J-1 Visas

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Ann Dohn, MA

Director, Graduate Medical Education
Designated Institutional Official (DIO), ACGME
Training Program Liaison, ECFMG
Special Programs Coordinator, Medical Board of California
Institutional Official, NRMP


650-723-5948 (office)

Last Revised 08/13/2018

About J-1 Visas

  • Stanford Hospital and Clinics uses the J-1 visa program sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)
  • Stanford does not sponsor H-1B visas for graduates of international medical schools.
  • Graduates of Canadian medical schools must also use the J-1 program.
  • Incoming and continuing J-1 visa house staff are required to obtain their J-1 visas before their training. Failure to submit the requested documentation will result in a delayed start date.
  • Outgoing J-1 house staff are required to complete mandatory tasks in the Exiting House Staff Checklist.



Start the process 6 months in advance.

To Program Directors and Coordinators

Program leadership and coordinators must review the ECFMG certificate requirements to ensure the applicant is eligible to participate as a J-1 visa holder in the training program.

New U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Policy, Effective August 9, 2018

Violation of status becomes an "unlawful presence"

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 

  • Effective August 9, 2018 - Update in policy on violations of status - Violation of status is considered "unlawful presence."
  • No advance warning is provided to inform a visa holder that he/she has begun to accrue unlawful presence. 
  • A violation of status is triggered often times when a foreign national seeks to adjust permanent resident status or returns from a trip abroad.
  • What is considered a violation of status?
    • nonimmigrant status overstays
    • unauthorized employment
    • failure to maintain required course loads
    • other violations of status
  • Visa holders, please be mindful of the following:
    • Make sure that you firmly understand both the time limits as well as the scope of authorized activities within your visa classification.
    • Particularly, as of August 9, 2018, make sure that you are acting in a manner fully consistent with your visa status, since any unauthorized activity following that date will trigger the “unlawful presence” accrual periods.
    • Remember that these harsh consequences for a violation of status apply also to your dependent family members.
    • Please consult with the your appropriate advisors if you have any questions on whether or not you are maintaining fully your immigration status.

The J-1 Visa Process: Initial

When an international medical graduate (IMG) is accepted into a Stanford training program, the GME office will initiate the J-1 visa application for the IMG housestaff. The J-1 applicant has the following responsibilities:

  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Apply for a J-1 Visa
  • New/Arrival of J-1 Visa
  • Maintain a J-1 Visa
  • Expired J-1 Visa
  • End a J-1 Visa


The J-1 visa process is a time-sensitive process. All e-mails sent by Ann Dohn are considered high priority.


Eligibility Requirements

According to ECFMG, page 6:

Foreign nationals applying for sponsorship as J-1 “physicians” to participate in clinical programs of graduate medical education (GME) must meet the following general requirements:

  • Pass USMLE® Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) and Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS); or the former VQE, NBME® Part I and Part II, or FMGEMS; or an acceptable combination thereof. (Note: The former one-day ECFMG Examination and the Federation Licensing Examination (FLEX) do not meet the requirements for J-1 visa sponsorship.)
  • Hold a Standard ECFMG Certificate without expired examination dates, if applicable. (Note: Graduates of LCME-accredited U.S. and Canadian medical schools are not required to be ECFMG-certified.)
  • Hold a contract or an official letter of offer for a position in an approved graduate medical education or training program.
  • Provide a Statement of Need from the Ministry of Health of the country of nationality or most recent legal permanent residence. This statement must provide written assurance that the country needs specialists in the area in which the Exchange Visitor will receive training and that he/she will return to the country upon completion. If permanent residence is in a country other than that of citizenship, the Statement of Need must come from the country of most recent legal permanent residence.


Duration of Stay/Sponsorship Limits

ECFMG’s sponsorship for GME participation is limited to the time typically required to complete specialty/subspecialty training requirements as determined by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The duration of sponsorship is further limited to a maximum of seven years. 

Eligibility Requirements for J-1 Visa Sponsorship within Academic / Research Tracks

The J-1 sponsorship non-standard provision developed by the U.S. Department of State (in consultation with the academic medical community) does not allow ECFMG to sponsor J-1 exchange visitor physicians for stand-alone research programs or years.
For the purpose of J-1 visa sponsorship, academic / research tracks are most commonly observed within ACGME-accredited medicine and pediatric subspecialty disciplines and are defined as plus-one years for applicants enrolled in the accredited subspecialty programs for which the academic research year is required or available. Examples include a four-year cardiology program, four-year gastroenterology program, etc. 
ECFMG will consider sponsorship, on a case by case basis, for one additional year beyond the ACGME-accredited program duration for participation in an academic / research track that stems from accredited internal medicine and pediatric subspecialty program when the following requirements are met:

  • The one-year academic research track is predefined as an option or requirement within the ACGME-accredited program description on file with ECFMG
  • The J-1 exchange visitor is enrolled in the accredited program for which the academic research track is required or available
  • The J-1 exchange visitor will not function as a principal investigator (PI)
  • All other application requirements for sponsorship in a non-standard program are met (please see for more information http://www.ecfmg.org/evsp/continuation-non-standard.pdf)


The J-1 Visa Process: Renewals/Transfers

If the trainee is from an outside institution with a J-1 and plans to attend Stanford, the Stanford training program must inform GME/TPL the following:

  • Trainee has a J-1 visa already sponsored at another institution in the US.
  • Is trainee qualified for a renewal/transfer/sponsorship at Stanford?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I am attending a conference outside of the U.S. What do I need to know?

You must notify Ann Dohn 3-4 weeks in advance that you are leaving for a conference outside of the U.S. Your DS-2019 will be updated by Ann. According to ECFMG, to reenter the U.S. following international travel, you are required to bring a(n):

  • Passport, valid for at least six months beyond the program end date on the most recent Form DS-2019.
  • Valid J-1 or J-2 visa. (Note: A visa is not required for Canadian citizens seeking to reenter the United States.)
  • Original Form DS-2019 with travel signature in the “Travel Validation by Responsible Officer” box on lower right side of Form DS-2019. Only ECFMG personnel can provide the required travel validation signature. 

Please read more here when traveling to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands of the U.S.  Learn more about outside travel of the U.S. here.