There's no written rule that says research is mandatory to get into general surgery residency but the reality is that if you don't have you won't be able to compete with the thousands of other IMGs who have research and applying with you.
To give you an idea:
I have a friend who finished 10 years of extensive surgical training and experience in his home country. He has over a dozen of research publications in his name and thousands of operations in his CV.
He applied for general surgery this year and he got only 8 interviews
I have another friend who has 4 years of general surgery training in his country and did 4 months of observership in USA and applied this year. He got only 3 interviews
Another issue that I'd like to remind you about. There's no Hands-On surgical rotation in USA. You can't do that when you are an IMG with no residency training in USA.
1) Now this really scared me And I don't want to wait for years to get into residency too.. So I think I should opt IM.. Can I apply to both IM and Surgery? Like if I send my IM LORs and IM USCE to IM programs and Surgery LORs/USCE to Surgery programs, will that harm my profile? I've read somewhere in the forum that PD might catch you if you do so and might think that you're not focused to one.. Is it so?
2) You said there's no hands-on USCE done without finishing surgical residency.. Some companies guarantee hands-on USCE in Surgery too.. Is it not really hands-on and they cheat with us?
I apologize for the incorrect statement. Yes you can get surgical USCE via externships companies, but of course don't expect to enter the OT, you'll be jsut taking history and doing physical examination.