Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program (EVSP)

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) ANNOUNCEMENT

The ECFMG|FAIMER Exchange Visitor Sponsorship Program (EVSP) continues to review and process J-1 visa sponsorship applications, including those of foreign national physicians seeking initial sponsorship to enter the United States to begin a training program on July 1, 2020. Please submit your applications as early as possible to help prevent delays. We will contact Training Program Liaisons (TPLs) and current J-1 physicians about any new developments, including updates on visa issuance at U.S. embassies and consulates, directly via e-mail and will post updates on our website. ECFMG|FAIMER is actively pursuing solutions to support training programs and foreign national physicians through this challenging time.

For J-1 Applicants/Physicians

J-1 Research Scholar

ECFMG sponsors J-1 Exchange Visitors in the “research scholar” category for participation in non-clinical programs consisting of observation, consultation, teaching, or research. Unlike those sponsored in the J-1 “alien physician” category for clinical training, “research scholar” participants generally are not required to pass U.S. medical licensing exams and are not required to be ECFMG certified. J-1 “research scholars” are limited to activities involving no patient contact or incidental patient contact.

ECFMG is the only agency authorized to sponsor “alien physicians” for J-1 status; however, many U.S. hospitals and training institutions are designated by the U.S. Department of State (DoS) to sponsor J-1 “research scholars.” ECFMG, therefore, only provides research sponsorship to those physicians participating in programs at hospitals or institutions that do not have their own J-1 research designation. The category of “research scholar” is specifically defined in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

RESEARCH SCHOLAR (Non-clinical Program): A “research scholar is…an individual primarily conducting research, observing, or consulting in connection with a research project…” [22CFR62.4(f)].

More information about the “research scholar” category is available on the DoS website at http://j1visa.state.gov/programs/professor-and-research-scholar/.

J-1 Research Scholar FAQs
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1. Does ECFMG sponsor all J-1 research scholars?

No. Most research institutions are designated by the U.S. Department of State (DoS) to sponsor J-1 “research scholars.” Therefore, ECFMG only provides research sponsorship to those physicians participating in programs at hospitals or institutions that do not have their own J-1 research designation. Foreign nationals applying for ECFMG sponsorship as “research scholars” must meet the following general requirements:

  • Be a graduate of a U.S., Canadian, or foreign medical school;
  • Hold a contract or official letter of offer for a research position;
  • Obtain the appropriate certification statement for no patient contact or incidental patient contact;
  • Obtain a completed English Language Proficiency Attestation form from the program director or research mentor of the prospective research program.

2. Can I apply to ECFMG for sponsorship as a J-1 “research scholar” if I am not a medical doctor (M.D.)?

No. ECFMG is only authorized to sponsor researchers who hold medical diplomas.

3. What are the “Certification Statements” required for research participants?

Individuals sponsored as J-1 “research scholars” are categorized as having either “no patient contact” or “incidental patient contact” and are required to provide a certification statement attesting to the specified level of patient contact. The language required for each of the two levels is provided here for your reference. Completion of the appropriate required form, linked below, fulfills this language requirement.

CERTIFICATION STATEMENT: NO PATIENT CONTACT

Programs with no patient contact require a detailed description of the program outlining the overall curriculum. The program director/mentor of the research program is required to include the following certification statement:

“This certifies that the program in which Dr. (applicant’s name) is to be engaged is solely for the purpose of observation, consultation, teaching, or research, and that no element of patient care services is involved.”

See required form: Research Scholar "No Patient Contact" Certification Statement

CERTIFICATION STATEMENT: INCIDENTAL PATIENT CONTACT

Programs with patient contact incidental to the activities of observation, consultation, teaching, or research require a description of the fellowship program. In addition, the program must be affiliated with a U.S. medical school program that is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The dean of the affiliated medical school, or his/her official designee, is required to certify to the following five-point statement. The dean must provide signed documentation of appointment of his/her designee.

  1. The program in which Dr. (applicant’s name) will participate is predominantly involved with observation, consultation, teaching, or research.
  2. Any incidental patient contact involving the alien physician will be under the direct supervision of a physician who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien and who is licensed to practice medicine in the State of (state in which the training institution is located).
  3. The alien physician will not be given final responsibility for the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
  4. Any activities of the alien physician will conform fully with the State licensing requirements and regulations for medical and health care professionals in the State in which the alien physician is pursuing the program.
  5. Any experience gained in this program will not be creditable toward any clinical requirements for medical specialty board certification.

See required form: Research Scholar "Incidental Patient Contact" Certification Statement

4. Can I provide ECFMG a “Graduation Certificate” in lieu of a medical school diploma?

No. ECFMG must receive a copy of the applicant’s medical school diploma confirming graduation with a medical degree (or the appropriate equivalent). If the medical school diploma is in a language other than English, it must be accompanied by a certified English translation.

5. How do I request ECFMG sponsorship as a J-1 “research scholar” for participation in a program of observation, consultation, teaching, or research?

Both the research program’s TPL and the J-1 applicant are responsible for electronic submission of their respective portions of the on-line J-1 research scholar sponsorship application. For general information on the application process, see the On-line Applications for Physicians page.

6. How long can I be sponsored by ECFMG as a J-1 “research scholar”?

J-1 “research scholars” may remain in the United States for up to five years of full-time participation in a program of observation, consultation, teaching, or research. “Research scholars” who complete their J-1 programs and leave the United States are not eligible to return in certain J-1 categories for twenty-four months.

7. Is a change in category from a J-1 “physician” to J-1 “research scholar” permitted?

No. Currently, there is no provision for a J-1 “physician” who has participated in any clinical training under ECFMG sponsorship to request a change of category to the J-1 “research scholar” category. More information is available on the DoS website at https://j1visa.state.gov/programs/research-scholar/.

8. Is a change in category from J-1 “research scholar” to J-1 “alien physician” permitted?

Yes. A change in category from “research scholar” to “alien physician” is possible under certain circumstances. It requires pre-approval from the DoS and must be initiated by ECFMG. The requirements for a change of category request and other details are outlined on the ECFMG website at https://www.ecfmg.org/evsp/evspcocmemo.pdf.

9. I have outside institutional or personal funding. What is the minimum amount that I must have for J-1 sponsorship?

The minimum amount of personal funding that must be documented is $1,600 per month for the J-1 applicant; $600 per month for the J-2 spouse; and $400 per month for each J-2 child. Proof must be submitted in either the form of the award letter (accompanied by a certified English translation, if the letter is not in English) with the financial support stated in U.S. Dollars, or a letter from your bank confirming the total amount of accessible funds in your bank account(s).

10. As a J-1 “research scholar,” am I subject to Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Two-Year Home Country Residency Requirement?

Physicians in the United States in a program of observation, consultation, teaching, or research in the J-1 category of “research scholar” may or may not be subject to the two-year home physical presence requirement. Generally, J-1 “research scholars” are subject to 212(e) when either of the following applies:

  • A research scholar’s specialized knowledge and skill are on the Exchange Visitor Skills List, under his/her country, as published by the U.S. Department of State.
  • The research program in which a research scholar is to be engaged is funded, in whole or in part, either directly or indirectly, by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor for the express purpose of exchange.

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