How to Increase Your Chances of a Residency as an International Medical Graduate

Business fields like marketing, HR and finance consider international learning and job experience as a major advantage working in the favor of aspiring candidates, however, this doesn’t hold true in the healthcare industry. If you are an International Medical Graduate (IMG), then the chances of reserving a spot in US residency programs is lower than a typical US graduate due to a number of reasons. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot take steps to make a good competitor. The key is to master IMG matching.

Here are some clinical residency matching tips for IMGs:

Before Applying

Formulate strategy and goals

Make a practical strategy that is based on facts and statistics. For instance, if you take a really long time to finish the USMLE steps, your chances of getting in an accredited or preferred residency program will go down. High scores will increase your chances of an early match. Choose your specialty and continue building your resume to increase your chances of acceptance.

Choose Your Specialty Sensibly

What specialty you choose determines if you get an interview or call for a residency match. Some preferred specialties for IMGs based on the historical data include: Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Family Medicine, and Pediatrics.

Specialties, where your chances are low, are: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Anesthesiology, Orthopedic surgery. However, if you have extremely high scores and superb clinical skill sets, you can expect a call back in these specialties.

Be Aware of Latest Developments

Surf websites that keep you abreast with the latest information about the application process. You can join the USMLE forums to learn about the programs that are willing to sponsor your Visas. Although ECFMG offers J-1 Visas to applicants interested in a career in US healthcare industry, a lot of other programs offer H1B Visas to selected candidates as well.

Build your Resume

Now that your goals are in place, you need to build your resume and clinical experience profile. Here’s how you can do that.

Gain US Clinical Experience

IMGs participating in observer-ship programs to gain clinical experience are more likely to match. Joining US institutes will help in boosting your resume for the residency match and getting recommendations and references. It will also give you an opportunity to acquaint yourself with the healthcare practices and environment of the US, and network with other US and non-US graduates, doctors and researchers.

Publish Something

If you have one or more publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, you will increase your chances of getting into a clinical residency program. You can network with doctors and resident trainees who are serving in different programs to contribute to an ongoing research study. You can even express interest in being a part of a research team on an ongoing study at your medical school or training hospital in your country.


Though fewer, there are chances that you may get accredited for offering part-time volunteer services in not-for-profit organizations. You can volunteer by participating in health screening camps, organizing public awareness walks and events or conducting surveys and collecting/analyzing data. Volunteering will work in your favor if your resume isn’t strong.

Application Process


Register with NRMP (National Resident Matching Program). This site allows you to connect with the participating residency programs. Some documents you would need to register include: A Personal Statement, letters of recommendation from accredited US hospitals, doctors, and research specialists, a complete, up-to-date Resume, complete ERAS Application, cover letter addressing the Program Director, proof of graduation from an accredited medical school, and ECFMG report and USMLE Transcript.

Check if there are any other requirements for the residency application and apply as early as possible.

Consider IMG-Friendly Programs

Apply in as many programs as possible to increase your chances of getting accepted into the program. It would be better to apply in more IMG-friendly programs such as that in Ohio, New York, New Jersey and Michigan. It would help you tremendously to improve your interview and communication skills by appearing in front of different boards.

Appearing for the Interview

Prepare well for the interview. Dress appropriately and watch your behavior as first impressions matter. Don’t show your nervousness even if you are nervous. Write a thank-you letter to the Program Director within 48-hours to express your interest in the program and appreciation for the opportunity provided.

The chances of IMGs getting a clinical residency match may be low but it isn’t impossible. Residency match relies heavily on how well you sell yourself. Highlight your skill sets in an effective and powerful manner. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, if you need, to better your communication skills, language skills and interview techniques.

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Eric Brown

Eric Brown is a standardized patient (SP) who lives in New York and advises NYCSPREP with their Clinical Skills course. He has a BA from a liberal arts college in the north east, where he majored in the the atrical arts and business (he credits the first for his ability to simulate real patients). He’s amassed years of experience as an SP and keeps up to date with CS exam expectations, trends and developments. When the Phillies are in town, Eric considers it his duty to support his home team. He won’t be seen without his trusty catcher’s mitt on these occasions, and prides himself on having caught more than one foul ball with it. If you have any questions about standardized CS exams or courses at NYCSPREP, email Eric at or visit