California Medical Board Postgraduate Training Licenses

Before January 2020, medical residents in California attending Medical Board-approved postgraduate training programs did not need a physician and surgeon's license until their third year of residency training. An exception was foreign medical graduates who were required to have a Postgraduate Training Authorization Letter or "PTAL". Foreign graduates also needed two years of approved training in order to receive a Physician and Surgeon's Certificate. Domestic and Canadian residents only needed to complete one year of training. (All had to complete USMLE [United States Medical Licensing Examinations] to qualify for a license.)

Since January 2020, the Medical Board of California has been issuing Postgraduate Training Licenses (PTL) to California medical residents. To be eligible, a PTL applicant must have graduated from an approved medical school and have completed at least Steps 1 and 2CK of the USMLE exams. All residents must apply for and obtain their PTL within 180 days of starting residency training. In order to receive a full Physician and Surgeon's license, all must now complete three years of residency training as well as all three USMLE exams referenced above. Application forms and additional information regarding the licensing process can be accessed at the Medical Board's website, (There has been recent discussion regarding lowering the required number of years of postgraduate training for domestic and Canadian medical school graduates, but a legislative change has yet to occur.)

While the Medical Board no longers requires disclosure of criminal records on its application form, all applicants must submit to a "Livescan" fingerprint check. Misdemeanor and felony offenses which appear on the Livescan report may result in an inquiry from the Board requesting a statement from the applicant regarding the conviction(s) and the relevant arrest and court records. Offenses deemed "substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a physicain and surgeon" may result in denial of the license application or issuance of a probationary license.  As of July 2020, criminal justice reforms in Assembly Bill 2138, Chiu, 2018 narrowed the scope of offenses that constitute grounds for license denial.  Under Business and Professions Code section 480 the following offenses are no longer grounds for license denial:

  • Convictions older than 7 years (except for serious felonies and certain financial crimes); 
  • Convictions dismissed under Penal Code sections 1203.4, 1203.4a, 1203.41 or 1203.42;
  • Arrests that resulted in a disposition other than conviction, including an arrest that resulted in an infraction, citation or a juevenile adjudication.   

If you are applying for a California Postgraduate Training License (PTL) or a Physician and Surgeon's License from the Medical Board of California and have questions or concerns regarding license requirements or eligibility, feel free to contact Stephen Boreman,