Immigration and Visas


For Non-US born Medical Students and IMGs that want to be US practicing physicians, you will need a visa in order to complete your goal of being a US doctor. The visa process can be an exhausting and tiresome system to deal with while still applying for residencies or USCE (United States Clinical Experience).

What Type of Visa Do I Need for USCE?

You require a Visa on two occasions:

  1. You have been accepted for residency program/clinical electives in an US university. Congratulations!!
  2. You wish to travel to US for appearing for USMLE step 2 CS & USMLE Step 3, or other USMLE steps to be able to apply for residency.

There are basically three types of Visa on which a student can travel to US and do your elective/clerkship. But since taking up a residency program in the US would mean spending long time in the country, the best type of Visa would be the B1/B2 visa. While the full listings of all visa types are available through the US State department’s website, it is recommend that you obtain one of the following visa types:


B1/B2 – for business associates, or students who travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention. This Visa allows the student to travel for US for educational purposes or for the purpose of USCE. The university does not sponsor this type of visa. B2 visa is the tourism/recreation-non-scientific/business purpose. Clinical electives can be done under B1 visa but cannot be done under B2 Visa. OFFICIAL US department of state foreign affairs manual (FAM) states the following for the eligibility of B1/B2 visa:

An alien who is studying at a foreign medical school and seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to take an “elective clerkship” at a U.S. medical school’s hospital without remuneration from the hospital. The medical clerkship is only for medical students pursuing their normal third or fourth year internship in a U.S. medical school as part of a foreign medical school degree. (An “elective clerkship” affords practical experience and instructions in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at a U.S. medical school’s hospital as an approved part of the alien’s foreign medical school education. It does not apply to graduate medical training, which is restricted by 212(e) and normally requires a J-visa.)”

Usually for the USCE experience you need to have experience of the clinical rotations in the US. These clinical rotations lasts for 4-8 weeks only, the student is not paid for the same. You are just a “visiting student” at the university in the US and you do not receive a certificate of completion after your clinical rotations. 

Requirements to be fulfilled for B1 visa

  • You should have an acceptance letter from the university clearly indicating that you have been invited to the US for clinical electives.
  • During the interview with the Visa officer, you have to state the purpose of your visit, duration of stay, and the address during your stay in the United States.
  • You need to give a proof to the Visa officer that you do not intend to immigrate to US and that you will come back to your home country once your purpose is completed. If the visa officer is not convinced that you travel is not immigration, he can reject your visa application. There should be a valid reason for you to come back to your native country like completion of your degree, family etc.
  • You have to give adequate financial statements to prove that you will be able to afford your stay in the Unites States on your own. You shall be asked to produce bank accounts statements, family in home country, assets like house, land, vehicle etc.

You shall be asked to produce an Itinerary of your stay in the United States. You shall also be asked about your history of foreign travel.
More information found at:

J1 – The most common type of Visa sponsored by most institutes for residency or fellowship. Although, the student may undergo clinical electives while he is un the US under this Visa. A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to research scholars, professors and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially to obtain medical or business training within the U.S. The main disadvantage with this type of Visa will be upon the completion of the training, the candidate has to go back to his/her home country and stay there for at least 2 years. It is only after 2 years, will the candidate be allowed to obtain a new work visa or an immigrant status in the Unites States.
More information found at:

H-1B – non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.
More information found at:

V1– Referred to as a visitor’s visa, with this you may enter the United States, but it completely restricts any ability to have paid employment. This visa may also limit any educational programs you may have planned, and the amount of time you may stay in the United States.
More information found at:

F1– issued to international students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program at a US college or university. This would include the clinical electives too. F-1 students must maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. They can remain in the US up to 60 days beyond the length of time it takes to complete their academic program, unless they have applied and been approved to stay and work for a period of time under the OPT Program. The University sponsors this type of visa. While the candidate has been awarded the F1 visa, he/she can only study at the institution that has awarded the visa. The university shall also provide a I-20 form which will help the candidate to obtain a visa from their local US embassy.

Requirements to be fulfilled for F1 visa are similar to those to B1 visa.
More information found at:

Visa Sponsorships

Federal sponsoring agencies include the Department of Health and Human Services(HHS), the Veterans Administration (VA), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC),and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). These agencies sponsor mostly primary care physicians for waivers (including internists), except for the VA, which also sponsors specialists. Almost all states, except for a select few, sponsor both primary care and specialist physicians for J waivers.