Laws and Borders

Written by: Shirley Tang, Aaron Massecar
Published on: Feb 24, 2022

old map with ship and compass
Photo credit: Nikada/iStockphoto

The competition for talent in the veterinary industry is staggering, leading some practices to consider hiring international veterinarians. Here’s what you need to know about recruiting foreign talent and how employers can navigate the complex U.S. immigration rules.

Q: For practice owners struggling to fill open positions, what resources are available to help with the hiring of foreign DVMs, and what types of work visas are available?

A: An effective tactic is to build relationships with U.S. universities. International students on F-1 visas who graduate from a U.S. DVM program are eligible to work in the United States as veterinarians under post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). They are allowed to stay up to 12 months provided they are licensed and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Since veterinary medicine is a STEM field, the graduate may apply for a 24-month OPT extension if the employer enrolls in the government’s E-Verify program and if the initial 12-month OPT was based on a STEM degree. This means the foreign DVM graduate can work in the United States for up to 36 months on OPT and even change employers. (Learn more about F-1 OPT at

In addition, while the foreign DVM graduate is working on OPT, the employer can submit an H-1B registration to secure longer-term employment. The H-1B visa program allows employers to temporarily employ highly educated foreign professionals in jobs classified as specialty occupations. In broad terms, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines these as jobs requiring degrees in specific fields of study. The initial term under the H-1B visa is three years and can be extended for a total of six years.

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