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Moving to California

Transitioning to practice in California can be challenging. To guide physician members through the process of getting a California medical license, the California Academy of Family Physicians has developed a list of action items and issues to consider as you enter practice in our state.


Contact the Medical Board of California to obtain your medical license

MD Application and Form: The Medical Board of California recommends starting the process six to nine months before you need your license; allow two to four months to have your initial application processed.  For more information on licensure, call 800-633-2322.

DO Application and Form:
The Osteopathic Medical Board of California is available at 916-928-8390.

International Medical Graduates:
The American Academy of Family Physicians provides general information to IMGs who wish to enter a US family medicine residency program. For California specific information, visit the Medical Board of California website.


Register with the Drug Enforcement Agency

To legally prescribe controlled substances, you must register with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).  You must obtain a DEA number, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.  It must appear on all prescriptions.  If you move, a new number is required. Physicians may prescribe drugs only in the regular practice of their profession and may furnish controlled substances only to persons under their care.

To reach your local DEA office, please call:

  • Northern California: 888-304-3251
  • Southern California: 888-415-9822
  • San Diego and  Imperial Counties: 800-284-1152


Contact Medi-Cal and Medicare

California’s Medicaid program is known as Medi-Cal.  For provider numbers and billing problems or concerns, call the Medi-Cal office at (800) 541-5555.  If you’re calling about a specific case, make sure to have your patient’s claim number ready.

Medicare, the primary source of insurance for older Americans, is administered by Noridian Healthcare Solutions. Contact Noridian at or at (855) 609-9960 for all claims, participation information, guidelines, and general information.


Know CME Requirements

Assembly Bill 487 requires that every licensed California physicians complete 12 credits of CME in pain management and end-of-life care as a one-time requirement. Acceptable courses must qualify for AAFP Prescribed or AMA PRA Category 1 creditTM. The Medical Board of California will accept courses or programs that address one or both topics together.  The required 12 hours count toward the 25 units of approved continuing education each physician is required to complete each year.


Know Disease Reporting Requirements

Physicians are required to report a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including births and deaths, in California.  Protecting the public health, advancing scientific knowledge, and guarding the safety of individuals at risk of violence are some of the reasons reporting is imperative. Reporting births and deaths is done through county Departments of Public Health

Reporting information is not available online; to request a booklet outlining reporting instructions, contact your county Department of Public Health. Because your local area may also have additional reporting requirements, you may contact your local department of public health for further information.  You can also read California’s cancer reporting guidelines online.

Obtain Hospital Privileges

Before making any final decision about where you might practice you should have a realistic sense of the typical family physician scope of practice in communities of interest, especially if you want to practice obstetrics.  Once you’ve settled on a practice location, you will need to apply to the medical staff office at the local hospital or hospitals before you will be allowed to admit or treat patients.  Remember to keep all written documentation from your residency training regarding any and all procedures you have performed, especially gastrointestinal and obstetrical procedures.  Resources are available from CAFP to help with privileging questions or difficulties encountered when trying to obtain desired privileges. 


Protect Yourself with CAFP's Contract Review Service

You should seriously consider having your contract reviewed by a knowledgeable attorney familiar with health care law and medical practice issues. With so much at stake, you can’t afford not to take advantage of this useful service.


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