Most IMGs get into U.S. residencies by obtaining either J-1 exchange visitor status or H-1B temporary worker status, known as J-1 visas and H-1B visas.

IMGs need to pass all three parts of the United States Medical Licensing Examination to enter U.S. residencies on an H-1B visa; they only need parts 1 and 2 to enter on a J-1 visa. However, IMGs on J-1 visas are obligated to return to their home countries for two years after completing their training before they can practice medicine in the United States. By contrast, IMGs on H-1B visas do not have to abide by the two-year requirement. J-1 visa-holders also can avoid the two-year requirement by obtaining a J waiver.