AmeriClerkships: Trials Faced by Foreign Medical Graduates in the United States

Historically, foreign medical graduates have faced significant challenges in obtaining residencies and entering the American medical workforce. These physicians continue to struggle with limited residency spots, visa restrictions, and widespread prejudice, despite the fact that they have proven an invaluable asset to many aspects of medicine in the United States. Studies have shown that medical graduates from schools outside of the United States are more likely to practice in medically underserved areas than physicians educated in America. Currently, foreign physicians comprise almost half of all doctors serving in inner-city or large metropolitan areas. In addition, foreign doctors constitute a disproportionately large percentage of general practitioners in the nation.

While many foreign medical graduates continue to fight for positions in American residency programs, those now practicing have demonstrated a high level of competence. Many of the nation’s largest medical organizations feature a high percentage of international physicians, and these professionals hold leadership positions increasingly often. In recent years, international medical graduates have also consistently performed better than those who graduated from American schools on standardized tests taken in coordination with residencies.

When considering coming to the United States for a residency, individuals from foreign institutions must obtain travel visas to come here and take an exam required for entry into residency programs. This alone proves difficult for many applicants, especially those from the Middle East and South Asia. After securing admission to a program, these individuals must then obtain a long-term visa. The popular J-1 visa requires that the individual return to his or her country of origin after completing the academic program. Many American residency programs cap the number of foreign medical professionals that they will accept, increasing the competition in an already fierce contest. Congress effectively capped the number of residency positions open in the United States more than a decade ago by limiting the funding that the federal government could offer programs. Until Congress reexamines this figure, programs will remain very competitive.

About AmeriClerkships

AmeriClerkships offers foreign medical students the opportunity to work with a variety of medical professionals in several different specialties in order to pursue pre-residency clinical training. These experiences enable international students to transition more easily into the American medical system and provide a serious advantage in the residency application process. For more information about AmeriClerkships, including participant requirements and program options, visit


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