Guidelines for the Application of a Statement of Need for Postgraduate Medical Training in the United States (USA)

Background [1]

Foreign national physicians who seek entry into US programs of graduate medical education or training must obtain an appropriate visa that permits clinical training activities. One visa commonly used by foreign national physicians is the J-1, a temporary non-immigrant visa reserved for participants in the Exchange Visitor Program (ESVP). The ESVP was established to enhance international exchange and mutual understanding between the people of the US and other nations.

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is authorised by the US Department of State to sponsor J-1 Exchange Visitor physicians enrolled in accredited programs of graduate medical education or training or advanced research programs (involving primarily observation, consultation, teaching or research). Although many universities and research institutions in the US are authorised to sponsor Exchange Visitors in the categories of student or research scholar, ECFMG is the sole sponsor of J-1 physicians in clinical training programs. ECFMG is responsible in ensuring that all Exchange Visitors and host institutions meet the federal requirements for participation.

To obtain the J-1 Visa to undertake clinical training activities in the US, applicants must, among other requirements, obtain a Statement of Need (SON) from the government of the country of their nationality or last legal permanent residence.

[1] Information extracted from

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Statement of Need (SON)

A Statement of Need (SON) is an official confirmation from an approving authority that the qualified medical practitioners are needed in Singapore, and that the medical graduates who are pursuing postgraduate medical education in the US intend to return to Singapore and enter the practice of medicine in the specialty sought. It is part of the requirements set by the ECFMG for the issuance of a J-1 Visa.

In Singapore, only the Ministry of Health is approved to issue a SON to physicians seeking a J-1 visa. The requirements for obtaining a SON from the Ministry may be subject to change under periodic framework review.

Only Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents are eligible to apply for a SON. Applications from foreign nationals who have ties to, or worked in Singapore (e.g. a graduate from a local medical school who was working in Singapore) may be considered on a case to case basis.  

Applicants must sign a written assurance that they will return to Singapore upon completion of training in the US and intend to enter the practice of medicine in the specialty being sought. The SON that is given to the physician based on this written assurance does not carry any certainty or guarantee that he/she can be registered as a doctor in Singapore, or be accredited as a Medical Specialist or Family Physician in Singapore, or be able to get employment as a physician in Singapore, or to get residency status in Singapore if he/she is not a Singapore citizen.

Note: Not every SON application may be successful. Each application is assessed on its own merit, including the national need for such expertise or whether such training can be recognised or accredited for practice in Singapore.

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Application Process

Applicants are required to submit the following documents.

  • Written Assurance for Statement of Need
  • Proof of Citizenship or Permanent Residence Status or Nationality (NRIC/Passport)
  • Proof of Registrable Qualification (Basic/Postgraduate)
  • Proof of Current Employment or Offer of Employment from a Local Public Healthcare Institution (if applicable)
  • HMDP Award Letter from Sponsoring Institution (if applicable); and
  • Proof of Training Placement in the US
    • Letter of Offer or Training Contract from Foreign Institution of Study; or
    • Letter of Offer for a fellowship or a sub-specialty from the clinical training program in the US. The letter must be on the institution's letterhead and should bear your signature of acceptance of the offer; or
    • A Training Contract for a fellowship or a sub-specialty from the clinical training program in the US. The contract should bear your signature indicating your acceptance of the offer.

Applications should be emailed to and Applicants are responsible in ensuring that all required documents are submitted. Failure to do so may result in a delay in the processing of the application.

Please allow up to seven (7) working days for the processing of the application. Applicants will be informed of the outcome via email. If applicants require approval of a “suspension of service obligation” (See Section 6) from MOH, the SON will be issued after the suspension is approved.

The SON, bearing the seal of the Ministry of Health Singapore, will be sent to you at the specified mailing address on the application form. A softcopy will also be sent to you via email for your reference.

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Expiration and Extension of Statement of Need (SON)

The SON will expire at the end of the training program based on the specified end date on the application form.

Physicians who have an existing SON and wish to undertake further postgraduate medical training in the US must re-apply to the Ministry of Health Singapore for a new SON.

Requests for new SON should be submitted no less than two months before the expiry of the original SON.  Submissions very close to the expiry of the original SON may not be processed in time.  Incomplete submissions cannot be processed.

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Suspension of Undergraduate Bond

Suspension of service obligation is applicable to any physicians who have graduated or about to graduate from the local medical schools [i.e. Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (YLL-SoM, NUS), Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS, GMS) and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University (LKC-SoM, NTU) and are currently or about to commence serving their service obligations with the Singapore Government.

Physicians who have an existing service obligation must seek approval for a suspension of their obligations for the duration of their overseas training from MOH (for medical students), or from their employers i.e. MOHH or Restructured Hospital.

Physicians who need to suspend their service obligations must have approval from MOH, and MOHH (for PGY1s and medical officers) or cluster employers (for registrars and above) before they apply for a SON.

Physicians who already had approval for the suspension of their service obligations for their initial SON applications must have approval from MOH, and MOHH (for PGY1s and medical officers) or cluster employers (for registrars and above) before they apply for a SON (See Section 5).

For more information regarding suspension of undergraduate service obligations, please contact Ms Catherine Tan at

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Further Information

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