If you are a US citizen or have a Green
Card, you do not need a visa to carry out residency training in
the US; you can apply freely to any desired US residency
If you are a Canadian citizen, Canadian
permanent resident, or international student, you will require a
visa to carry out residency training in the US.
J-1 Visa – exchange visitor visa commonly
used for medical residency training
While it is relatively straightforward in
terms of paperwork to get this visa, there are several important
factors to be aware of:
This visa has a 2-year home country
requirement attached to it (you must return to your country
of last legal residence for a minimum of two years following
the completion of your residency prior to seeking more
permanent visa status in the US).
US residency training programs are often
a year or two less in duration than their associated
counterparts in Canada (i.e., Internal Medicine and
Pediatrics), meaning that you cannot come directly back to
practice your specialty in Canada; you would need to secure
additional Canadian residency training in order to meet
Canadian certification requirements.
Because of the 2-year home country
requirement, the J-1 visa application must be supported by
the applicant’s home government (to ensure that the proposed
training fits well with home country physician resource
plans). This means that:
If you are an international
medical student, you must find out from your country
of last legal residence, prior to applying to residency,
whether or not they will support your J-1 visa
application in your desired discipline (since it is that
country to which you will have to return for two years
prior to returning to the US). Start making inquiries as
early as possible because the process can be lengthy.
If you are an out-of-province
Canadian student, you must find out from Health
Canada, well in advance of applying to residency,
whether or not your proposed residency training fits
with physician resource plans from your home province so
that Health Canada can support your J-1 visa application
– most provinces have relatively flexible manpower
priorities, but you must always check with
to be sure.
If you are a QC resident, you
must consult the “Politique des inscriptions dans les
programmes de formation médicale postdoctorale” issued
each year to determine whether or not your proposed
residency training fits with QC’s physician resource
plans. QC tends to be very restrictive, and only a
limited number of specialties are available for J-1 visa
support each year. Unfortunately, this list does change
and is not released until late fall of your fourth year
(after you will have submitted a US residency
application and potentially even started interviewing).
Disciplines: Match 2011
Internal Medicine (General, Hematology, Medical
General Pediatrics (no subspecialties)
Psychiatry (including Pediatric Psychiatry)
Click here for a special note
H-1B Visa – temporary professional worker
visa less commonly used for medical residency training
this visa seems attractive on the surface since it has no home
country requirement attached, there are complications:
must have passed USMLE Step 3 prior to getting this visa, and
you cannot write Step 3 until you have your MD diploma in hand.
By the time you write the exam, get the score, and complete the
visa paperwork process, it is usually September/October
following the July 1 residency start date, so you are beginning
residency late, and the programs to which you are applying have
to be ready to delay your residency start date.
An H1-B visa
application is employer-sponsored, and many residency programs
are unwilling to undertake the associated responsibility,
expense, and inconvenience. You will usually be able to find out
from a residency program’s website whether or not they are “H1-B
supportive”, but if it is not evident, you will have to call the
program office directly.
A very small number of McGill graduates
have succeeded in acquiring this type of visa, though it is a
very labor-intensive process.
Next: Reciprocity of Training