International Plastic Surgeons – Requirements to Practice in the US

The plastic surgery field is one of the most highly sought-after specialties in the United States. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were 15.6 million cosmetic procedures in 2020. It means that competition is fierce for those looking to practice in this field.

While there are many factors to consider in becoming a successful plastic surgeon in the US, there are a few specific requirements that you must meet to be credentialed by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).

For instance, to perform breast augmentation procedures in the US, a plastic surgeon needs to look at some of these requirements.

What Are the Requirements to Practice in the US as A Surgeon?

Whether you are a doctor or a surgeon living abroad, the US will often require you to complete training in their country before permitting you to practice here.

Here’s what plastic surgeons should know about becoming an international plastic surgeons in the US:

  • It would be best to get a license from either their own country or the state where you plan to practice
  • If their medical license is not valid in any other country besides yours, it will not be helpful as an international plastic surgeon in America
  • They must have completed residency training in either surgery or medicine after graduating from medical school unless their home country has already agreed upon an exchange program with the United States.
  • Suppose they have already received their medical degree but have not yet completed residency training. It may affect whether or not the American Medical Association (AMA) will allow for reciprocity with other countries that do not have any formal agreements (such as Great Britain).

Well, let’s dive into deeper details!

What Are the Education Requirements?

There are many requirements for international plastic surgeons to practice in the United States. One of the most important is education. All plastic surgeons must graduate from an accredited medical school and complete a residency in plastic surgery.

In addition, many states require plastic surgeons to be licensed. To be approved, plastic surgeons must pass both a written and an oral examination from the American Board of Medical Specialties examination for their particular specialty area.


Board certification is optional but highly recommended because it provides additional recognition and protection for surgeons who have met specific criteria related to their specialty area. Certification requires passing another exam administered by an ABMS member board and completing continuing education courses throughout your career as a surgeon.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties to certify plastic surgeons.

Suppose you’re considering becoming a plastic surgeon in the United States; for instance, to become among San Diego’s top-rated plastic surgeons, you’ll need to meet the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) requirements. These requirements include:

  • Completing a plastic surgery residency program accredited by the ABPS
  • Passing the ABPS has written and oral examinations
  • Holding a valid medical license in the state where you intend to practice
  • Complying with the ABPS code of ethics.

Meeting these requirements will allow you to work with patients worldwide and help them achieve their desired results.

Are You ECFMG Certified?

The ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) is a non-profit organization that evaluates the educational credentials of medical students and graduates of foreign medical schools. The ECFMG certification is required to obtain a license to practice medicine in the United States.

To be certified, one must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The ECFMG does not provide education or training; it only empowers foreign medical graduates who have already completed their training.

The USMLE is a three-step examination that assesses a physician’s ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles and demonstrate basic patient-centered skills essential in health and disease.

The ECFMG certification process is rigorous and includes:

  • Step 1: Pass an English language proficiency exam.
  • Step 2: Pass an examination on clinical skills.
  • Step 3: Obtain a certificate from your country’s national medical board showing that you have completed all requirements for medical licensure there (this process may take up to two years).

How long does it take to become certified by the ECFMG?

ECFMG certification takes about two weeks after you submit your application materials. Make sure you’ve completed all of the prerequisites to acquire your certificate in time to apply for a medical residency in the United States.

US Work Visa

Plastic surgeons must obtain a US work visa. They can do it by proving that they have a job offer from a US employer. Once they have a work visa, they can apply for a medical license in the state where they intend to practice.

Bottom Line

US plastic surgeons are among the best in the world. They are required to have a high level of education and training, and certification from the US medical board.

So, to practice plastic surgery in the United States, international plastic surgeons must be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have a medical degree from an accredited institution, and have completed a residency and fellowship in plastic surgery.