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J-1 Clinical (ECFMG) Visa

A clinical J-1 visa in the category of "Alien Physician" is for foreign national physicians seeking entry into U.S. programs of graduate medical education or training. It is a temporary nonimmigrant visa reserved for participants in the Exchange Visitor Program. Family members may apply for a J-2 visa and a J-2 spouse can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD).

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) must sponsor alien physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the other Mass General Brigham affiliates in accredited programs of graduate medical education or training.

Your Mass General Brigham hospital department will coordinate the sponsorship request with our office, who serve as the Training Program Liaisons (TPLs) for Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. We are the hospital's official representative to communicate directly with the ECFMG. As the TPLs, we will submit appointment details, upload supporting documentation, and manage various aspects of the J-1 sponsorship process. Please note, our office is not responsible for licensure or credentialing. If you are seeking an alien physician J-1 for Spaulding Rehabilitation or Salem Hospital, please follow-up with those institutions directly.

General requirements

  • Full-time participation in an approved training program is required

  • All J-1 physicians (and J-2 dependents) sponsored by ECFMG for clinical training are subject to the two-year home residence requirement

  • Statement of Need from your country of last legal permanent residence is required to serve as evidence of home country support for the U.S. training and provides assurance that you are committed to returning home. You can read more about “Statement of Need” at

  • Approval of your J-1 visa depends partially upon your ability to prove strong ties to your home country and a clear intent to return home upon completion of the training program

  • Host institutions are required to provide you with approved clinical training

Basic applicant requirements

All international medical graduates (IMGs), regardless of country of citizenship, are required to complete ECFMG Certification to be eligible for J-1 visa sponsorship for clinical graduate medical education (GME) in the U.S. The location of the medical school, not the citizenship of the physician, determines whether the graduate is an IMG. This means that Canadian citizens who graduate from medical schools located outside the United States and Canada are considered IMGs and must be certified by ECFMG.

If you are a physician seeking J-1 sponsorship, you must:

  • Hold a Standard ECFMG certificate with current examination dates. Graduates of Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accredited U.S. and Canadian medical schools are not required to hold ECFMG certification

  • Have already completed the necessary base residency (or fellowship) training in the U.S. or abroad

  • Hold a valid training contract or letter of offer

  • Present a Statement of Need from your home country or country of last legal permanent residence

  • Submit a current curriculum vitae

Application process

  1. Contact your U.S. hospital department with questions about being sponsored by ECFMG.

  2. Your U.S. hospital department will coordinate the request with our office who serves as the hospital's official representative to ECFMG.

  3. The overall timeline will vary based on the type of request, ECMG processing times, and change of category requests will be dependent on U.S. government processing times.

  4. Once a clinical J-1 visa sponsorship application is complete and all regulatory requirements are satisfied, ECFMG creates an electronic record for you (and for each of your J-2 family dependents, if applicable) in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is a database jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security for the issuance and maintenance of DS-2019s.

  5. ECFMG issues Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, through SEVIS to confirm your J-1 sponsorship approval.

  6. ECFMG will then provide you with additional guidance and visa application instructions.

  7. Upon arrival to the U.S., a first time J-1 must check in with our office to be validated by ECFMG. Please note:

    • J-1 visa holders and J-2 dependents must hold compliant health insurance

    • J-1 physicians cannot apply for a U.S. Social Security Card/Number until ECFMG has validated their SEVIS record. Applying for a social security number prior to SEVIS validation will delay issuance of the social security card

    • J-2 spouses upon entry to U.S. can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD)