Which Residency Programs Are IMG Friendly

Which Residency Programs Are IMG-Friendly?

If your partner is in medical school outside the US but is interested in a US residency program, you probably have quite a few questions—the largest of which are probably where to look for programs and what programs to look into. 

Your partner has to not only decide where to apply, but also what specialty they’re interested in applying to. This process can seem a bit overwhelming, particularly if they are an IMG.

What Does IMG Mean?

First things first—what is an IMG? IMG stands for international medical graduate, which means that the student went to medical school outside of the US or Canada. Even if they are from the US but went to an international medical school, they would still be considered an IMG. 

On the flip side, if the student is not a US or Canadian citizen but attended medical school in the US or Canada, they would not be considered an IMG student.  

What Makes a Program IMG-Friendly

You’ll want to make sure that you’re researching which programs and locations are the most IMG-friendly because those factors affect chances of matching with a program quite significantly. Here are some quick suggestions & resources to help you find these things out.


The most IMG-friendly area is the Northeast—particularly New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, though Florida and Michigan are very IMG-friendly states, too. Another way to find IMG-friendly areas is by looking through matching data from past years to see where IMGs were placed.


There are plenty of IMG-friendly specialties, but Internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and general surgery tend to be most IMG-Friendly. These specialties will vary from year to year, depending on what’s in demand, so you can also look at matching data from past years to see what recent top matches are for IMG students. 

5 Questions to Find Out If a Residency Is IMG-Friendly

What kind of peer support programs do you offer international medical graduates during residency? 

Working 80+ hours/week in a residency program isn’t easy for anyone. Add being in a new country on top of it and it’s a lot to handle. Many residency programs are organizing peer support programs as a way to help with resident wellness. It’s ok to ask about peer support groups residency programs have in place for IMGs during the interview process. It’s a great way to make sure that there are resources for you and your partner to take care of yourselves during residency.

Does the hospital provide visas for students that are not US citizens?

If a residency program is IMG friendly, the likely answer to this question is yes, but since IMG can mean both US students that studied out of the country and international students that studied outside of the US, it’s always worth a check before applying.

Do you have resources to connect IMG spouses & partners with employment, educational and other resources?

Even though you’re not going to be the one doing residency, it will probably be a bit tough for you at times, too—your partner will be spending most of their time at residency, so it’s important that you have resources as well. If you can get help finding opportunities to help you feel at home, that will likely make the transition much smoother. Look for international spouse groups in your area to help with this. Many times they can help with finding a job and/or joining a support group. 

Ask if the medical programs have something in their area similar to the International Spouses Group in St. Louis. Brazil native, Susan Gobbo, is known for her work supporting international spouses through local meet ups and community events. 

Hot tip: If your partner is accepted to a program in an area that doesn’t have an International Spouses group, we encourage you to perhaps start one yourself! If you’ve become part of an IMG friendly medical program, there are certainly other IMG families in the area who are also looking to integrate in the community!

Will your hospital offer jobs for internationals after residency? 

Many hospitals hope that you’ll stick around after residency, so if your partner is not a US citizen and you are hoping to stay in the US, you’ll want to ask if the hospital is open to offering IMGs a permanent spot once residency is over.

Are there any changes I need to be aware of with COVID restrictions? 

With the pandemic, conditions are constantly changing, especially for healthcare facilities and travel. You’ll want to look into travel restrictions from your own country to the US to make sure you’re prepared for anything that may stand in your way of getting into the States. You might also want to ask what kind of restrictions the hospital has—do they require weekly testing, what vaccination status do you need to have, and other related questions. That way you can ensure that you are fully prepared if you get accepted. 

Resources to find out more about IMG-friendly medical programs 

There are a few great resources to find out more about IMG- friendly medical programs. 

The first is Match A Resident. This site helps you find the best programs based on what they see as the top 18 IMG-friendly specialties. It calculates matches based on whether or not an applicant is an IMG, USMLE Step 1 & 2 scores, Visa sponsorship and length of time since medical school graduation. Also available is an IMG residency community that provides interview feedback from previous applicants and additional IMG resources. 

Residency Programs List is super detailed and lists specific programs they see as IMG friendly. This website is chalked full of information, so it’s best to just dive in and see what you can find. You’ll need a login to enter the search criteria.

Inside the Match is not solely dedicated to the IMG community, but they do a good job of relaying new information on most things IMG and IMG friendly programs. You can find them on both Instagram and Twitter.  

Lastly, don’t forget to use social sites like YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. New accounts are popping up all the time. Search for #img, #imgfriendlyprograms, #imgfriendlyprograms, #imgfriendlyresidencyprograms  – get creative! There are always new videos & information specifically for IMGs with residency program information, explanations of the MATCH process and MATCH timelines. 

The application process for IMGs can be complicated and sometimes frustrating as you and your partner look for the right fit, but if you use these tips to find IMG-friendly programs, the rest should hopefully be smooth(ish) sailing!

Best of luck!

  • Elizabeth Landry

    Elizabeth is a Physician family advocate, Certified Life Coach for Physician Wives, EM wife of 20+ years, mother, and founder of The MedCommons – a marriage between her tech/business dev background and passion for helping physician families.

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