IMG Friendly Programs, Specialties, and States: 2021-2022 - IMGPrep

IMG Friendly Programs, Specialties, and States: 2021-2022

April 15, 2021


IMG Friendly Specialties, Programs, and States: What It All Means for Medical Residency in 2021-2022

April 16, 2021

Nationally each year, approximately 58 percent of IMG applicants are matched with a residency program; that is compared to a 95-percent placement rate for non-IMGs. Thus, IMGs face unique challenges in finding the right program. Informed research is essential, meaning that it is important to know how and where to look to find good options. It is imperative to have access to data  where an applicant can make informed decisions on which residency programs to target. And there are a number of factors to consider.

For example, a review of the data shows that some specialties tend to have a higher probability for placing IMG candidates. Similarly, some US states are more IMG Friendly than others. And some programs are more experienced in placing IMGs on an annual basis. The following information provides some basic information on what “IMG Friendly” means in each of these three contexts so that international medical graduates know more to help them successfully reach their goals.

IMG Friendly Specialties

Certain specialties offer good chances of matching for IMGs each year in part because there are a lot of openings and there are not always enough US seniors to fill all the available positions. In recent years, these specialties have included: internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and general surgery. There are other specialties like plastic surgery that offer fewer chances for IMGs. But, of course, well-qualified candidates have been known to place in their specialty of choice.

As the data in Table 1 indicate, internal medicine and family medicine typically have the highest number of positions filled by IMGs. While other specialties, such as pathology, may accept fewer individuals, the placements for IMGs as a percentage of all placements in that specialty can be higher.


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Top Ten IMG Friendly Specialties (2016-2020) – as number and percentage of all IMGs placed*

1Internal Medicine323943.9Internal Medicine320345.6Internal Medicine318346.4Internal Medicine303346.0Internal Medicine302945.6
2Family Medicine119216.2Family Medicine111315.8Family Medicine106515.5Family Medicine99515.1Family Medicine110916.7
5Pathology2863.9Psychiatry2794.0Pathology2573.7Pathology2724.1Surgery – Prelim.
(PGY- 1 only)
6Medicine – Prelim.
(PGY-1 only)
2633.6Medicine – Prelim.
(PGY-1 only)
2543.9Surgery – Prelim.
(PGY- 1 only)
2553.7Medicine – Prelim.
(PGY-1 only)
2543.9Medicine – Prelim.
(PGY-1 only)
7Surgery – Prelim.
(PGY-1 only)
2423.3Surgery – Prelim.
(PGY- 1 only)
2483.5Medicine – Prelim.
(PGY-1 only)
2173.2Surgery – Prelim.
(PGY- 1 only)
9Emergency Medicine1852.5Surgery1522.2Surgery1402.0Anesthesiology1592.4Surgery1392.1
10Surgery1782.4Anesthesiology1392.0Transitional (PGY-1 only)1342.0Surgery1332.0Anesthesiology1251.9

Includes both U.S. citizen and non-U.S. citizen graduates of international medical schools.

Percentages indicate fraction of the total number of IMGs placed. For example, in 2020, 43.9% of all matched IMGs found placements in Internal Medicine.

Source: National Resident Match Program (NRMP) Results and Data 2020 Main Residency Match, May 2020, (see Table 12, p. 31)

Is Pathology IMG Friendly?

Is General Surgery IMG Friendly?

Is Internal Medicine IMG Friendly?

Is Pediatrics IMG Friendly

Is Neurology IMG Friendly

IMG Friendly Programs

It is important to understand that, even if located in an IMG Friendly State or in an IMG Friendly specialty area, there are many programs that historically have never placed IMGs. That is why at IMGPrep we consider a program as IMG friendly only if it has matched IMGs in the past.

There are two different types of IMG-friendly programs. Some only accept IMGs who have US citizenship and do not have the capability or interest in providing visa support for those without US citizenship. Therefore, it is important to gather information about the history of matched US and non-US IMGs in each residency program.

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The Power of IMGPrep’s Program Lists – An Example: Sarah Smith is a US citizen who graduated from Saint Georges University School of Medicine in the Caribbean. Let’s call her a C-IMG. She is interested in applying to Neurology.  Rajesh Kumar is a citizen of India who graduated from Kasturba Medical College Mangalore and also is interested in applying to Neurology. We can refer to him as an F-IMG. Using IMGPrep’s Customized Residency Program Lists will not only provide them a list that will show them the percentage of IMGs, which is important to both candidates, but it will also tell them what percent of the IMGS are C-IMGs and what percent are F-IMGS. Specificity is key: the lists will go one step further, and will pinpoint which programs in Sarah’s and Rajesh’s lists have current residents from their medical school and or country!

Try it yourself! Simply enter the name of your Medical School and Search here

Even if a program is considered IMG Friendly, there may be specific considerations based on the applicant’s specific profile. For instance, applicants who are older need to look for IMG-friendly programs that are friendly for more senior graduates, thus, they should gather information about the maximum time since graduation requirements. Also, many applicants have a limited amount of U.S. clinical experience, and such applicants look for corresponding IMG friendly residency programs in the USA. Other aspects may pertain to USMLE Step 1 test scores or visa requirements and procedures.

Gathering all this data and conducting extensive research and analysis can be burdensome and time-consuming for IMGs. That is why IMGPrep offers its Customized Residency Program Lists® that can provide candidates not only a list that is customized to their specific scores, year of graduation, and quantitative measurements but also simple and easy to use. Applicants will enter the name of their Medical School, and our Filters will highlight programs that have current residents from that school or country. This customized information can be invaluable in determining which programs are already more amenable to receiving IMG applications for applicants with that same profile.

IMG Friendly States

Historically speaking, some US states appear to be more amenable to accepting IMGs than others. Each year since 1952, the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) issues a report that is full of useful matching data on trends and statistics. For example, the NRMP report shows that the following states were listed as the most IMG Friendly in 2020:

  • New York (1,563)
  • Michigan (552)
  • Florida (540)
  • Pennsylvania (495)
  • New Jersey (436)
  • Texas (384)
  • Illinois (365)
  • California (364)
  • Ohio (294)
  • Massachusetts (259)

Each year, these numbers fluctuate, with some states adding more IMGs than in previous years and others accepting fewer. For example, in 2020, the state of Vermont accepted no IMGs at all in any specialty, while states such as Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Utah showed more dramatic increases in that year. Of course, it is the programs in those states that are the ones making the decisions. But historical trends and traditions also can play a part in determining which states become known as IMG Friendly.

Also, some states have licensing board requirements that may be more or less challenging for IMGs to meet upon completing residency. For more information about those requirements, go to the Federation of State Medical Board report on regulatory trends and actions (see especially pp. 88-89).


Should I bother to apply to a specialty or geographic location if it is not on the “IMG Friendly” list?

The answer is absolutely. There are many programs outside of the top ten that have over 50% IMGs in their roster of residents at any given time. It can depend on the overall number of applications and the mix of specialties and locations being considered. Due to the complexity of factors, a consultation with someone who has in-depth knowledge about individual programs and who can provide further advice on this question is highly recommended. IMG Prep LLC has extensive experience working one-on-one with IMG residency applicants and can you help navigate through hundreds of potential programs to find the right ones for you.

How do I determine which programs are right for me?

A candidate will want to consider which programs and specialties are best suited for what he or she wants to accomplish in life. In addition to the criteria noted above, including age at graduation, US clinical experience, and test scores, other considerations in prioritizing programs will vary for each individual candidate and might include:

  • Is it best to aim toward one single specialty or several?
  • Are the program’s opportunities and requirements a good match with the candidate’s own goals, interests, and capabilities?
  • What does an individual program offer in terms of mentorship, access to knowledge, technology, and practical experience?
  • Is the location of the program suitable for the applicant and perhaps family members? For example, and does it offer preferred amenities; (Amenities in a location might include: access to arts programs and sports facilities; good job opportunities for an accompanying spouse; and education programs for accompanying children);

If I need help with research, where can I find answers?

IMGPrep is the leading consulting company for International Medical Graduates seeking a U.S. residency program. We offer the most reliable search engine for IMG friendly residency programs in 27 specialties. We provide a list of medical residency programs that match your qualifications. The information about each program is more detailed than is otherwise available, and the lists have been updated for the 2020-2021 application season. For more information about our customizable Program Lists and accompanying services, please go to our website: IMGPrep Customized Residency Program Lists

For more information about choosing IMG Friendly Programs, check out the IMG Prep articles: Are You Choosing the Wrong Residency Programs?Residency Program Requirements, and “Why Location Matters: The Top 10 IMG Friendly States in the US

Note: The following information is from The NRMP 2020 Match Data Report: “Charting Outcomes in the Match: International Medical Graduates.,” Percentages are from Chart 3, p. 10, and actual numbers are from Chart 1, p.8) See link to report here

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:

IMGprep is not associated with the NRMP® or the MATCH®.