From the UK & Ireland to New Zealand: We chat with doctors who have made the move

IMG doctor in New Zealand

Last month, we helped forty IMG doctors make the move to live and work in New Zealand, but why is New Zealand such a popular destination for Irish and UK doctors?

The transition from the United Kingdom or Ireland to New Zealand as a senior doctor embodies a professional and lifestyle shift, marked by a unique set of opportunities. This journey, while complex for some, can be exceptionally rewarding. The process involves understanding the registration pathways, navigating a new healthcare system, and embracing the professional and personal benefits that New Zealand offers.

The great news is, in September of last year, Immigration New Zealand announced a new pathway to residence for certain professions, including medical practitioners. This new pathway is seeing doctors see approval in as little as 48 hours.

Registration and pathway:

For senior doctors from the UK and Ireland, the first step is navigating the registration process with the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ). This typically involves verifying qualifications and experience, a process that can vary depending on one's specialty and the length of their professional practice. The MCNZ recognises many UK and Irish qualifications directly, which can simplify the accreditation process. However, you might still need to provide evidence of your competency and undergo a period of supervision or an assessment, depending on your circumstances.

International Medical Graduates working in New Zealand

There are several pathways for overseas trained doctors to come and work in New Zealand. The choice of pathways differs for junior and senior doctors, but all pathways take into account a combination of qualifications and experience. All pathways require overseas doctors to complete a period of supervised practice and some can require additional exams or training as advised by the Medical Council.

The key pathways we work with are:


Competent Authority: Doctors who have completed both their Medical Degree and Internship training in either the UK or Ireland are eligible for medical registration via this pathway. If a UK or Irish grad has completed an internship in another country, they can apply to the Medical Council for recognition of that internship for the potential to also be considered eligible for this pathway. To apply for this role, applicants will need to have a job offer from a New Zealand hospital and will need to complete six months of supervised practice.

Comparable Healthcare System pathway: The Medical Council have designated twenty-four healthcare systems as being comparable to those in New Zealand. If an applicant has worked thirty-three out of the last forty-eight months in a comparable healthcare system, they can be granted registration to work in the same area of medicine, at the same level. These candidates must work under supervision for twelve months.


Locum Tenens: If an applicant holds one of the approved qualifications and a job offer, they can be granted Special Purpose Locum Tenens registration for twelve months. They require supervision for the entire time.

Vocational: This is the complete assessment needed for a candidate to work in NZ as a specialist. If they hold an overseas postgraduate qualification, they can apply to have this and their subsequent experience assessed by the relevant medical college to determine how it compares to the local training. The outcome of this assessment determines their comparability and what they are required to do in order to gain full registration.

Registration is not just a bureaucratic step but a gateway to understanding the nuances of New Zealand’s healthcare system, which, while similar to the UK and Ireland in many respects, also has its unique features and practices.

Benefits for senior doctors:

The move to New Zealand opens up a world of benefits for senior doctors. One of the most significant advantages is the work-life balance. New Zealand’s healthcare system is less burdened with the bureaucracy often experienced in the UK and Ireland, allowing doctors more time for patient care and a healthier work-life balance.

New Zealand offers a diverse range of career opportunities, from working in advanced metropolitan hospitals to contributing to rural health – an area that is both challenging and deeply rewarding. There's also the chance to be involved in innovative healthcare practices and research, as New Zealand is known for its progressive approach to medicine.

IMGs in New Zealand often comment on the supportive and collegial working environment. There’s a strong emphasis on collaboration and continuous professional development, which is not only gratifying but also aids in a smooth transition.

But don't take our word for it, these are the stories of some other IMGs we have helped make the move.

Dr Hannah Todd IMG Paediatric Registrar

Dr Hannah Todd is 28-year-old paediatric registrar, in August 2022 she relocated from the UK with her Husband, to work as a doctor in New Zealand in the beachside city of Tauranga. When her partner was offered a job in New Zealand in aquaculture, Medrecuit helped Hannah find a job in paediatrics.

"I have to admit our life in New Zealand is pretty sweet: we live a 2-minute walk from the beach, a 40-minute cycle from work, and an hour's drive from the geothermal spas and mountain biking in Rotorua," Hannah told us.

"A friend of mine recommended Medrecruit after I initially planned to move to New Zealand and struggled to get any responses from contacts at the various hospitals. I had not realised recruitment agencies were an option for this. As soon as I got in contact with Jessica from Medrecruit the whole process was extremely smooth from start to finish. I was really impressed by how quickly the interviews and job offers were lined up!"

Read Dr Hannah Todd's story here.

Find out everything you need to know about moving to Australia or New Zealand in our free IMG Guide.
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Dr Fraser Smith IMG GP

GP, Dr Fraser Smith grew up in Derby, England. He has always been a big fan of adventure and the outdoors.

He recently made the move to live and work as a GP in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Medrecruit assisted him in finding a role and everything he needed to make the move.

"Kiwis are such a friendly bunch, on my first day I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but the patients just laughed about it and we got there in the end!" Fraser laughed.

"It’s been an incredible experience and an opportunity not to be missed. There’s a healthy work-life balance and so much to explore!"

Read Dr Fraser Smith's story here.

Dr Esther O’Sullivan Endocrinology IMG

It was a cold and dark winter's evening when Dr Esther O’Sullivan decided she was tired of the short days and long winters in Ireland, and she needed a new lifestyle.

Now, she has a new life in Rotorua; the geothermal and adventure capital of New Zealand.

“All the upheaval and initial stress have definitely been worth it – life here is great, there is a fantastic trail running and loads of events to take part in – this is a great way to see some of this beautiful country. I’ve already explored quite a bit and done some tramps on a few of the great walks,” Esther told us.

“My favourite thing to do on days off in Rotorua is to go to the forest for a run – it’s so peaceful there.”

Read Dr Esther O’Sullivan's story here.

The transition to New Zealand as a senior doctor from the UK or Ireland is a path that promises professional fulfillment and an enviable quality of life. While the process requires diligence and adaptation, the rewards – both in terms of career development and personal well-being – are substantial, making it an attractive proposition for those looking to enhance their medical careers in a vibrant, welcoming environment.

How Medrecruit can support your transition:

For UK and Irish doctors considering a move to New Zealand, Medrecruit offers comprehensive support throughout the transition. Our services include:

  • Guidance on registration and compliance with the Medical Council of New Zealand.
  • Assistance in job hunting, matching you with positions that suit your expertise and preferences.
  • Support with relocation logistics, ensuring a smooth transition for you and your family.
  • Ongoing support once you arrive in New Zealand, helping you integrate into your new community and work environment.
  • Sourcing and securing relocation packages for you and your family's transition.

If you are thinking about making the move to New Zealand to live and work as a doctor, we can help. From job application to the visa process, and registering with MCNZ Medrecruit offers a free support service to help IMGs relocate to New Zealand. Register for more information.

Medrecruit Editorial Team
22 November 2023Article by Medrecruit Editorial TeamMedrecruit Editor