs. Applications that are incomplete at the time of submission to ECFMG may require additional time. EVSP will make efforts to review applications in a timely manner, and will review all applications on a first-come, first-served basis.
How can I ensure timely review of my sponsorship application?
The best way to ensure that your application is processed in a timely manner is to review the checklist of required items, available for viewing in your sponsorship application in OASIS, and ensure that all required documentation is uploaded in support of your application by either the TPL or you.
When am I required to submit a new Statement of Need from the Ministry of Health, and where can I find a copy of the language required for the Statement of Need?
The Statement of Need is required for all initial applicants to ECFMG or if any of the following apply:
- The applicant is entering a new specialty or subspecialty.
- The letter on file with EVSP will expire.
- The letter on file with EVSP is institution-specific, and a change in host institution is proposed.
A sample Statement of Need is provided in the EVSP Reference Guide.
How do I request travel validation?
See Travel, which details considerations for J-1/J-2 travel outside of the United States.
When applying for a J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate, do I need to submit a Form DS-7002?
No. Form DS-7002 is a new requirement for J-1 Exchange Visitors in the “trainee” category only and does not apply to foreign national physicians seeking to enter the United States for the purpose of graduate medical education in the category of J-1 “alien physician.”
What is the difference between “visa” and “visa status”?
There is a clear distinction between “visa” and “visa status.” A visa is the physical stamp affixed to a passport page reflecting the approved visa classification for which the foreign national may enter the United States. Visas are issued only at U.S. consulates outside of the United States. Visa status is the legal grouping under which the foreign national is categorized once physically present in the United States. Visa status is granted by the customs official at the U.S. port-of-entry or by the regional service center of USCIS.
What do I need to do in order to bring my spouse and/or child to the United States in J-2 visa status?
ECFMG is authorized to sponsor the spouse and unmarried minor children of the J-1 Exchange Visitor physician as J-2 dependents. The EVSP Reference Guide offers detailed information on dependent sponsorship. Physicians can request J-2 sponsorship for dependents on-line in the J-1 Visa Sponsorship section of ECFMG’s On-line Applicant Status and Information System (OASIS).
Where can I find additional information about non-standard training programs?
For detailed information on the non-standard training provision and a listing of currently approved specialties, see Non-Standard Training.
Under what circumstances will ECFMG file a request with the U.S. Department of State for an extension of sponsorship beyond the maximum duration of seven years on behalf of an applicant?
ECFMG will review requests for extension of sponsorship beyond the maximum duration on a case-by-case basis. For information on the process by which an extension beyond the maximum duration of seven years can be requested, see the memo, Extension Beyond the Maximum Duration of Stay.
Under what circumstances will ECFMG file a request with the U.S. Department of State for a change in J-1 category on behalf of an applicant?
ECFMG will review change of category requests on a case-by-case basis. For information on the process by which change in J-1 category can be requested, see the memo, Request for a Change of J-1 Visa Category.
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