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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!