How to Apply for Medical Residency for International Medical Graduates During COVID-19

How to Apply for Medical Residency for International Medical Graduates During COVID-19

The International Medical Graduate (IMG) doctors are an integral part of the U.S healthcare system. And in facing this global crisis, the American Medical Association supports international graduates to practice their profession in the U.S if they already have the license or looking to acquire one.

International students who graduated in medicine may be given opportunities to take up U.S medical residency or offered a fellowship program through the National Resident Matching Program. With COVID-19 treatments still nowhere in sight, individuals participating in the program will be starting their residency by July this year.

To give equal care for the underserved communities, physicians will be given a pass to those holding a J-1 and H-1B visa for international medical professionals despite the worldwide suspension of U.S passes. AMA, along with Amy Klobuchar (U.S Senator) and Bradley Schneider (U.S Representative), are working on extending ‘duration of status’ for international medical professionals to cater to rural communities and those medically underserved. As of last April 2020, J-1 Alien Physicians may be given extended periods of stay in the U.S.

Medical graduates with non-immigrant or immigrant U.S visa petition or with a certificate for an exchange visitor program are encouraged to visit the nearest embassy to schedule an appointment. Those who already have an appointment scheduled for Application Service Center (ASC) after the closure last March 18, 2020, or those holding a Form I-765, can process their applications with the same biometrics submitted prior.

Processing visas in the U.S for international medical graduates are currently not accepting new requests, including those petitions for H-1B visas. AMA is working with USCIS for reconsideration and allowing the continuation of H-1B visas premium processing.

For graduates participating in the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) program, there is an extension of eligibility for those holding a scheduling permit. Students are given until December 2020 for individuals with schedules ending in 2020.

Individuals holding a J-1 visa for an exchange program but has already expired don’t need to go back to their home country for renewal (if they do not have plans to travel outside the U.S). However, if the exchange visitor needs to travel outside the U.S but has already expired their J-1 visa must be required to return to their home country for the renewal.

Furthermore, J-1 physicians (medical residents) need to talk with their program sponsor for an extension as mandated by the State Department. International medical residents must be confirmed by their training institution of the clinical training or assignments following the ACGME’s ‘Response to Pandemic Crisis’.

If you’re an international medical graduate currently practicing your profession in the U.S but plan to move to a different place, you are required to get a Labor Condition Application (LCA) for each location you go and perform services as mandated by the Department of Labor (DOL). LCA is only applicable worksites within the ‘area of employment’. However, with the current situation, H-1B visa holders can work in a different location without having to get another LCA for up to 60-days within a year.

Foreign doctors with practice experience but want to earn a license to practice in the U.S will still need to undergo the same requirements with additional years for training, USMLE exam, ECFMG certification, and applying for the state they’d like to practice in. Independent sites like MedResidency offer a variety of open positions for residency for any given state in the U.S.

After you’ve processed your documents and you’re finally set for the U.S, there will still be some adjustments to be made during your residency. It’s a unique position to be in where you might be growing your clinical experience while still being wary of unforeseen cases of COVID-19. The daily adjustments in your routines may be anticipated as you carry on your task with this new ‘norm’.

Although working hours are regulated, residency shifts have grown more significantly for some doctors. You might be assigned in makeshift COVID-19 areas where you will be spending a great amount of time evaluating. Aside from cerebral work, wearing PPEs can be tedious work with an almost endless worry of getting all the procedures right and protecting oneself from any infection.

Most of the educational lectures, including grand round sessions, are largely moved in online platforms such as Zoom. But due to the huge demands of research and presentation preparations on physicians, it’s often pushed back or canceled in some cases. Places like California might not experience this kind of radical routine yet since it’s not as hard-hit as the other states with COVID-19 cases. Elective rotations are on halt in some institutions with more physicians being called into the internal medicine or emergency departments.