Relocating to the United States as a foreign-trained medical technologist in 2024 requires proper planning and preparation.
With high demand for skilled laboratory professionals in the US healthcare system, opportunities abound for those willing to navigate the certification and immigration process.
Obtain US Credentials
The first step is having your foreign credentials properly evaluated and attaining US national certification. The two organizations that offer relevant exams are:
- American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
- American Medical Technologists (AMT)
To qualify for these exams, you must have:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher in medical laboratory science or a closely related life science field.
- Coursework covering all major disciplines of the medical laboratory like clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology etc.
- Proof of English language proficiency.
Once approved to sit for the exam, you must pass to receive the prestigious MT(ASCP) or RMA(AMT) credentials. These certifications are required for state licensure and employment in the United States.
Apply for State Licensure
In addition to national certification, most states require a license to legally work as a medical technologist within their borders.
Each state has its own application process and fees. Common requirements are:
- Hold an ASCP or AMT certification
- Pay application fees
- Pass a criminal background check
- Provide proof of legal US work authorization
Some states have temporary licenses for those awaiting permanent resident status. Proactively applying for state licensure in your target locations will speed up the job search process.
Obtain Immigration Status
Unless you hold US citizenship or permanent residency, you will need a suitable visa or work permit to take up employment in the country. Popular options include:
H-1B Work Visa
The H-1B is a common employment-based visa for foreign professionals in specialty fields like healthcare. It allows working in the US for up to 6 years.
To qualify for the 2024 H-1B cap season:
- Find a US employer willing to sponsor your visa, usually valid for 3 years initially.
- Have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a relevant field of study.
- Hold state licensure and national certification for your occupation.
J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
J-1 visas facilitate temporary work in the US for those looking to teach, study or gain skills through on the job training for a finite period, usually up to 5 years.
To obtain a J-1 as a medical technologist:
- Secure placement at a US lab through an international staffing agency.
- Provide proof of sufficient finances to support your stay.
- Have adequate English ability and educational background.
Also known as getting a Green Card, permanent residency allows you to live and work in the US indefinitely. But it requires longer timeframes and complex paperwork.
Two potential pathways if sponsored by a US employer are:
- EB-2 National Interest Waiver – For foreign professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional expertise.
- EB-3 Skilled Workers Visa – For foreign degree holders performing jobs requiring at least 2 years of higher education or experience.
Getting a head start by researching visa options based on your background is key to smooth relocation.
Search for US Job Opportunities
The need for medical laboratory talent in the US outstrips supply. According to projections, the number of medical technologist jobs will grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028.
Hotspots like California, Texas and New York often have hundreds of vacancies at large hospitals and private labs.
Some tips for your US job search:
- Get guidance from a specialized healthcare staffing recruiter
- Highlight your ASCP/AMT credentials on your resume
- Be open to diverse locations beyond major cities
- Consider short-term travel contracts to gain US work experience
Utilize online job boards, attend virtual career fairs and network professionally to find the best fit placements.
Prepare For the Big Move
Once your US employment contract and immigration paperwork is finalized, you can start preparing for the big move stateside! Some important steps are:
- Book international air travel and temporary housing.
- Ship necessary household items and medical supplies ahead of time.
- Transfer financial assets and set up a US bank account.
- Review company policies like dress code, insurance coverage etc.
- Brush up on your patient care and lab skills as needed.
Additionally, connect with other expatriate medical technologists already working in the US through groups on social media. They can provide local information and transition support.
Staying organized, flexible and proactive will help overcome inevitable challenges when reestablishing your life and career in the US. Maintaining realistic expectations while immersing yourself fully into American culture will ensure a rewarding experience professionally and personally.
With advanced planning and determination, relocating abroad as a medical technologist creates incredible opportunities for adventure, success and growth in the world’s largest economy.