Dear Mentor:

Will tougher immigration hinder studying medicine abroad?

I'm a medical student studying in pre-final MBBS [first degree in medicine] in India and want to continue my education and practice abroad (US, Europe, Australia). What is the best way to proceed, especially now that the immigration is tougher?

Anywhere but India, Jammu, India

Dear Anywhere but India:

We suppose you are referring to the September 11 attacks on the US when you say that the immigration is tougher now. This is an assumption on your part, and it is not correct. The procedures for obtaining the visa have not changed, nor have the associated requisite qualifications. It would, however, be fair to say that the assessment is likely to be more thorough, thereby perhaps increasing the processing time. The word "tougher" implies that the process and requirements have become more demanding; that is just not so. If anything, the process has become more demanding (or tougher) for the immigration officials to ensure a thorough evaluation of the candidates, but it has not become tougher for the candidates. If you fulfill the requirements, follow the process, and you do not have a dodgey background, practically nothing has changed. You perhaps require more time and patience to get your application processed.

Just an issue of terminology. The word "immigration" is an official and legal term. Immigration refers to a process through which a person is granted permanent residency in a foreign country. The immigration process requires one to follow certain procedures and fulfill specific qualifications and requirements. The process and requirements vary, sometimes dramatically, across countries. In many instances, one goes abroad as a temporary resident first for a specific purpose - such as for education, training or employment. One then follows the immigration process of the host country to convert one's status from being a temporary resident to a legal permanent resident (that is, an immigrant). The legal permanent residency (immigrant) status is often referred to as the green card in the US.

The reason we explained what immigration means is that your first step is likely not to be that of immigration, but of going abroad to the US, Europe, or Australia as a temporary resident for further training. The medical profession is highly regulated in all countries of the world to protect the well being of their citizens. Each country imposes its own requirements and regulations before one can practice medicine. Foreign physicians are required to pass qualifying exam(s) at the very least, and are often required to fulfill additional training requirements. The requirements vary across countries. There is no single set of uniform requirements across the countries in Europe.

We have addressed the issue of becoming a licensed physician in the US in earlier columns for those with medical education abroad. You have to complete the USMLE (US Medical Licensing Exam) and do medical residency in the US for 3 to 4 years, depending on your specialization. Residency is additional training, but it is also a form of employment. Just go to the iMahal Home Page and type in USMLE in the search box and click "Search". You will find a series of columns we have written on this topic.

Your best source of information for the UK is the British Council in India. You can find the British Council Locations in India and choose the one most convenient to you. The National Advice Centre for Postgraduate Medical Education (NACPME) outlines the relevant information. You can also find the Registration Requirements for Overseas Doctors in the UK.

Our geographic focus at iMahal is on the US, UK, India, and Canada. We can however refer you to relevant Australian websites. Essentially you have to pass the Australian Medical Council Examination. You may wish to visit:

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