What is FCVS?
FCVS stands for Federation Credential Verification Service a service provided by the federation of state medical boards (FSMB). On the home page, FCVS indicates “FCVS establishes a permanent, lifetime repository of primary-source verified core credentials for physicians and physician assistants. We keep a record of everything from medical diplomas to passports — so physicians and physician assistants don't have to go through the time and effort of assembling and forwarding this information every time they need to be licensed or credentialed”
In theory this is an excellent idea because as a physician in US, international medical graduate or otherwise every time you apply for a license, DEA number or other privileges your credentials will need to be verified.
So when should you apply through FCVS?
At the time of signing up for step 3, I came to know about FCVS. After some deliberation, I realized that I do not need to sign up through FCVS to apply for the boards or even apply for residency. Once you are in a residency, however it is better that you work on your application and the sooner you work on it the better.
Who should apply?
The FSMB is a non-government organization but at time functions like a government enterprise. There are many forms to fill, documents submitted and verification and checks and balances at every step make the credentialing onerous and tardy. Once you are done with residency, you will either, join a fellowship program or get in to clinical practice. If you are planning to return home after residency/fellowship training then there is no need for credentialing. In either scenario where you are going to stay back after residency it is best to have your portfolio verified and credentialed.
I began working on my portfolio in my fellowship year because; I realized that once I am done with fellowship, I would need to apply for a state license to start practice. One could apply to the states medical boards individually but the issue with doing that is, since most IMGs are transients initially and are moving around, it makes more sense to have a central repository of verified documents.
Where in US are you required to use FCVS?
Suppose you are finish your residency in Wisconsin and are finishing up fellowship in Maryland and now are undecided if you want to go back to Wisconsin to practice or continue working in Maryland or even go to another state, then FCVS is for you. It allows you the freedom to choose almost any state in US to work in. The reason I say almost because there are two states in US who do not accept credentialing from FCVS and they are Arkansas (AR) and Nebraska (NE). In fact, Kentucky (KY), Louisiana (LA), Maine (ME), North Carolina (NC) New Hampshire (NH), Nevada – Osteopathy (NV), New York (NY), Ohio (OH), Rhode Island (RI), Utah – Osteopathy (UT), Virginia (VI), South Carolina (SC) and Wyoming (WY) all require you to apply for a state license through FCVS. All other states with the exception of AR and NE accept applications independently or through FCVS.
When you begin working on your portfolio in FCVS you have to fill in a form that is similar in some ways to ERAS application form. You will have to list all of your work and educational history and other work experiences. After the basic stuff is filled in, you will be required to send in or upload documents (Medical school diploma, medical school transcript and other documents like internship completion certificate).
You will be asked to make a FedEx permanent account to facilitate the shipping of documents from you to FCVS, FCVS to your medical school and back. They strongly recommended it but is not mandatory. I made a FedEx account.
Documents that you need to provide are
1. FCVS Affidavit – This form has to be mailed in and needs a notarized signature to be completed. The form is a sworn proof that you are indeed who you represent, have read the instructions and do not hold FCVS liable for issues arising beyond credentialing.
2. FCVS Authorization Form – This form can be completed on the computer and uploaded to the site.
Valid Original Passport – This was a little nerve racking for me. I am not used to sending my original passport by post or mail unless I really have to. Unless you are a US citizen, this is the single most important document you have so take good care of it. As an international graduate, you are still a visitor to the country so losing your passport is a headache of humongous proportions. FCVS requires you to send in the original passport via FedEx, which they will verify, make a photocopy and send it back to you via FedEx. I was lucky. I was visiting Texas and could drive up to their main office in Euless near Dallas, TX, give them my passport and got it back in a matter of 15 minutes. If you plan to do this, make sure you call ahead first and set up an appointment. There are other FSMB offices around the country, see if there is one close to you within driving distance.
3. Medical School Diploma and Translation: I uploaded this document to the site and it was easy.
4. Med School Transcript and Translation: Uploaded a scanned PDF copy to the site
5. Compulsory Internship certificate: Scanned PDF uploaded.
6. ECFMG Medical School Release Form – online form, filled in, signed – scanned and uploaded
7. ECFMG Authorization Form – authorize FCVS to access ECFMG records – filled, signed, scanned and uploaded.
8. Applicant ECFMG Certificate - uploaded PDF.
8. Applicant ECFMG Certificate - uploaded PDF.
I compiled, prepared and uploaded the documents into the system in a span of less than 2-3 weeks. The step that takes most time is the next one.
Documents that your medical school needs to provide are
1. GME Form
2. Medical Education Form
3. Medical Education Dean's Letter
4. Medical Education Transcript
5. Medical Education Diploma
How much does it cost?
To open a portfolio it does not cost anything. To upload your documents it does not cost anything. Once you accept the terms and conditions and request FCVS to begin the process of credential verification, you will have to pay 465$. This may change in the future but as for 2012 the fees are still 465$.
Some benefits of using FCVS (full list here)
1. Permanent repository
2. Central verification service for international medical graduates
3. Reduction in cost and processing time
4. Safeguard against disasters (paper documents lost etc)
5. Primary source verification
6. For use by hospitals and insurance providers
7. Ease of application for state licensure.
Disadvantages of FCVS
1. Protracted process – some applicants online expressed the frustration at the sluggishness of the pace. 5 months for AMG and may be even longer for IMGs. Delay could be at the receiving or originating (medical school) end.
2. Expensive – Close to 500$ expense to open credential verification and then added expenses each time you request their services.
3. Inconsistencies and inaccuracies – some applicants have also expressed that the dossier sent to the state medical board was inaccurate and the applicant had to then provide for the missing/incorrect documents.
4. Bureaucracy – few applicants felt that the service reps are not interested in providing faster or higher quality service and they have a semi-governmental status.
This is the reason why I recommend that as soon as you get into a residency or fellowship, initiate the process of credential verification and get things in order on file. If you wait to the last minute, it may not be worth the expense, time and frustration. And for those of you who are wondering - what about the similar process they did verifying credentials for ECFMG? Can they (State board/FSMB) not use that? Sadly, as it currently stands, both FSMB and state boards like to do what is called primary source verification, which means that the wheel will have to be reinvented again, colleges and universities contacted again and this could be an issue several years out from graduation.
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