Illinois Takes Bold Step To Reduce Doctor Shortages: Upwardly Global-Backed Legislation Creates Alternative Pathway to Full Licensure for Internationally Trained Physicians

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Internationally trained doctors

CHICAGO — Upwardly Global today commends Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signing of two key pieces of legislation that help eliminate licensing barriers for internationally trained doctors to practice medicine in the state, a groundbreaking step to alleviate critical labor shortages in the healthcare sector. Upwardly Global, the leading organization promoting the inclusion of immigrant and refugee professionals in the U.S. workforce, played a crucial role in convening a formal working group to advocate for these reforms, which benefit both internationally trained health professionals and Illinois-based employers seeking diverse talent.

The announcement follows over a year of close collaboration between Upwardly Global, Illinois State Rep. Theresa Mah, Ph.D. (D-Chi.), Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR), the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS), and national and local advocacy groups to address the underutilization of IMG talent in the state. 

“Illinois is setting a new standard for the rest of the country when it comes to internationally trained medical professionals,” says Jina Krause-Vilmar, President and CEO of Upwardly Global. “Upwardly Global is proud to have co-created this legislative win, which recognizes the value of internationally trained healthcare professionals who, despite their expertise, often remain on the sidelines during critical health crises.”

The new legislation includes:

    • The creation of a permanent alternative pathway to full licensure for international medical graduates (IMGs), which is a notable distinction from several other state models that focus on creating limited licenses. This pathway will replace the residency requirement with two years of limited practice under the supervision of a licensed physician in an area with unmet medical need or with a provider that treats underserved populations. This will begin in January 2025 and is codified in the amendment of SB1298
    • The creation of an ombudsman position within the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to help IMGs navigate the relicensing process (HB2948).


Gov. Pritzker’s signing comes as Illinois faces a severe doctor shortage. The Migration Policy Institute projects a deficit of 6,200 physicians in the state by 2030. Meanwhile, over 12,000 Illinois residents possess international healthcare degrees but are prohibited from providing care. This underutilization of skilled healthcare professionals poses significant challenges to the overall healthcare system and the well-being of Americans. Recognizing this urgent need, Upwardly Global continuously advocates for scalable solutions to address the healthcare shortage nationally.

Upwardly Global commends the efforts of Rep. Mah, IDFPR, and ISMS in achieving these wins to open pathways for IMGs. Momentum for health licensing reform has been growing on state and national levels. Several other states, including Washington, Massachusetts, and Colorado, have implemented limited license programs that require IMGs to practice under the supervision of fully licensed physicians, often in high need areas.

On the federal front, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) recently introduced three bills in the House of Representatives focused on internationally trained health professionals in the U.S. workforce; Upwardly Global is pleased to endorse these bills.


About Upwardly Global

Upwardly Global’s mission is to eliminate employment barriers for low-income immigrant and refugee professionals and to advance their inclusion into the U.S. economy. Since 2000, Upwardly Global has empowered unemployed or underemployed newcomers with the skills, career coaching, and social capital needed to rebuild their lives and careers. Learn more at

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