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Dear Attorney Nelisse:

I am currently in my final year of veterinary medicine at a university in the United Kingdom and I was just matched through VIRMP with a veterinary internship position at a private hospital in California! I understand that I need a California state license before I can apply for an American work visa but I am wondering how long it takes for the American work visa application to be processed?

WEBSITE.BULLDOGBy the way, I finish my final exams this May but I don’t officially graduate until June 18th. The veterinary internship in California starts on June 27th.   Also, if you can give me an estimate of the costs that an Immigration Attorney charges for visa legal services, that would be helpful.

Signed, Rebecca (student of veterinary medicine in United Kingdom)


Dear Rebecca:

Thank you for contacting me. Congratulations on the offer of a veterinary internship position in California!

How I wish foreign students would think to research the American work visa situation before they applied for the VIRMP veterinary internships offered in America.

What most foreign veterinarians do not know, is that the companies on VIRMP assume you already figured out the American work visa situation before you applied for the veterinary internship. When the American private hospitals decide on you as a match, they may not have called to ask you if you already have an American work visa – they assumed you already had work authorization — or else you would not have signed up to participate in a veterinary internship located in the USA.

For many foreign students, the H-1B visa is the only American work visa they are eligible for in order to participate in a veterinary internship program in America.  

The work visa exceptions for persons from certain countries are:

  • Australian Veterinary Interns/Residents (E-3 Visas);
  • Singapore Veterinary Interns/Residents (H-1B1 Visas);
  • Mexico Veterinary Interns/Residents (TN Visas); and,
  • Canadian Interns/Residents (TN Visas).

If you have a passport from one of these 5 countries, you are lucky – the USA has special international treaties that allow you to enter the USA and work fairly easily.  If you do not have a passport from one of these 5 countries, you are stuck with the problemmatic H1B visa.

H-1B Work Visas Have Annual Numerical Limitations (called “the H-1B Cap”)

Regrettably, the H-1B visas are the work visas that are subject to strict numerical restrictions and only 85,000 are given out each year.  The American government’s fiscal year starts each year on October 1st.  Therefore, a new batch of 85,000 H-1B visas for the year are released every year on October 1st.  But that is too late for a veterinary internship that starts in June or July!

American employers can submit H-1B visa applications up to 6 months veterinary intern visaahead of time, so if they want an H-1B visa to start on October 1st, they may submit the H-1B visa application on April 1st for a “start work date” of the following October 1st.  Most American veterinary internship programs will not delay entry for foreign students having problems getting an American work visa.

Licensing Issues for Veterinary Interns

H-1B visas are routinely approved for veterinary interns, so long as you satisfy each state’s licensing rules within a reasonable time.

For example, if a California license to practice veterinary medicine is required for a veterinary intern position located in California, in order to work in H1B visa status, you are have an approved California license to practice veterinary medicine.  However, in California, the final step of licensing cannot take place until after you enter the USA in H1B visa status!  The final step of licensing in California sometimes takes 2 months. Foreign veterinarians need to contact the licensing people in California directly at to get a more accurate processing time.

If a state license to practice veterinary medicine is not required (let’s say the state allows a veterinary intern to work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, like in Hawaii or Florida) you do not need to submit proof of licensure with the H-1B visa application.

Sorry, but I do not have a list of the 50 states that allow this exception (if you do, please send it to me!).

By the way, there is a special rule that the H-1B visas can be issued for


1 year only (the normal validity is for 3 years) if the only thing missing regarding your license is an American social security number.

The attorney and government fee expenses for a 1 year H-1B visa are the same as for a 3 year H-1B visa.

Length of Time and Cost for H-1B Work Visa

It can take as little as 1 month or so to get an H-1B visa approved, but unfortunately it will not be valid until October 1 and your veterinary internship starts on June 27th.  You would have to push back the internship to the following year – after you have both your approved state license to practice veterinary medicine and your approved H-1B visa.

For H-1B visas, most Immigration Attorneys normally charge a flat legal fee of $2,500 – $4,500, and the government feeWEBSITE.DOG.RABBITs are normally an additional $1,075 – $2,325 USD.  Out of those government fees, the American employer is required by law to pay a minimum of $1,500 USD.  If a foreign student wants to request that the H-1B work visa be processed in 15 days instead of 4-6 months, they can pay an additional $1,225 USD expedite fee to the government.

Other Options for Veterinary Internships?


For veterinarians from Australia, there are E-3 Visas. For veterinarians from Mexico and Canada, there are TN Visas.  For veterinarians from Chile or Singapore, there are H-1B1 Visas which are very similar to the E-3 Visa procedures.  None of these visas have numerical limitations (or at least they never run out so far!). The attorney fees run about $1,500 – $3,000 and the government fees are only the fee that the U.S. Consulate charges for the visa sticker ($150 – $200).

Some vet internship programs are “J Sponsor Companies.”  Sorry, I do not know of any because I do not handle J visas (the programs assist the veterinary interns with the visa process).  The J visa website is here:

The bottom line is that if you are determined to participate in an American veterinary internship it will take extra time to figure out the timing of the state license AND the work visa. If you are a foreign veterinary student and you would like to provide some information or advice below in the comments section for your colleagues abroad, feel free to do so!

Educational Prerequisites and Pre-Licensing ECFVG Certificate for Foreign Veterinarians

The educational prerequisite educational prerequisite for veterinary licensure in most American states includes graduation from a veterinary school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education.  For graduates of foreign, non-accredited schools, most American states require successful completion of an educational equivalency assessment certification program called the ECFVG. the ECFVG certificate helps bridge the gap between the dream for some veterinarians of licensure in the United States, and the reality of achieving the American Dream.

Hopefully this helps explain the work visa process for foreign veterinarians.

Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse, American Immigration Attorney


Email or call (619) 235-8811 or (877) 884-6644 for a free phone consultation.



*The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in America prohibits employers from discriminating against potential employees on the basis of citizenship status unless required by law, regulation or government contract. American Federal law protects foreign nationals who are authorized to work in the United States from facing discriminatory barriers when they are seeking employment. Employers must ensure that their online job postings do not violate the anti-discrimination provision of Immigration and Nationality Act.”

The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices cautions against asking applicants to specify their citizenship or immigration status at the application stage. A hiring process that asks applicants to identify their citizenship status may be facially discriminatory in that it creates an unnecessary barrier to potential noncitizen applicants. Specifically, refusing to hire a work-authorized individual based on their citizenship or immigration status may constitute a violation ofthe INA’s antidiscrimination provision.

*See Eze v. West County Transportation Agency, 10 OCAHO No. 1140, at 3 (2011).

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