The Implications of the Current Visa System for Foreign Medical Graduates During and After Graduate Medical Education Training

J Gen Intern Med. 2019 Jul;34(7):1337-1341. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-05027-1. Epub 2019 May 8.


The current and projected deficit in the physician workforce in the US is a challenge for primary care and specialty medical settings. Foreign medical graduates (FMGs) represent an important component of the US graduate medical education (GME) training pathway and can help to address the US physician workforce deficit. Availability of FMGs is particularly important to the internal medicine community, as recent data demonstrate that internal medicine is the specialty with the highest number of FMGs. System-based and logistical inefficiencies in the current US visa system represent significant obstacles to FMG trainees and have important psychological, emotional, and logistical consequences to FMG engagement and participation in US GME training and in the post-training workforce. In this article, we review the contemporary structure, process, and challenges of obtaining a visa for GME training. The H1B and J1 visa programs are compared and contrasted, with an emphasis on logistical specifics for FMG GME trainees and training programs. The process of and options for J1 visa waivers are reviewed. These considerations are specifically reviewed in the context of recent policy decisions by the Trump administration, with emphasis on the effects of these decisions on FMGs in medical training and practice.

Keywords: US physicians’ workforce; foreign medical graduates; graduate medical education; immigration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / trends
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / trends
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Internship and Residency / trends
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physicians / trends
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Workforce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Workforce / trends