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Monday, April 13, 2009

Foreign Veterinarians In the US

Armando sends in this question that brings up an interesting topic of discussion.

I am planning to move to Houston, TX. My girlfriend who graduated from Vet. School in Costa Rica is planning to move with me. She does not have her boards in the States, therefore she can not work as a Vet in the states. Since the move will be for a year tops, then we will move to Costa Rica, we wanted to know if there is any job opportunity for her in the Veterinary field or if there is maybe a course she can take while we are there in order for her to specialize in a section of Veterinary medicine. Is there any possibility of her making an income doing something in the Vet. field? Also if there is, what steps must we take? Thank you very much for your time.

There is a pretty extensive process for becoming a veterinarian in the US if you graduated from a foreign veterinary school. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a certification program called the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG). The program is rather extensive, takes a long time, and costs many thousands of dollars. Rather than go through all of the details here, I'll direct those interested to the official ECFVG site. Armando, if your girlfriend wants to practice in the US, this is the method that she will have to use. However, if you're going to be here for less than a year, this process may not be completed in time and likely isn't worth the costs.

The only other option would be to work as a veterinary technician or assistant. There are pros and cons to this option. She would still be able to work in the veterinary field and her skills would be directly applicable. There are a couple of potential problems with that, though. Many places wouldn't be eager to hire someone for such a temporary position, and if they did it would likely be for less money or authority than a long-term employee. Also, some vets may be hesitant to hire an experienced vet in this kind of a role, and would worry that they would try to overstep their boundaries and start to practice medicine illegally. Or, you could run into an equally bad situation if you find an unscrupulous vet who would hire her as a tech but use her veterinary skills. In any case, she needs to be careful about the situation.

I would recommend starting with one of the larger veterinary businesses, such as Banfield and VCA. A larger, national practice has more experience with these situations, and may be more likely to hire short-term help. Also, she can contact the Texas VMA for job listings and veterinarians in the Houston area.

This question also brings up a larger issue, that of foreign licensing. For those readers in other parts of the world, I don't know if it would be equally as difficult for an American vet to become licensed in your own country. I've worked with many vet from other countries, and I know that it's a big complaint of how difficult and costly it is to become licensed in the US if you're a foreigner. On one hand I can see the AVMA's point of trying to make sure that the standard of veterinary medicine in the US remains high, as not all colleges may have the same rigors of education or the same type of education as those in the US. However, it does discourage people who are otherwise highly qualified from moving to the US. There are those in the US who have been trying to get the rules loosened or changed to allow more foreign graduates to practice here.

Good luck to Armando's girlfriend!


  1. I'm not a vet, but there seem to be a lot of Australian vets in the UK - also one practice I sometimes go to has a very quick turnover of vet staff and they do often have vets from Eastern Europe. So I guess it's pretty easy for people from outside the UK to come in and work here.

    I prefer to see the same vet every time, don't care where they are from or what their accent is.

  2. Thank you very much. your blog and every comment give me the precious detail.

    I've looked for the info about this for a long time because I am ESL.

    i'll do my best.

  3. For years I have specialized in preparing work visas for veterinarians from other countries to work in America. It wasn't clear if Armando's girlfriend was from the USA or Costa Rica, but if it helps, here are the types of American work visas that foreign veterinarians may wish to explore:

    Veterinarians from Canada: TN, H1b and J-1 Visa
    Veterinarians from Mexico: TN, H1b and J-1 Visa
    Veterinarians from Chile: H1b1, H1b and J-1 Visa
    Veterinarians from Singapore: H1b1, H1b and J-1 Visa
    Veterinarians from Australia: E3, H1b and J-1 Visas
    Veterinarians from all other countries: H1b and J-1 Visas

    FYI, there are often difficulties getting an American work visa for a Vet Tech or Vet assistant position, as opposed to a Veterinarian position, but sometimes it can be done.

    Here is a blog article with more information about getting an American work visa for a foreign national veterinarian:

    Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  4. Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,
    My name is Guy Claude LANDA graduated from the veterinarian at the University of Lubumbashi since 1989 and am originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    I am a lawful migrant DV Lottery and live in United States since September 25, 2013 in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
    Will there any opportunities for me in the veterinary field?
    What to practice as a veterinarian?
    Thank you to you.

  5. Hi Dr. Chris!
    My name is Leticia and I'm from Brazil. I'm finishing vet school in Brazil and I'm planning on moving to the US as soon as I graduate (December, 2016). I read it takes you a long time and many thousands of dollars to be able to work as a vet in the US. But is it really true that you can work as a vet-tech before you validate your foreign diploma?
    Thank you very much!

    1. All of that is true, Leticia. It's a long time and a lot of money to become licensed in the US if you graduate from a foreign school, but you can absolutely work as a tech while that is processing. I've known several vets who have done so.

    2. That's good to know! Thank you Dr. Chris!

    3. Leticia, I'm a brazilian vet living in NYC and I'm looking for these kind of informations. Can we make contact? Please, send me a e-mail: Obrigada!!!

    4. Hi, Marcela and Leticia! I´m brazilian and also a vet. I´m living in Rhode Island. My email is send me a message. It would be nice to keep in touch with you!

  6. Actually, I have another question! Do I have to obtain a license to work as a vet tech? Like exams for example, or only my diploma would be enough?
    Thank you very much!!!

    1. Leticia, sou veterinaria no Brasil e gostaria de fazer contato com vc. Estou em NY procurando esse tipo de informação. Pode me mandar e-mail? Obrigada!

  7. If you want to be considered a licensed tech, yes you will need to go through the process of obtaining that kind of license, which may mean going through tech school. In the US many states limit what unlicensed techs/assistants can do. For example here in Georgia they cannot induce anesthesia, intubate patients, or collect blood without a doctor present. Licensed techs can do all of that.


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