IMGs face unique challenges when applying to the US Residency Match. As an IMG, it’s wise to gather as much information as possible to help you understand what you can do to improve your chances of matching at a program of your choice. Below, we take a look at some statistics on IMGs and their match performance over the past five years.
As you can see in the graph below, the number of IMGs matching PGY1 spots has been steadily increasing over the past five years, from 6,591 in 2017 to 7,058 in 2021 – or about 200 to 300 per year. IMGs’ success rate in securing residency positions has also increased overall, from 53.3% of IMG applicants matching successfully in 2017 to 61.1% in 2020, with a slight drop to 56.7 in 2021.
When we break the data down to distinguish between US IMGs and non-US IMGs, we can see that US IMGs are slightly more likely to match than non-US IMGs. Last year 59.5% of US IMGs matched compared with 54.8% of non-US IMGs, a larger disparity than previous years.
One potential reason for this is that not every residency program has the experience or willingness to sponsor residents who need a visa. Therefore, IMGs who need visa sponsorship should make sure to apply to programs that are willing to assist with this.
However, non-US IMGs make up a larger percentage than US IMGs of the total number of IMGs matching each year. In 2021, non-US IMGs represented 58.0% of PGY1 residents, whereas US IMGs made up 42.0%. These percentages stayed relatively steady over the past five years.
Canada and India were by far the most common countries of origin for IMGs receiving J-1 visas in 2020, with approximately 2,500 physicians from each country. Pakistan was the third most common country of origin, with about half as many visa recipients. Roughly half of all exchange visitor physicians came from one of these three countries.
Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia each had about 400 IMGs who earned J-1 visas in 2020, followed by Egypt, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Nepal with 200 to 300 physicians from each country.
The data from 2019 was similar, with Canada, India, and Pakistan leading with the most visa recipients. Colombia replaced Nepal as the 10th most common country of origin.
(Data from the document you provided)
New York is overwhelmingly the most common destination for IMGs, with 2,260 J-1 visa holders training in residency programs there in 2020. The next most common state for J-1 physicians to train in was Michigan, with 865 IMGs.
Most of the top 10 states for IMGs are clustered in the Northeast and Midwest, with a few outliers such as Texas and Florida. However, J-1 physicians train in 49 states throughout the US, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
(Data from ECFMG: https://www.ecfmg.org/resources/J-1-Sponsorship-Data-Infographic.pdf)
When deciding which programs to apply to, consider whether the program is located in a state with a strong track record of accepting IMGs. Of course, there are many factors that make a qualified candidate, including your USMLE scores, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and US clinical experience. However, many IMGs find that they have a better chance of matching in a state that’s known as IMG-friendly.
The top specialty by far for IMGs is internal medicine, with 3,416 IMGs who matched in 2021. This means that 45.5% of IMGs who matched that year joined an internal medicine program. Family medicine was next with 1,224 IMGs, followed by pediatrics with 552.
After that, the top specialties differ between US IMGs and non-US IMGs. For US IMGs, the fourth most common specialty was psychiatry with 176 residents accepted, with emergency medicine coming in fifth with 143. For non-US IMGs, pathology was the fourth most common specialty with 231 residents, followed by neurology with 179.
Does this mean that IMGs should only apply to these specialties? Not necessarily. Your interests and experience will obviously play a role, and a strong candidate will have more options. However, if you’re looking to narrow down which programs to apply to, it may help to consider which specialties are most IMG-friendly.
When applying for residency, IMGs face a complex decision. With more than 5,000 US residency programs, there’s no way you can apply to all of them.
The factors above can provide a way to narrow down the list of programs you want to apply to. Some of these factors, like your country of origin and your visa requirements, are out of your control, but they can still inform your decision by ruling out programs that don’t meet your needs. With other factors, like which specialty and state you choose, you can look to the experiences of other IMGs to improve your chances of matching successfully while also considering your personal preferences.
To come up with a list of the best residency programs for IMGs, you’ll have to spend an extensive amount of time researching each program, its requirements, and its history of accepting IMGs. IMGPrep’s customized Residency Program List can make this overwhelming process easier. Just enter data like your medical school, graduation date, and USMLE scores and get a customized analysis of residency programs in 27 specialties. Our list allows you to filter at a high level of detail, including factors such as the percentage of IMGs in the program, whether the program has accepted someone from your medical school, and where alumni from that program typically end up working.
IMGPrep is here to support you on your path to a U.S. residency.
We help you through the entire process and prepare your application to give you the best chance at a successful match.
We are experts at helping you narrow down the correct residency program to apply to, given your personal qualifications and needs.
We have a suite of options to assist you through each step of your journey, from building your application, selecting the programs to apply to, preparing for your interview, and much more.
IMGPrep is a leading educational consulting firm dedicated to assisting IMGs in reaching their goals, dreams, and potential. Check out our other Articles and learn more about IMGPrep services at: www.IMGPrep.com.
IMGprep is not associated with the NRMP® or the MATCH®