How to Work Internationally as a Locum

Kristen Campbell
Jun. 23, 2020
10-minute read

One of the reasons you might be interested in doing locum work is to explore the world. Many positions for international locum tenens physicians offer plenty of perks, like the ability to visit new places, compensation or reimbursement for travel expenses, and everything that comes along with seeing different countries and enjoying new culture.

Working as a locum is a popular way for physicians to travel abroad. Depending on your specialization, international locum work is also readily available – commonwealth countries like England, Australia, and New Zealand often recruit Canadian physicians, and some specializations could see considerable financial benefit by working in the United States. 

1. Decide Where You Want to Work

The first thing to do if you’re considering international locum work is consider your cultural fit. Do you like living in major cities? Do you find it easy to get along with others working with you? Will you want to work in a larger hospital or a smaller practice? Since your answers to all of these questions will impact your choice of location, start by making a list of some places you have enjoyed travelling or want to travel. Why did you enjoy them? Could you see yourself staying there for an extended period of time?

While some locum positions are short-term, the logistics of Visas and moving expenses make it more likely that you will be remaining in the role for at least a few months. While this is a great way to try out new places to live, it also poses challenges if you’re not happy where you decide to live. The best way to avoid this is to look carefully at the area where you’re hoping to stay! Are you planning on bringing your family with you? Do you mind if the school system is good? Are you looking for a bustling social scene, or somewhere to get ahead professionally?

It’s a good idea to do research not just on the countries you hope to move, but also on the medical rules and regulations in those countries. This information will help you to decide whether it’s a good career move, a good fit for your family, and give you some idea of the opportunities available for your specialization.

Whether you’re sure about where you want to work or not, you can get an idea of what is available outside of the country by checking out international locum tenens physician job listings worldwide! These can be found on international job search sites like Zip Recruiter, on medical job boards like, or on medical school websites. Whether you want to work in private practice, a hospital, or a clinic, you can likely find something for you. Working abroad might even give you the opportunity to try a role you hadn’t considered before, like a position at a local university or a teaching hospital. 

Alternatively, you could also use an agency – there are many locum recruitment companies worldwide to assist you in finding the perfect job for you, like Prodie Sante or Global Medical Staffing. These companies are great to get in touch with, even in your research stages, as they’ll have some idea of the international locum tenens physician roles available for your specialization. For example, international locum tenens family physician roles are less specialized and thus highly needed in countries abroad, similar to roles in emergency medicine.

Some specialties are more in demand than others, and while it may still be possible to go to the country you had in mind with a less in-demand specialization, it’s also possible that there are other places that would be more financially beneficial for you to visit. Surgeons, for example, make considerably more in the United States, while many international locum tenens family medicine roles are comparable in salary.

3. Consider the Visa Process

If you’re going through a locum recruitment agency for international locum tenens physicians or if you have a job already lined up, the logistics of the immigration process might be taken care of for you. Often, these agencies or your employer will vet your credentials ahead of time, take care of your Visa support, and help you through the details required, although it’s still a good idea to do your own research into the timeframe, required forms, or any other details about your move.

Since you’re travelling for work, you’ll need to make sure your documents are sent off as early as possible before your work term begins, since you will be unable to make your move until your status is accepted. Make sure to get things ready ahead of time so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises!

4. Make Living Arrangements

Once you’ve completed all the paperwork, you’ll have to start thinking about where you want to live. Hopefully, you already thought about this before you got started with your locum position – where you want to stay, the kind of neighborhood you’re looking for, and how busy or quaint you want your environment to be.

Many employers and locum agencies will assist you in making your move, finding a place, or choosing a location. Whether they do or not, the first place to start is by doing your research. Check out forums, city guides, and see if you can talk to your coworkers at your new job to get some idea of where other people your age live, work, and play. This is also a good time to get school recommendations if you’re bringing your family along, tips for expats in the area, and other crucial information that might be required to make your decision.

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few neighborhoods, check out the local classified ads to get an idea of what is available. If you’re staying in a country for a longer term, it may be in your best interest to arrange for a shorter lease, hotel, or AirBnB for your first few weeks in the new location, where you can then look at houses in person. It might even be worthwhile to message your new employer to see if anyone in the office has any sublets or leases available. Otherwise, make plans with your new employer to stay in a preferred or trusted location – if you’re moving halfway across the world, you will want to avoid getting involved in any kind of rental scam! 

5. Make Tax Arrangements

It might not be the most exciting part about moving to a new place, but depending on how long you’re expecting to be in a new country, making tax arrangements back in Canada will be crucial. 

As a citizen of Canada for tax purposes, you’ll need to declare all of your worldwide income – this includes income for any locum work you did during the year in Canada, plus any money that you earned in a different country. If the country you’re planning on staying has as lower tax rate than Canada and you’re moving there for a year or more, you might want to pay tax there instead – you can do this by breaking your Canadian ties for the time you’re there, and doing things like selling your property, cars, or other assets, and filling out a departure tax return. 

If you’re planning on a shorter stay, make sure to keep track of the number of days you were outside of Canada, as you will need this to complete your taxes the following year. 

6. Make the Move

Planning for a move can be stressful – but with a little preparation you can make sure everything goes smoothly. Before you leave, it’s a good idea to think about what you really need. If you’re making the move for a longer term role, then it might be a good time to downsize. If you’re planning on shorter term engagements, it might be a good idea to lease or sublet your living space, so that you have the flexibility to move back if you wish.

7. Meet Your New Team

Moving abroad can mean big cultural adjustments, not just in the way you eat, speak, and dress, but also in the way you practice medicine and relate to patients. Get a sense of the administrative procedures you will need to follow – things like billing, record keeping, and other office procedures might be different in your new practice. Lab measurements might be different, and medications might have different names. You should also think about things like relating to your patients, customs around patient care and the level of formality typically expected of physicians in that country. International locum tenens family medicine might look different from medicine practiced at home. Your fellow physicians in your new practice will be a great resource for the more intangible cultural aspects of your new home!


Moving abroad to work as an international locum tenens physician is a great option for both your career and your personal life. Getting to explore new countries and travel for free is one of the best parts of being a locum! With a little preparation and plenty of research, working as a locum abroad can mean having the time of your life!

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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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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