Non-US Clinical and/or Research Applicants

There are special considerations for applicants from foreign countries. In general, we require that individuals be funded from an institution of thier country of origin or the United States. This funding can come from heart associations, governments, academic institutions, and philanthropic or private organizations. Stanford University requires that postdoctoral research trainees be funded at a minimum amount according to PGY level. In some cases, research grant applications are required for such funding and your faculty mentor may be able to help you in developing such a proposal.

Visa Policy for Graduates of International Medical Schools

An International Medical School Graduate (IMG) is defined as a graduate of a medical school located outside of the United States. Stanford Health Care/Stanford Children’s Health supports the use of the clinical (ECFMG sponsored) J-1 Visa for all clinical trainees. Exceptions for individuals with pending green cards or individuals unable to obtain the ECFMG J-1 Visa may be granted. Approval from the Designated Institutional Official (DIO) and SHC Chief Medical Officer is required prior to use of an alternate visa. Stanford uses J-1 visas sponsored by Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. For more information visit Please allow 120 days for the processing of a J-1 visa. Stanford does not sponsor graduates of international medical schools on H-1B visas. Under certain circumstances Graduates of United States medical schools may be eligible for the H-1B visa. This is at the discretion of the program. Approval must be granted by both the program and the DIO. The cost of obtaining the H1-B visa is the responsibility of the residency program training the Resident.


Foreign medical graduates who wish to participate in any advanced clinical training must pass the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination), which replaces the FMGMS (Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences), the ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) exam and the VQE (Visa Qualifying Exam). USMLE is a prerequisite for obtaining a visa to train in the United States. The only exceptions are for graduates from Canada and Puerto Rico. Information regarding the USMLE examination may be obtained from the US Embassy or from the ECFMG, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Non-clinical (i.e. research only) trainees need not take the USMLE. 

If you have passed the USMLE, you may be eligible for ECFMG sponsorship of a J-1 visa in an advanced clinical fellowship. You must have this sponsorship in order to be able to participate in advanced (not general) clinical training at Stanford. The ECFMG has also passed a ruling that you cannot change your visa sponsorship after you have entered the United States. You cannot come in under a J-1 research visa and then change to an ECFMG sponsorship or visa versa. If you are going to be involved in clinical training, you must also obtain an exemption from California State licensure, a process that takes 4 to 6 months.

Realistic planning time for those who wish to be involved in patient care activities is about a year from start of application to start of fellowship. For those who are working in a laboratory only, the visa process is quite a bit shorter because the USMLE is unnecessary, however obtaining funding and making general arrangements can also easily take a full year. Although the planning and paper work can be time consuming, our experience is that most of our foreign fellows have found their experiences to be very rewarding, and we believe that they have added breadth and depth to our program.