Disclaimer: I am not a legal
professional, information on this page is
based on data gathered from other web sites and my personal, as well
as the experience of others. For specific immigration questions please
contact an experienced, honest immigration lawyer.
Some facts prospective Canadian International Medical Graduates should know:
Since government funding for
medical school slots in Canada is restricted, it is more
difficult to get into medical school in Canada than in other countries. Therefore a lot of
young Canadians whose life dream is to become a physician have to apply and get
accepted into medical schools abroad.
Aside from the problem of funding
their education abroad, if they wish to practice in
Canada they have to get postgraduate training which will be recognized in their own
country (hard to get in Canada).
If they want to practice closer to
home, residency positions in the U.S. are also much
harder for them to obtain, compared to other foreigners (yes the United States is a foreign
country), because of visa requirements on both the U.S. and Canadian governments'
Canadians wishing to study
medicine in the United States have to get an F1 or student
visa (for which proof of being able to afford medical education in the United States and
proof of acceptance into a U.S. medical school is needed).
Medical students can be admitted on a B1 or business/tourist
visa when doing clinical clerkships or observerships because the U.S. hospitals aren't
paying them a salary.
The F1 and B1 visas are issued at
the U.S. port of entry (the school just sends you the
forms or letters that need to be stamped at the border or port of entry, that is for Canadian
citizens, if you are a citizen of another country, even if you are landed you have to apply at
a U.S. consulate first before presenting yourself to the INS at the border or port of entry)
while the J1 and H1b visas have to be applied for at a U.S. consulate in the applicants'
province or city of residence. (the U.S. consular officer in Toronto made me go back to my
city of residence when I applied for a J1 visa there because I hadn't lived in Toronto for at
least six months before applying for that visa, if you are already in the U.S. on for example
a B1 visa, that can be changed to an H1b inside the U.S. if you get a job offer, the J1 though
can only be changed if you get a J1waiver).
Basically there are only two types
of U.S. visas under which Canadian
citizen International Medical Graduates can be admitted into the United States for post
graduate medical training: J1 ( good for the duration of training or up to 7 years
whichever is applicable, however both U. S. and Canadian government requirements have
to be fulfilled and a pass in the USMLE steps 1 and 2 and TOEFL are needed) and
H1b (for which only U.S. government requirements have to be fulfilled and a pass in the
USMLE Steps 1- 3, CSA and TOEFL). There are not too many hospitals that accept
medical residents for training on H1b visas though because it requires a lot of paperwork
for the hospitals ( I-9 forms or labor certification to be filed regularly, lawyers to
shepherd the application through the INS, etc.) compared to the J1 (they only have to send
the signed residency contract to their prospective medical resident and the prospective
resident can take care of everything). Residents on H1b visas aren't usually able to start
in June because of the application process for this type of visa (quota is released on
October 1st, and although the application can be filed before October, like as soon as
match results are released or whenever one is offered the residency slot, the effectivity
date of the visa can only be backdated to October) plus medical residents have to
compete with all the other professionals (engineers, computer programmers) who enter
the U.S. on H1b visas.
H1b visas are good for 3 years
plus another extension of 3 years then you have to be
out of the U.S. for at least a year before being able to work in the U.S. on an H1b visa
again (the requirements for being able to stay on in the U.S. after training are not as
onerous as for those on the J1 but people usually need money for the lawyer's fees so a
lawyer can guide them through the application process).
After residency, if the
International Medical Graduate came in on a J1 visa, they have to
return to their country of residence for at least 2 years before being allowed to work in
the U.S. unless they are able to get a J1 waiver. If they were on an H1b they can apply for
permanent resident status (the Green Card which hasn't really been green since,
I think, the 70's) in the U.S. before finishing the residency, look for an employer who can
sponsor them on an H1b visa extension, or be out of the U.S. for one year before they are
allowed back in on an H1b again (most people apply for a Green Card before the need for
an extension or leaving the United States arises).
The TN or NAFTA visa (through
which a lot of Canadian nurses are brain
drained to work in the U.S.) can't be used for medical residency or practising as a doctor
in the U.S. as this story illustrates.
This web site says you can
practice medicine in the U.S. under the E or investor type of
visa or other types of visas but they aren't practical for a newly minted medical graduate
with C$ 150, 000 in debt.
Under the Jay treaty of 1792,
treaty status natives can cross into the U.S. without visas or
customs inspections but I don't know if they can study or train there without visas.
Unsolicited advice: If you can't obtain U.S. citizenship
(anybody with proof of U.S.
descent meaning proof of a U.S. citizen parent, grandparent or even great great
grandparent can file for U.S. citizenship), obtain permanent resident status, marry a U.S.
citizen, have a U.S. citizen or green card holder adopt you, try for an H1b visa since that
makes it easier to stay in the U.S. after residency. It is easier to fulfill the requirements
(once you've got a hospital willing to sponsor you on an H1b, which is the hardest thing to
do) although expenses at the front end are greater than for a J1 visa (marrying an American
citizen while on a J1 visa doesn't guarantee an automatic extension of your stay in the
This now reads like a U.S. visa advice page but I've researched and made sure I won't
make the same mistake twice.
(Thanks to V.I. for his suggestions)
If you're considering Canadian Medical Schools
Links and tips on how to get into medical school in Canada (this site rocks)
Millennium scholarship site
Federal student loans web site as well as links to provincial student loan sites
* for those studying in the Caribbean U.S. based financing is available but there must be a U.S. cosigner, Stafford loans are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents
Plus there are other banks willing to offer loans to medical students at a commercial rate
If you are thinking of studying
Here are some CMAJ articles on Canadians medical students abroad
1997 CMAJ article on Canadians studying in the Caribbean.
1997 CMAJ article on how much Caribbean medical education costs and which schools are approved for OSAP.
2000 CMAJ article on Canadians studying in the U.K. and financial and personal costs.
UK Canadian International
Medical Graduate bulletin board
Canadian International Medical student in UK
Canadian International Medical student in the Caribbean
Canadian International Medical student in the U.S. (somewhat commercial)
A good bulletin board for Caribbean Medical schools (somewhat commercial with some spamming and flaming)
Other links (for U.S. visa information, etc.)
For Canadian International Medical Graduates who wish to train in the U.S.
Health Canada requirements for Government of Canada U.S. J-1 visa sponsorship letter (has anyone else actually gone off and fulfilled all these requirements?). A recent post in the UK - Canadian International Medical Graduate bulletin board states it has become easier to get a a J1 sponsorship letter for Psych and Anesthesia since last year (1999).
Advice on how to go about getting a residency in the U.S. from a Canadian International Medical Graduate who studied in the Caribbean (good advice)
List of International Medical Graduate friendly hospitals for residencies and observerships in the United States and which sites will accept permanent residents (Green Card), J1 or H1 visa holders (good site)
Good resource for U.S. visa news and U.S. visa regulations for International Medical Graduates information on H1b and J1 visa rules, regulations and processing times (commercial, a law firm's site)
This site has a condensed version of which visas physicians and students can apply for to study or train in the U.S. (commercial, a law firm's site)
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