Residency Status, Does it matter?

International dentists applying for advanced standing programs come from all different walks of life, and their immigration status also vary. Some programs restrict the status of the applicants to citizen only or permanent resident and citizen only, and some don’t. It’s not a problem for citizens, but does your chances decrease if you are on a visa?

Short answer is: Possibly

Don’t get offended, all the visa holders out there; I was also on a visa when I applied and made it to many programs.

Here comes the long explanation…

There are largely 2 different reasons why programs restrict the status of applicants or may have a preference – whether they admit it or not.

1. Money, money, money…

Tuition is expensive, and programs know that. Federal student loans are available for those with a green card or citizens – this means that the likely-hood of someone dropping out of the program in the middle due to financial reasons is low. There are no guaranteed loans for people with visas, so there is a higher possibility of a student going through a financial challenge or even drop off in the middle of the program because of money.

If a student drops off after the program starts and can’t fill that spot, it’s a huge loss for the program. It’s no secret that foreign-trained dentist programs are a huge source of finances for schools, and it’s not surprising that they would rather not take that risk.

That being said, that’s why most program require applicants on a visa status to submit proof that you have a source of funding with the application; if you can prove that money won’t be an issue while you continue your education, you’re good to go with programs that do accept students on a visa status.

2.  Rules

This isn’t just for Advanced Standing programs, but even for the traditional dental students – many schools require applicants to be a citizen or permanent resident. Most of the times only state schools have this rule – private schools can do whatever they want and don’t really care, they just want the best possible students they can get, whereas the state schools get funding from the state, they’re usually more conservative and lots of politics are involved.

From one perspective, it’s understandable that they give preference to their citizens over non-citizens, most countries have some laws and rules that would reflect that, right? They want to educate and take care of their people. And because in the US, states operate kinda like a “country inside a country”, states often give preference to their residents as well.


With all that in mind, programs for international dentists are usually self-funded, even in state schools; they don’t get funding from the state for the program. This explains why the tuition is so much more than the traditional students. This also explains why schools like University of Texas, San Antonio or Indiana University gives equal opportunity to foreign-trained dentist applicants, while they give preference to residents of the states when selecting traditional dental students.



It’s great if you’re a US citizen or permanent resident, but even if you’re not, it definitely won’t stop you from becoming a dentist in the states. Many schools that openly give preference to traditional applicants with a certain status say that residency status is not a deciding factor.


  1. YS August 16, 2019 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Thank you for the information.

    • Christ Barcenas August 18, 2019 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Hope you found it helpful, YS!

  2. Richa March 3, 2015 at 5:08 am - Reply

    Very informative. The visa situation plays a big role not only during the school but also during the preparatory phase of applying to dental schools and also after graduation . The Green card holders can obtain diverse experience given their eligibility to work legally . This is specially advantageous in the dental field where jobs like dental assistance and hygienist do not qualify for a visa sponsorship . The visa holders on the other hand try to gain volunteering and shadowing experience (which obviously cannot match up to the hands on experience you get as an assistant) or are forced to take up the much costlier alternative route of pursuing a master’s degree. Even after graduation , though one might find an employer willing to sponsor H1B work visa, a stroke of bad luck might leave you with a job but no work permit if you do not get picked through the visa lottery . Also, newbies on the visa might have to work longer hours than their peers until their employer deems it to be a good time to promote them to the elite group of permanent residents and sponsor a Green card .

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