Every year, International Medical School Graduates (IMGs) research their preferred US-based residency programs and prepare their applications for submission. Each individual starts the matching process by registering with the National Resident Match Program (NRMP).If two applicants want to find placements within the same geographic area, perhaps because they are spouses or partners or friends, the NRMP’s algorithm includes an option known as a “Couples Match” that allows them to find placements together. According to this American Medical Association (AMA) blog entry that contains insights on how to navigate the process from a doctor’s insider perspective, approximately 1076 couples registered in 2019 and about 95 percent of them were successfully placed together in either the same program/location or in geographically nearby programs.
According to the NRMP , “Any two applicants can choose to participate in an NRMP Match as a couple.” In other words, applicants do not have to be married to each other to qualify. “When applicants participate in a Match as a couple, their rank order lists … will match to the most preferred pair of programs on their rank order lists where each partner has been offered a position.”
The 2023 Main Residency Match Calendar of the NRMP indicates that the opening date for registration for all individuals is September 15, 2023 At that time, after registering individually, couples may choose to note on their initial registration that they are opting for the Couples Match. There must be a “Requesting Partner” who initiates the process, and a “Receiving Partner,” who accepts the Coupling invitation. After fees are paid, the request is pending approval (and the fee is paid even if the request is not approved). While it typically may be better to opt-in earlier rather than later, couples may also choose to wait until after they have developed their Rank Order List (ROL) together. Uncoupling can take place at any time up until the ROL submission deadline, which is March 3, 2021.
As they put together their lists of preferences, couples do not have to inform their prospective programs of their Couples Matching status, as the NRMP algorithm can generate a Couples Match regardless. But, as a courtesy, it may be wise to let program coordinators know as early as practicable. In general, there are several options during the application timeline in which applicants can inform residency programs of their “Couples Matching” intentions/status. Options include:
The NRMP’s Applicant Coupling Guide includes screenshots that provide a detailed walk-through of the steps involved in signing up for the Couples Match. For more details about the steps in the process, check out this FAQ put together by the Family Medicine Residency Program at the University of Rochester. Another resource is this article with stories about two couples who had success with the couples-matching program.
What is the Couples Match?
The Couples Match allows two applicants to find residency program placements together in the same location as part of the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) When two applicants link their rank order lists to participate in a Match as a couple, their lists form pairs of program choices that are considered by the matching algorithm. A couple will match to the most preferred pair of programs on their rank order lists where each partner has been offered a position.
Do you have to be married for the Couples Match?
Applicants do not have to be married for the Couples Match. According to the NRMP website, “Any two applicants can choose to participate in an NRMP Match as a couple.” This can include partners, friends, colleagues or family members. “When applicants participate in a Match as a couple, their rank order lists … will match to the most preferred pair of programs on their rank order lists where each partner has been offered a position.”
Who can participate in the Couples Match?
Anyone who is a medical school graduate and eligible for placement in a US-based residency program can participate in the Couples Match with another eligible applicant. There must be a “Requesting Partner” who initiates the process, and a “Receiving Partner,” who accepts the Coupling invitation. After fees are paid, the request is pending upon approval (and the fee is paid even if the request is not approved).
Does the Residency Program have to participate in the Couples Match?
The Couples Match is primarily handled through the NRMP and the Rank Order List calculations. Residency programs will know that applicants are couples matching if the option is indicated on the ERAS application, but these programs, while looking at the overall profile of the applicant, are primarily focused on the qualifications and credentials of the individual.
For more IMG articles on how to approach the application process, see also: https://www.imgprep.com/articles/
IMGprep is not associated with the NRMP® or the MATCH®