Program for the Certification of Internationally Trained Ophthalmologists (ITOs)

The American Board of Ophthalmology is now accepting applications from qualified internationally trained ophthalmologists (ITOs) who are currently practicing ophthalmology in the United States and wish to become board certified.

Applications for the 2024 ITO Program must be submitted by December 31, 2024.

Graduates of accredited United States and Canadian residency training programs should apply for board certification using the process outlined on the requirements page.


Certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) provides assurance to the public and the medical profession that a physician has successfully completed an evaluation designed to assess the knowledge, experience, and skills required for the delivery of high standards of patient care in ophthalmology.

The current eligibility criteria for entry into the ABO certification process include the requirement that the candidate completed residency training either in an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical education (ACGME)-accredited training program in the United States or in a Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (RCPSC)-accredited training program in Canada. The ABO recognizes, however, that many licensed, qualified ophthalmologists who practice in the United States were trained elsewhere. Therefore, in accordance with its mission, the ABO provides a pathway for internationally trained ophthalmologists (ITO) to obtain ABO Certification. The foundation of this program is a combination of verifiable information on the individual’s training and practice, verification of established professionalism and practice, and successful completion of a quality improvement activity.

Application Eligibility

  • Applicants must have a current valid and unrestricted license to practice in the United States for a minimum of five (5) consecutive years (since January 1, 2019). A license that permits practice only at a specific academic institution is not considered “unrestricted” for the purposes of this pathway.
  • Applicants must have been practicing in the United States for a minimum of five (5) consecutive years (since January 1, 2019).
  • Applicants are required to have a certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
  • Applicants must be practicing ophthalmology and have surgical privileges.

Applicants are responsible for providing documentation for all eligibility requirements.


The ITO pathway to certification is designed to ensure that the applicant satisfies experience and performance requirements that meet the core competencies developed by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), as described below. That is, the applicant should have comparable qualifications to an ophthalmologist who has graduated from an ACGME-accredited or RCPSC-accredited residency, details of which are available here.

Application for admission into the official ITO program requires:

  • Submission of the online application form and materials, including: contact/biographical information, medical school education, post-graduate ophthalmology training, residency training surgical attestation log, fellowship training, list of all current active and unrestricted medical license(s), ECFMG certificate, attestation of ophthalmic practice, documentation of surgical privileges, peer letters of recommendation, personal statement, copy of CV, and attestation & agreement
  • $1,000 nonrefundable application fee

All applications received by December 31, 2024 will be reviewed for completeness. If an application is incomplete the applicant will be notified and provided a two-week period to submit the requested information. All completed applications will be reviewed periodically by the ABO Credentials Committee. During this review, applicants may be asked to provide additional information. Approval or denial of an application by the ABO is final and not subject to appeal. If an application is approved, the applicant cannot refer to himself/herself as Board-Eligible.

Participants in the ITO Program must obtain ABO certification within seven (7) years from the approval of their ITO application. To achieve board certification, participants must complete all ITO program requirements, then pass the Written Qualifying Examination (WQE) and Oral Examination. Participants approved for the ITO program before 2023 will have an additional three (3) years (until 2026) to complete the certification process in its entirety.

Please read and review the complete program policy for details before beginning the application process.

"Board Eligibility" Disclaimer

The American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) is an independent, nonprofit organization that sets standards for the certification of ophthalmologists. The certificate awarded by the ABO is a voluntary credential that verifies essential competencies in the practice of ophthalmology and encourages the pursuit of career-long excellence.

To be considered Board Eligible, applicants for certification must furnish documentation of graduation from a residency program in ophthalmology accredited by the American College for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in the United States or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada along with attestation from the training program of competence in multiple domains. Board eligibility is a temporary status designated for up to seven years from a candidate’s residency graduation.

The Board offers an alternative pathway to board certification for ophthalmologists who have trained outside the United States or Canada. Acceptance into the Internationally Trained Ophthalmologists (ITO) Program requires a minimum of five years of practice in the U.S., an unrestricted license to practice medicine in every state or territory in which the candidate holds a license, documentation of surgical skill and practice, and compelling letters of recommendation from diplomates certified by the ABO. Admission to the ITO Program initiates an extensive vetting and examination process; it is neither a substitute for nor equivalent status to Board Eligibility.

The ABO welcomes applicants' interest in the ITO program but any claims of board eligibility prior to or during the ITO process are grounds for exclusion from the program and the ability to pursue board certification by the ABO.

Finally, the ABO does not issue eligibility letters for potential participants.


The cost for participation in the ITO Program is $1,000 plus the then-current costs of the Written Qualifying Examination and Oral Examination. The $1,000 application fee is nonrefundable. A payment link is provided below.

Links and Downloads


If you have questions about this program, please contact Christine Frieberg, Oral Exam Administration Manager, at or call (610) 664-1175.