Australia is consistently seen as a destination of choice for doctors leaving the UK and the NHS. This is often due to the cultural similarity with the UK, and the highly-competitive salaries along the career path, as opposed to many other countries.
The Moving Process
Once you’ve made the daunting decision to move, the next step in the process may not be clear. Even with the assistance of friends working in your destination, or a list of contacts, it can be difficult to prioritise the many tasks you will have to undertake. However, there are five main steps in the emigrating process:
- Deciding where to work,
- Finding employment,
- Visas and paperwork,
- Arrival, and
- Other considerations.
Deciding Where to Work
Australia is a vast country, with a multitude of differences between the East & West coasts, and between urban and more rural areas. The competition ratios also vary massively between cities and larger, more remote catchment areas. The experience a doctor will have whilst working in Australia will be largely dependent on this first choice.
Spending the time to research the main hospitals in each area of interest will show how viable each job will be in relation to where the doctor is living. There is no central Australian jobs website, so jobs can be found by
- using job-seeking websites, with some states, such as New South Wales, having a more centralised database;
- contacting hospitals directly, or visiting their websites for job opportunities – either at a trust level, or individual centres;
- asking personal contacts about their experiences, potentially gaining access to sites and contact numbers that would otherwise be unavailable;
- reading the careers section in local newspapers; and
- working with recruitment agencies.
You will also have to have information about yourself ready to send or input on online forms. Many jobs will require application via online portal, but often, a CV and cover letter will be required. It is also good practice to send these when contacting a department directly. A good CV should
- summarise achievements,
- include qualifications,
- detail professional experience and employment history,
- reference all publications and presentations,
- detail audits and quality improvement projects,
- show any management or leadership experience,
- show any teaching or mentoring experience, and
- list any prizes or awards.
Doctors should also prepare a cover letter which sells them to a potential employer, summarising who they are, why they are interested in the job, some of their key attributes, and experiences which back their claims up.
There is also likely to be an interview after the paper sift. Interviews with UK applicants tend to be conducted over the phone – often in the early hours of the morning, due to the time difference.
Visas and Paperwork
Once employment has been secured, doctors need to get verified. There are multiple agencies to which doctors must apply, and whilst it is far easier to migrate once a job offer has been confirmed, it is possible to complete this step without one. There is a logical order to this step, based on the relative amounts of time it takes to complete and receive approval for each submission. Help can also be found from hospital recruitment departments. The recommended order of application is
- Electronic Portfolio of International Credentials, or EPIC;
- Fitness to Work;
- Australian Medical Council, or AMC;
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, or AHPRA;
- Visa; and
Electronic Portfolio of International Credentials
EPIC is a website that verifies the authenticity of medical education credentials. It is a requirement for AMC registration. Doctors should
- register on the EPIC website;
- upload a copy of their passport, their passport photo, and their degree certificate;
- print out the form once complete, and get it notarised;
- notify the AMC once the process is complete.
This part of the process costs around US$75.
Fitness to Work
A doctor’s fitness to work is determined by a criminal check not dissimilar to the UK’s CRB or DBS background checks. Passing the check is a requirement for AHPRA registration. Doctors should
- visit fit2work.com.au;
- upload a signed consent letter and a UK-specific consent form, as well as proof of address;
- wait for AHPRA to sent a confirmation letter containing the result.
This part of the process costs around US$150.
Australian Medical Council
As the independent national standards body for medical education and training, the AMC serves a similar function to the GMC. All doctors must apply for an AMC number at a cost of around US$400.
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
Doctors in Australia are likely to have far more day-to-day involvement with the AHPRA than the AMC. Doctors need to already gained AMC registration before applying to the AHPRA for validation. A doctor’s employer will most likely send the form to be completed, having already completed their half of the document. The AHPRA registration form is lengthy, and multiple documents must be signed by a notary, namely the
- EPIC ID form,
- medical degree certificate,
- driving licence,
- medical degree,
- GMC registration certificate,
- proof of address, and
- anything else demanded by the AHPRA such as English language qualifications.
Doctors should aim to
- obtain documents from hospital,
- acquire the notary-signed documents as listed above,
- include a signed and dated CV,
- include a copy of their F1 completion certificate,
- acquire job description documentation from their destination hospital, and
- send all documents to the hospital for forwarding onwards.
This part of the process costs around US$750
All doctors need a temporary visa to be able to work in Australia, with most people applying for a 457 visa. The receipt of a visa is dependent upon sponsorship by an employer, who initially lodges the application. If a doctor wishes to stay more permanently, or undertake specialist training, it becomes more complicated. Doctors should
- login and register online once their employer lodges the application,
- upload and attach required documentation such as travel insurance and AHPRA documents, and
- print out a referral letter for health assessment once the process is complete.
Travel insurance is necessary because the Visa requirements include private health insurance. There are many different companies that provide overseas visitor cover, but once doctors are resident in Australia, they can re-evaluate their need for health insurance cover due to a reciprocal Medicare arrangement with the UK.
Following the initial submission of the visa, all applicants require a medical examination. A full list of approved sites for this process is easily available on the visa office’s website. The medical will include x-rays and blood tests, and the visa office will be informed when the process is complete.
This part of the process costs around US$1200 – around US$800 for the visa, and US$400 for the medical.
Doctors in Australia are required to
- send a certificate of good standing to their destination hospital, once prompted, which can be requested on the GMC website; and
- decide whether or not to maintain full GMC registration, maintain registration without licence to practice, or to fully relinquish their license.
Upon arrival in Australia, doctors must
- go to the AHPRA office with their visa and passport to finalise their application before their start date;
- undergo a working with children check, if necessary, for a cost of around US$100;
- obtain a Tax File Number by filling in an online form, and inform their employer;
- obtain Medicare cover, instead of private health insurance, as part of the UK reciprocal arrangement in Australia; and
- register for a Provider number with AHPRA, identifying both themselves and practice location, and allowing the prescribing of medications.
Once all other steps have been completed, doctors should check that they have informed the student loans company that they have left the country, and if they are still eligible to receive an NHS pension.