For IMGs: Advice Regarding the ECFMG Certificate

By Sarah Wesley

Congrats, you have matched! At this point, the euphoria of matching might be wearing off as you begin to receive zillions of emails and packets from your respective programs. You have probably already discovered that you are going to need to gather a ton of paperwork before you head across the pond to your U.S. residency. I would like to discuss one of the documents you will need – the ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) certificate.

You must obtain an ECFMG certificate before you can begin work in the U.S. This document confirms that you have met the specified minimum standards of education and prerequisite licensing criteria in order to start residency. There are rules for who qualifies for one, and it is necessary that your residency program have a copy of yours in their office before you start to work, otherwise your start date may be delayed. For those who are planning for next year and for those currently applying for the certificate, you can visit the ECFMG website to read up on everything you’ll need for your ECFMG certification.

As a rule, most of the prerequisites for the certificate are met even before you apply for the match, such as USMLE Step 1, 2CS, 2CK; however, the most worrisome requirement for most people is the actual medical school diploma, as many people graduate only a few weeks before their residency start date. The ECFMG requires verification of your final medical diploma, final medical school transcript, and, if required, transfer credit transcript(s). Verifying these materials can take time, but if your ECFMG certificate is not issued in time (takes at least three weeks; much longer in some countries), your start date will be delayed. This can be frustrating as you attempt to make a good first impression at your new post.

The good news is that programs are generally aware of the diploma delay issue and may be more understanding that you think. Additionally, in 2012, the ECFMG launched an electronic Credentials Verification system that significantly speeds up the process. As the ECFMG works to expand this system, paper/mail verifications may eventually become a thing of the past.

Regardless, to avoid any delays altogether (especially if your institution does not yet participate in the electronic verification process), I recommend contacting your school’s administration EARLY (now!) and inquiring as to 1) their knowledge of the process from their end and 2) whether or not they can issue your diploma slightly early – i.e., after you have passed your final exams but before the ceremony date – in order for you to have the application off to ECFMG as soon as possible.

Schools will vary in their cooperation with issuing credentials before the graduation ceremony depending on how familiar they are with the process of applying for training in the U.S. For example, my school prepared everything for me with regard to my diploma and I sent them the materials I had completed for my ECFMG application. We worked together to get my application materials off “early,” although I was sweating it out when, 10 days before my start date, my ECFMG certificate had still not arrived. Had I not coordinated with my school, I doubt my ECFMG certificate would have arrived in time, so I would encourage everyone who has matched to contact your school’s administration as soon as you can to begin the ECFMG process. Congrats!

Want more posts pertaining to IMGs? Check out the IMG section of our blog.


9 thoughts on “For IMGs: Advice Regarding the ECFMG Certificate”

  1. Cheers, Sarah, for your informative posts! As an IMG hopeful I’ve been following the website in large measure due to your contributions in this section!

  2. If you create a FedEx account and write an authorization letter to ecfmg so they can use it, also so your school can use it, it saves slot of time! That’s if your school not participating in the electronic verification.

  3. I have a question. I am an IMG from India. As a requirement to get our degree with have to do 1 year internship and then we dipolma. But I was under the impression that you had to get your dipolma before applying for residency programs (ie you had to finish your internship) But from your article it seems that I only have to have the STEPS done by Sept when application for residency’s begin?

  4. Dear Pavan,
    You do not have to have your diploma before applying for residency, only a step 1 score to submit ERAS application, and then Step 2s before submitting rank list in February. You will need the diploma for the ECFMG certificate though, which your residency program will need before you can start work.

  5. Most (all?) programs require IMGs to be ECFMG certified by the time of their application. They will NOT consider IMGs that are not ECFMG certified for an interview. In California, PD also require a PTAL, which one cannot get without having obtained the ECFMG certificate beforehand. In brief: if you do not hold an ECFMG certificate (and a PTAL) by the time when you apply, you can basically forget about getting an interview.

  6. I will graduate in May, 2014 which means I don’t currently have an ECFMG certificate and I have plenty of interviews to keep me busy.

  7. Can anybody please help? I am an IMG in India. I have to open an account in FedEx and send the number to ECFMG for them to post my verification request to my college. But I am unable to create a FedEx account. Can anybody please guide on how to open a FedEx account, as FedEx requires people to have a company and business license for account number.

  8. Fantastic writing ! BTW , you a OPM SF 15 , my company filled out and esigned a fillable document here

Comments are closed.

Related Articles