Advocating for Matched IMGs with U.S. Department of State

Over the past three weeks, ECFMG|FAIMER staff have been in daily communication with officials at the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to communicate specific concerns related to COVID-19 and foreign national physicians participating in, or seeking to participate in, U.S. residency and fellowship training programs. These communications directly resulted in the following developments:

  • Working in partnership with the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) in response to DOS’ temporary suspension of routine visa processing around the world, including the J-1 and H-1B, we provided information to DOS about the number of foreign national physicians who matched to U.S. training programs and the country of citizenship for those who matched. As a result, DOS instructed consular posts around the world to resume visa processing for medical professionals.
  • Following the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME’s) posting of its Response to Pandemic Crisis, ECFMG|FAIMER asked that DOS confirm that J-1 physicians are permitted to engage in any/all clinical assignments and training activities permissible under the new ACGME guidelines. DOS provided confirmation.
  • DOS also confirmed that it would “push a two-month extension to program end dates in the government database [SEVIS] on active records with a program end date between April 1-May 31, 2020 in order to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to complete either their educational or training programs, or continue to finalize travel plans to return home.” DOS further indicated that it will continue to review this issue and will make the same provisions for those J-1 physicians whose programs end in June and July, if necessary.
  • We sought and received authorization from DOS to begin accepting electronic Statements of Need (SONs) from home country governments. The SON is a regulatory requirement for all J-1 physicians and, previously, only original letters signed and sealed from the home country’s Ministry of Health were permitted per DOS regulation.

We have been sending direct communications to representatives at training institutions and to currently sponsored exchange visitor physicians, as developments warrant. We have made a number of updates to the ECFMG website and continue to maintain an active presence on Twitter @ECFMG_J1. We’ve also conducted two webinars for teaching hospital personnel and members of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Resident Affairs (GRA) to answer COVID-19 related questions. The first two webinars attracted hundreds of attendees.

For more information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on ECFMG|FAIMER programs and what we are doing in response, please visit our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) web page.

Department of State Signals Visa Processing for Medical Professionals Will Move Forward

ECFMG|FAIMER Continues Focus on Obstacles to IMGs Entering U.S. Training

In a communication today, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) signaled that it would resume processing of J and H visa applications for medical professionals seeking to enter the United States. In its communication, DOS encouraged individuals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019) to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment.

The communication follows a March 18 announcement that the United States was suspending routine visa processing for immigrant and non-immigrant visas, including the J and H visas, at embassies and consulates worldwide due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Since the March 18 announcement, ECFMG|FAIMER has been in close contact with DOS to raise awareness of the impact of the suspension in visa issuance on the 4,200+ foreign national physicians selected in the March 20 Match to participate in U.S. programs of graduate medical education (GME) beginning July 1. The addition of these physicians to health care teams at teaching hospitals across the United States is critical to meeting our health care needs and combating the current COVID-19 health care crisis.

“We are encouraged that our close relationship and communications with DOS on this issue have resulted in this positive development,” said ECFMG|FAIMER President and CEO William W. Pinsky, MD. “There are still significant obstacles to getting these physicians here, and we can now shift our focus to addressing these other issues.”

The J and H are the most common visa classifications used by foreign national physicians to participate in U.S. GME programs. ECFMG|FAIMER is designated by DOS as the sole J-1 visa sponsor of foreign national physicians in U.S. GME programs. Currently, ECFMG|FAIMER sponsors close to 12,000 physicians at teaching hospitals across the nation, where they engage in medical specialty training and provide supervised patient care.

For more information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on ECFMG|FAIMER programs and what we are doing in response, please visit our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) web page.

Match Day Adds 7,000+ International Medical Graduates to U.S. GME Programs

Workforce Additions Critical to Combating COVID-19 Pandemic

Match 2020 Infographic
(Click to enlarge.)

More than 7,000 international medical graduates (IMGs) obtained first-year residency positions in U.S. programs of graduate medical education (GME), according to results of the 2020 Main Residency Match® announced Friday by the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®). On July 1 these physicians are scheduled to join teaching hospitals across the nation, where they will engage in medical specialty training and provide supervised patient care. They will join the U.S. physician workforce during a national health care crisis.

“Comprising approximately one-quarter of our active physicians, IMGs are critical to meeting our nation’s health care needs, including the current health care crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ECFMG|FAIMER President & CEO William W. Pinsky, M.D. “We need every one of these qualified physicians to join their U.S. training programs on time, and we are working aggressively to address any obstacles, such as immigration or travel restrictions, that would prevent these newly matched physicians from bringing their skills and talents to bear on the current crisis.”

IMGs practice in high numbers in medically underserved areas and in primary-care specialties. Friday’s Match results are consistent with the trends for IMGs to join primary-care specialties, such as Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Pediatrics—front-line providers in the fight against the current COVID-19 crisis.

The number of IMGs who matched at 7,376 represents an increase of 351 over last year’s Match. Of the 7,376 IMGs who matched, 3,154 are U.S. citizens and 4,222 are citizens of other nations. Sixty-one percent of IMG applicants were selected by U.S. GME programs in the highly competitive Match process, the highest IMG match rate in 30 years. An infographic on IMG performance in the 2020 Match can be found here.

Before they enter U.S. GME, IMGs are assessed by ECFMG®, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. ECFMG’s program for certifying IMGs is a rigorous process that includes passing components of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®), the same examinations required of U.S. medical school students and graduates. As part of the certification process, ECFMG verifies the authenticity of IMGs’ medical education credentials, including their medical diplomas, directly with the issuing medical schools. Only IMGs who are certified by ECFMG can enter U.S. GME programs.

For more information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on ECFMG|FAIMER programs and what we are doing in response, please visit our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) web page.

Requirement for ERAS 2020 Applicants to Emergency Medicine Programs

The Emergency Medicine program community has endorsed the use of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Standardized Video Interview (SVI) for the ERAS 2020 season.

The SVI is mandatory for ERAS 2020 applicants to Emergency Medicine programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Emergency Medicine program directors will include the video interview as a component when evaluating applications. The SVI does not replace or replicate in-person interviews.

The deadline to complete the video interview is July 16, 2019, 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time in the United States, so ERAS applicants planning to apply to ACGME-accredited Emergency Medicine programs are encouraged to purchase their ERAS Token and register with MyERAS as soon as possible to allow enough time to complete the SVI process. Tokens for ERAS 2020 are available for purchase through OASIS or the MyECFMG mobile app as of June 25, 2019.

For complete information and helpful resources, please visit the AAMC Standardized Video Interview web page at: https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-residency/applying-residencies-eras/aamc-standardized-video-interview/.

For information on how to prepare for the SVI, including the latest SVI webinars from AAMC, visit https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-residency/article/prepare-svi/.

(updated June 25, 2019)

IMGs Participating in 2020 Match Should Apply for Step 2 CS Now

To participate in the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) Main Residency Match®, international medical students/graduates must have passed all exams required for ECFMG Certification. If you plan to participate in the 2020 Match (in March 2020) and still need to pass Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS), you should register now to take the examination.

To help ensure that your result will be available in time to participate in the 2020 Match, you must take Step 2 CS by December 31, 2019. If you do not register now and schedule soon, it is possible that you will not be able to obtain a test date in 2019. At the time of this writing, the earliest available test date at any test center is in September 2019.

The USMLE program also strongly encourages medical students/graduates to schedule their exams early to obtain a testing appointment this year.

If you register and schedule now, you can change your scheduled testing appointment (subject to availability) at no cost, provided you give notice of more than 14 days.

For periodic updates on the availability of Step 2 CS testing appointments, follow ECFMG on Facebook and Twitter. Detailed information on the results reporting schedule for Step 2 CS is available on the ECFMG website.