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A Guide to Immigration Laws, Recruiting International Physicians

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By Phillip Miller, vice president of communications for Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare

March 5, 2013 - Population demographics in the United States are changing rapidly, and the same can be said for the demographics of the nation’s physician workforce. In addition to an influx of female and minority physicians into the medical ranks, a growing number of doctors today are international medical graduates (IMGs).

About one quarter of physicians in active patient care roles are IMGs; they also make up about one quarter of medical residents in training. International medical graduates are more prevalent in some specialties than others, and in some cases can comprise over 40 percent of the physician workforce, as the list below indicates:

International medical graduates by specialty:

Nephrology                     41%
Anesthesiology 32%
Psychiatry 31%
Internal medicine 30%
Cardiology 30%
Neurology 30%
Pulmonology 27%
Gastroenterology 26%

(Source:  AMA Physician Master File)

Although many IMGs are U.S. citizens or green card holders, others require visas to work in the United States.

A new white paper prepared for Merritt Hawkins by prominent immigration attorney Carl Shusterman provides answers to frequently asked questions about IMG-related visa and employment issues.  The paper walks through the visa process step by step, providing hospital and medical group administrators and physician recruiting professionals with a clear guide to this sometimes confusing process.

A copy of the white paper can be viewed and downloaded here.

In addition to reviewing the steps necessary to take an IMG candidate from a temporary visa to a green card, the paper reviews the immigration laws and regulations pertaining to Canadian medical graduates. Graduates of Canadian medical schools are not considered IMGs because Canadian medical training and the Canadian qualifying medical exam are deemed to be the equivalent of U.S. training and the U.S. qualifying exam.  However, Canadian-trained physicians also have immigration issues that may need to be addressed before they can be recruited and employed to the United States.

Over the last several years, Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare company, has encountered a growing acceptance of IMGs as recruiting candidates. Many healthcare organizations see the advantages of recruiting international physicians, and IMGs now occupy prominent roles in medical education and in medical association leadership. Like U.S.-trained physicians, they generally are accepted by patients on the basis of their skill and bedside manner. Those with anecdotes about recruiting IMGs and navigating the immigration process are welcome to share them here.

About the Author:
Phillip Miller is vice president of communications for Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare. He can be contacted at

Immigration Law and the Recruitment of Internationally Trained Physicians (PDF) - white paper
Physician Staffing and Recruitment - AMN


© 2013. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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