United States Fellowships for Canadian Physicians


    This section is targeted towards Canadian plastic surgery residents who are considering doing further fellowship training in the United States.  That being said, much of the information is likely more broadly applicable to other Canadian physicians as well.  Obviously, this is a complex topic and I do not guarantee that the information here is correct--use your own judgement and remember that things do change over time.


    I am a Canadian trained Plastic Surgeon (FRCSC) who went to Sacramento, California to do a Burn Surgery fellowship.  Unfortunately, information on what to do and how to make the whole process as painless as possible was scattered across the Internet.  This information is based on my experiences and putting together several emails for chief residents to help them with the same process.  I hope it is helpful for you as well.


    There are multiple aspects to doing a fellowship in the United States:
  • matching to a fellowship,
  • immigration and visa,
  • state medical licensing,
  • practicing in the United States,
  • income taxes,
  • living in the United States, and
  • returning to Canada.

Matching to a Fellowship

    A number of United States fellowships are part of a match, and applications are made through the appropriate matching service.  These include:  craniofacial/pediatric plastic surgery, hand surgery, and microsurgery.  There are also fellowships in these specialties that do not participate in the match.  Other fellowships, which do not have a match process, include:  aesthetic plastic surgery, and burns.  One should note that some burn surgery programs are combined with surgical critical care and fall under this match process.  Be aware that some programs match up to two years before the fellowship starts, so planning ahead of time is crucial.

Immigration and Visa

    If you are a United States citizen, then you can pretty much skip this step--lucky you.  This could be the case if you were born in the United States, or one of your parents is American.  If not, then you will need a visa that allows you to work and study in the United States.  The simplest option for doing a fellowship is the J1 visa, although there are other options such as the H1B, O, and TN visas.

    The J1 visa

State Medical Licensing

    The state medical license is what legally allows you to practice medicine (assuming you have a visa which allows you to legally work in the United States).  Requirements can vary significantly by state, although many recognize Canadian medical schools, the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada examinations, and Canadian residency training.  Since the application process can be quite prolonged, one should start it as soon as reasonably possible.  For example, licensing in California required having my fingerprints taken at a specific police station on special cards which had to be mailed back and then run through a national database.  I also needed my Social Security Number to complete the process, which only becomes available after entering the United States.  That being said, people at the California Medical Board were very helpful, and a simple phone call often sorted out my questions.

Practicing in the United States

    You will need a National Practitioner Identification (NPI) for a number of forms.  You will need a license from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to write prescriptions.  Your malpractice insurance is probably covered by the university your fellowship is hosted at, just confirm the details.

Income Taxes


Living in the United States


Returning to Canada