ABMS defines board eligibility as the period of time between when a physician completes an ACGME-accredited residency program and when initial certification in a specialty or subspecialty is achieved.
The ABMS Board Eligibility Policy for Specialty Certification (effective January 1, 2012) and the ABMS Eligibility Policy for Subspecialty Certification (effective January 1, 2018) places limits on this time period. These policies enable the ABMS Member Boards to set parameters for how candidates can use the term board eligible as a way to signal their preparations for certification while at the same time closing off the potential for abuse through using the term indefinitely.
Policy in Practice
A candidate's eligibility for board certification (board eligible period) expires on a date determined by the ABMS Member Board. Individual Member Board requirements must be met, including time in practice required (if any) for admissibility to the qualifying or certifying examination.
When a candidate’s board eligibility lapses, and certification is not achieved, the physician must cease and desist from making any representations of board eligibility. The Member Boards also determine whether a candidate can re-establish board eligibility one additional time. If granted, the candidate must complete all requirements set by the particular ABMS Member Board. The new board eligibility period typically is of the same duration as the original time period set by each Member Board.
NOTE: While some Member Boards may not recognize the term “board eligible,” their policies appropriately limit the time that may elapse before a physician becomes board certified. See the ABMS Board Eligibility Policies FAQs[PDF]