What Doctors Need to Know Coming from Abroad

Kristen Campbell
Oct. 25, 2021
10-minute read

If you’re a doctor looking to work in Canada, the process can seem daunting. Whether you’re moving to be closer to family, coming over with a spouse, catching a great job opportunity, or just because you want a change, physician immigration to Canada can be a long and sometimes frustrating process. But with patience, preparation, and maybe some help, moving to Canada as a doctor can mean the first step to a great new place to live. Before you start the process, here are some things you’ll need to know:

Getting Registered Can Take Time (and Money)

The licensing process for doctors in Canada can take up to a year – so start planning early. While working as a doctor in Canada can be rewarding, fun, and earn you a steady paycheck, it can also take plenty of time and paperwork to get the proper accreditation. Whether you’re working with a recruiter or alone, make sure to give yourself at least 12-18 months ahead of when you’d ideally like to move, because Visa requirements, degree verification, re-examination, and provincial registration can all take time to get right. In addition, many of the forms you’ll need will have to be mailed, which can add an extra administrative delay. 

For doctors outside of countries like Australia, Ireland, the UK, and the US, you might have additional hurdles in getting your work experience recognized that can extend the time frame even more. Make sure you’re well aware of the process ahead of time, since getting certified can be costly as well – doctors moving to Canada will need to set up an account to verify their credentials, send their medical degrees to be verified by the Medical Council of Canada, request an educational assessment report, and take up to three different exams to prove your qualifications. Each of these steps costs money, and unless you’re working closely with an employer, this cost will likely need to come out of pocket. 

Recruitment Programs, Agencies, or Lawyers Can Help

Unless you already have a job lined up when you come, you’ll likely be job hunting (and interviewing) internationally. With so many options available to international doctors, it can be helpful to find an independent recruiter who can lead you to the right opportunities for your specialization. Canada is a large country with plenty of opportunity for doctors of all types – but finding a good match between an area’s demand and the type of medical services you supply can sometimes require input from someone familiar with the market, and getting the best job possible can be easier if you have some help. If you’re moving to a specific location (for example, as the spouse of another professional), it’s an even better idea to use a third party to find a good match. 

What are recruiters looking for? While you’ll definitely need the clinical skills and medical qualifications to find a job, you’ll also need to have the right attitude – according to the British Medical Journal, the best candidates are ones who are motivated and in it for the long haul, because moving to Canada as a doctor can take plenty of time and commitment. Getting a lawyer can help as well, since part of Canada immigration for doctors is meeting the Visa requirements and gaining entry into the country itself. Although doctors are in high demand in Canada and are often eligible to apply for permanent residency through the Federal Skilled Worker program, immigration is still a lengthy process, and getting through it can be easier with a professional on board.

Physician Requirements Will Vary By Country 

Whether you’re a medical student or a veteran doctor, many of the Canada immigration for doctors 2021 requirements will depend on the country you’re coming from. The first step in moving to Canada as a doctor should be looking through the World Directory of Medical Schools to see if your school has a Canadian sponsor note, which means the Canadian medical school authorities will recognize your credentials.

Even if this is the case, you’ll still need to take the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Parts I & II in order to finish proving your medical knowledge. And in some cases – like if you’re from a country outside of Australia, Ireland, the US, and the UK, you might need to register to complete a residency in Canada as well. If this is the case, you’ll also need to take the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) exam in order to apply for a residency position. Residency spots for international graduates are competitive, so being aware of your country’s specific rules before you make plans to move can save you a lot of administrative time and headache. In some cases, planning ahead (like completing your residency in your home country or taking on a Canadian fellowship) can save you a lengthy detour, while in others, being prepared can simply help the process of physician immigration to Canada go smoother. 

Different Provinces Have Different Regulations 

Doctors moving to Canada will need to keep in mind that even though Canada has a universal healthcare system, doctors in Canada are regulated by the medical authority in the province where they live. So although Visa requirements will be consistent across the country, the requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify as a doctor could be different depending where you’d like to work. Each province will have its own rules about how to register as a doctor and how to have your clinical work experience recognized. 

While many Canadian provinces follow the standard path for physician immigration to Canada, others have special programs to try to speed up the process for international doctors. For family doctors, BC’s Practice Ready Assessment program offers another pathway to getting your Canadian medical license. Saskatchewan’s SIPPA program offers some of the same benefits. Depending on your specialization – and how many doctors are needed in the province – parts of Canada are actively seeking help from international doctors, and taking advantage of these programs can make getting through immigration hurdles a lot easier. 

Specialization Matters

Canada is a large country, but not all types of doctors are needed in all areas – certain specializations are highly requested in some provinces or rural locations (like family doctors in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, or Nova Scotia) while other types of medical specialists or surgeons might need to stay in one of the busier city centres in Ontario or near one of the Universities. No matter what your specialization, getting a handle on the job market here before moving to Canada as a doctor is essential for a smooth immigration process. Since Canada is so large, there can be big lifestyle differences when you’re living in different places – so making sure there’s a good fit between where your specialization is needed (and where you have the best odds of finding a job) and your lifestyle preferences and needs is essential when you’re making plans.

No matter where you’re coming from, the process of Canada immigration for doctors in 2021 is one that takes consistency, resilience, and commitment – but doctors moving to Canada enjoy many benefits, including high income, professional satisfaction, and a satisfying lifestyle. With time, patience, and a little research (and maybe some help), you’ll be well on your way to joining them. 

We hope to see you soon!

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Kristen Campbell
Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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