Special Licensure

The board may grant a special license to a physician who is an academic staff member of a college of medicine if that physician does not meet the qualifications for a permanent license. The physician should be held in high esteem for unique contributions they have made to medicine, and will make by practicing in Iowa. The license is not designed for physicians in regular faculty positions that could be filled by a physician qualified for permanent licensure in Iowa or for the purpose of training the physician who receives the license, such as participating in a fellowship of any kind. The board will consider granting and renewing a special license on a case-by-case basis. 

A special license may be issued for a period of not more than one year and may be renewed annually prior to expiration. The number of renewals granted by the board is not limited. Academic institutions are encouraged to assist special licensees in qualifying for permanent licensure if the physician is to remain in Iowa long term. 

A special license specifically limits the licensee to practice at the medical college and at any health care facility affiliated with the medical college. A special license automatically expires when the licensee discontinues as a member of the academic medical staff for which the special license was granted. The board may take disciplinary action on a special license if the licensee has practiced outside the scope of this license or for any of the grounds for which licensure may be revoked or suspended.

Eligibility for Special Licensure

Statutory provisions on special licensure allow applicants for special licensure to meet a separate set of eligibility requirements than permanent licensees. Eligibility requirements as found in Chapter 10.4.

  • Fulfill the application requirements
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a physician in a medical specialty
  • Present evidence of holding a medical degree from an educational institution that is located in a jurisdiction outside the United States or Canada and that is listed in the Directory of Medical Schools published by the World Health Organization
  • Have completed at least two years of postgraduate education in any jurisdiction
  • Have practiced for five years after postgraduate education
  • Demonstrate proficiency in English by providing a valid ECFMG certificate or verification of a passing score on TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language administered by the Educational Testing Service
  • Be licensed in a jurisdiction outside the United States or Canada and present evidence that any licenses held in any jurisdiction are unrestricted

Special License Application

An application for a special license is considered open from the date the application form is received in the board office. To apply for a special license an applicant shall:

  • Pay a non-refundable special license fee
  • Complete and submit forms provided by the board
  • Provide verification of successful completion of a medical degree
  • Demonstrate proficiency in English by providing a valid ECFMG certificate or verification of a passing score on TSE, the Test of Spoken English, or TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language administered by the Educational Testing Service
  • Present a letter from the dean of the medical college in which the applicant will be practicing that indicates the following:
    • The applicant has been invited to serve on the academic staff of the medical school and in what capacity
    • The applicant's qualifications and the unique contribution the applicant has made to the practice of medicine
    • The unique contributions the applicant is expected to make by practicing in Iowa and how these contributions will serve the public interest of Iowan's
  • Present at least two letters of recommendation from universities, other educational institutions, or research facilities that indicate the applicant's noteworthy professional attainment


Read about the fee for a special license application.

How to Apply

Learn about the application process.

Special License Application Cycle

If the applicant does not submit all materials within 90 days of the board office's initial request for further information, the application is considered inactive. The board office notifies the applicant of this change in status. An applicant must reapply and submit a new non-refundable fee and a new application, documents and credentials.

Renewal of a Special License

If a special physician licensee does not qualify for or receive a permanent license, the board shall send a courtesy application by regular mail to the licensee's last known address at least 60 days prior to the expiration date of the special physician license. The licensee is responsible for renewing the license prior to its expiration. Failure of the licensee to receive the application does not relieve the licensee of responsibility for renewing that license. 
A special physician licensee shall apply for a one-year renewal by submitting the following:

  • A completed renewal application
  • The renewal fee
  • Evidence of 20 hours of Category 1 continuing education activity and mandatory training on identifying and reporting abuse
  • A letter from the dean of the medical college that addresses the individual's unique contribution to the practice of medicine in Iowa, how the anticipated contribution will serve the public interest of Iowans, and the need for renewal of the license. For a licensee who received the initial special license prior to July 1, 2001, the only statement needed from the dean is verification of the academic appointment the licensee continues to hold

Look up the fee for renewal of a special license.

Failure of the licensee to renew a license within one month of the expiration date causes the license to become inactive. A licensee whose license is inactive is prohibited from practice until a new special license is granted.

Printed from the Iowa Board of Medicine website on June 09, 2023 at 6:34am.