Health Professions Training in the U.S.

International Students Seeking Health Professions Training in the U.S.

In the health professions application process, non-U.S. citizens holding permanent residency in the U.S. (i.e., green card holders) are generally treated in the same way as U.S. citizens.  They are usually able to claim a state of residence and are afforded the same state residency admission preferences as U.S. citizens.  Opportunities for medical training in the U.S. are not as available for international applicants, that is, non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents.  While some medical schools do allow applications from international students, the numbers admitted yearly are quite small.  Most acceptances are offered by private health professions schools.  The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) published yearly by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), lists the number of international student applications, interviews, and matriculants each year for U.S. and Canadian allopathic schools.  Statistics from 2009-2010 indicate that 71 U.S. medical schools accepted applications from international students (including 12 that only accepted applications from Canadian citizens), but of the 18,000 matriculated medical students that year, only 240 were international students, or 1.3% of all applicants.

Many American students finance their medical education, at least in part, through government loans.  U.S. government loans are not available to international students who are not permanent residents.  Therefore, many medical schools will require international students to document their ability to independently pay for a medical education.  In some cases, students may be required to demonstrate adequate funds in an escrow account prior to enrollment.  International students can learn more about funding opportunities through websites such as EduPASS.  Private loans offered by banking institutions may be an option.  International students are also encouraged to contact their embassy or ministry of education to find out about funding available from their country’s government.  Individual schools may have scholarships or grants for international students, but these are not common.  Of note is that some MD/PhD programs will accept and fund international students, although international students are not eligible for NIH-funded training grants (MSTP), which can comprise the bulk of the funding for many MD/PhD programs. It is important to find out before applying whether the program has  places for international students, whether these places are funded in the same way as positions for U.S. students, and about any other restrictions.

Canadian students frequently apply to both U.S. and Canadian medical schools, as the education system in Canada is very similar to that of the U.S.  As indicated above, some U.S. schools view Canadian citizens as foreign applicants, while others will accept applications from Canadian students,  although they will not accept applications from other foreign students.  The Canadian government provides its citizens with CanHELP loans, which can be used for medical school education in the U.S.  Some U.S. schools will provide education loans to Canadian students.

There are U.S. medical training programs available to international students who would like to enter a U.S. medical school but plan to practice in their home country.  For example, the International MD Program offered by George Washington University Medical Center was developed by the Office of International Medicine Programs in response to the great demand for U.S.-educated physicians abroad.  This five-year medical program provides international students with a strong medical education and a basic overview of the American medical system to prepare them for medical careers in their home country.