IMGs in New Zealand: A comprehensive guide

IMG doctor in New Zealand

New Zealand's healthcare system offers a welcoming and rewarding environment for International Medical Graduates (IMGs). From the lush landscapes to the supportive professional community, New Zealand is an attractive destination for foreign-trained doctors.

IMG doctors are in demand in New Zealand and generous relocation packages are now available for International Medical Graduates who are looking to stay for at least twelve months.

This guide covers the essential steps to work and live in the country, the benefits of working there, life as an IMG, and a comparison with Australia, another popular destination for IMGs.

Steps to work and live in New Zealand:

  • Eligibility assessment: Firstly, check your eligibility. The Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) assesses international qualifications against New Zealand standards.

  • Primary source verification: You'll need to undergo primary source verification of your qualifications through the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

  • Registration with MCNZ: Depending on your qualifications and experience, you may apply for different types of registration, such as provisional general or vocational.

  • Immigration and Visa Process: Apply for a work visa. New Zealand offers various visa options for doctors, and the process is closely tied to your employment. In September of last year, Immigration New Zealand announced a new pathway to residence for certain professions, including Medical Practitioners. This new Residence Pathway can see approval in as little as 48 hours.

  • Finding employment: Secure a job offer from a New Zealand healthcare provider. Many IMGs start their journey through recruitment agencies, like Medrecruit, specialising in placing overseas doctors.

  • Induction programme: Upon arrival, you may need to complete an induction program or a supervision period, as required by MCNZ.

Medical pathways to 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.

Benefits of working as an IMG in New Zealand:

  • Work-life balance: New Zealand is known for its excellent work-life balance, with flexible working hours and ample opportunities for leisure and exploration.

  • Professional development: The healthcare system offers various pathways for career advancement and professional development.

  • Cultural diversity: New Zealand’s healthcare workforce is culturally diverse, providing a welcoming environment for IMGs.

  • Competitive remuneration: Salaries for doctors are competitive, with additional benefits such as professional development opportunities and healthcare.

Life as an IMG in New Zealand:

  • Community integration: New Zealanders are known for their friendliness, making it easier for IMGs to integrate into the community.

  • Natural beauty: The country offers a unique blend of urban and natural environments, from bustling cities to serene landscapes.

  • Healthcare system: The healthcare system is well-organised, providing quality care and a supportive work environment. The 2009 Commonwealth Fund survey ranked New Zealand first for advanced electronic health information capacity among primary care physicians.

The best country for foreign doctors to work:

New Zealand is consistently ranked in thetop ten countries to live in the world for things like affordability, safety and overall quality of life. The cost of living in New Zealand could be considered higher than some others, but the lifestyle you get for that cost makes it worth it!. While New Zealand offers a fantastic environment for IMGs, Australia is also a top destination. Both countries offer excellent healthcare systems, but each has its unique benefits.

How to get started

Relocating overseas to pursue a medical career is a significant undertaking, and the backing of a medical recruitment agency can be helpful. Medrecruit features a specialised IMG team, comprised of individuals who've personally navigated moving to New Zealand, ready to provide authentic advice on transitioning to life "Down Under." What's more our service is completely free for doctors. To find out more about working as an IMG in New Zealand, register, and one of our IMG team will be in touch to discuss opportunities and set you up for a successful relocation.

IMGs in New Zealand are in high demand, especially if you are an IMG GP! With a large and diverse healthcare sector offering numerous opportunities for professional growth and development. Whether you're looking for a metropolitan lifestyle or a peaceful rural existence, New Zealand has something to offer every IMG.

For IMGs, New Zealand not only offers a chance to advance professionally but also to enjoy a high quality of life. While the process of moving and establishing oneself in a new country can be challenging, the rewards, both personal and professional, are immense. Whether you choose New Zealand or its neighbor Australia, both provide world-class opportunities for foreign-trained doctors.

Find out everything you need to know about moving to Australia or New Zealand in our free IMG Guide.
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Medrecruit Editorial Team
13 November 2023Article by Medrecruit Editorial TeamMedrecruit Editor