ABMS defines "board eligibility" as the period of time between when a physician completes an accredited residency program and when initial certification in a specialty 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 recognize physicians’ need to use the term "board eligible" as a way to signal their preparations for specialty and subspecialty certification. At the same time, it closes off the potential for abuse through use of the term indefinitely.
See the [PDF] ABMS Board Eligibility Overview and FAQ document.
Policy in Practice
ABMS Member Boards with existing board eligibility policies aligned their board-eligible periods with the principles of the established ABMS policies. Each board’s transition dates can vary. Candidates that miss these dates must again complete all requirements of the ABMS Member Board that oversees certification in his or her specialty or subspecialty for admissibility to the certification examination.
Specialty Certification: Member Boards that did not have an existing policy in place established transition dates for candidates who had completed their training but not yet achieved initial certification in a specialty as of the policy’s effective date. Member Boards chose a date between January 1, 2015 – January 1, 2019 for these candidates to achieve initial certification in a specialty.
Subspecialty Certification: ABMS Member Boards that do not have an existing policy in place are expected to establish and implement a transition plan. This period can be up to 7 years following the successful completion of training, plus time (if any) in practice as required by the board for admissibility to the certifying examination.