Residency in New Zealand for doctors

Foreign doctor

If you're a doctor looking to live and work in New Zealand, the first step is to confirm registration eligibility. Everything to do with registration and examination is administered by the Medical Council of New Zealand, and you must show them that you are qualified, competent, and fit for registration.

Renowned for its working conditions and health care system, New Zealand is a popular destination for international doctors. MCNZ registers more than 1500 new doctors each year and there are over 17,000 registered doctors practising in New Zealand. More than 40 percent have trained overseas, coming from more than 100 countries.

Our specialist International Team will give insights into all aspects of work, day-to-day living, and relocating. We can help with the paperwork, and our immigration advisor can assist with visas. The process can take six months to a year for foreign doctors looking to work in New Zealand.

Can foreigners become doctors in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, doctors who received their qualifications overseas are often known as International Medical Graduates (IMGs). This is a term you’ll see a lot, both here and on official government documentation.

If you are a doctor looking to immigrate to New Zealand, your pathway to medical registration will depend on your circumstances, such as where you completed your primary medical degree, the countries in which you have clinical experience, and if you’re a specialist or junior doctor.

If you are not yet a specialist and you completed your primary medical degree and internship in the UK or Ireland then you may be eligible for the Competent Authority Pathway. This is the most common pathway for non-specialist doctors to gain registration in New Zealand. You can apply for full general registration after six months of provisional general supervision.

If you are not yet a specialist and you completed your medical training in a country outside the UK or Ireland, and you are looking to work as a doctor in New Zealand, there are multiple pathways available to you. Please get in touch, and one of our dedicated International Solution Specialists will let you know the next steps

To work as a specialist in New Zealand, you must have an appropriate specialist qualification. MCNZ will compare your training, qualifications, and experience to those of a New Zealand-trained and vocationally registered doctor in the same area of medicine. These assessments aren’t cheap and don’t guarantee you a job offer, but they’re an essential step. VOC3 Vocational (specialist) pathway is the most common route to medical registration and is a merit-based system. If you have the right credentials, the Special Purpose – Locum Tenens pathway is a great option if you’re interested in a fixed-term position of up to 12 months. In some cases, you can apply for both pathways. Your Solutions Specialist can help you navigate your options.

Medical pathways to New Zealand for Australian doctors

For Australian doctors looking to expand their horizons, New Zealand offers an enticing mix of professional opportunities and an enviable lifestyle. The transition for Australian medical practitioners to live and work in New Zealand is relatively streamlined, thanks to reciprocal agreements and similarities in healthcare systems. However, understanding the pathway is crucial for a smooth transition.

Eligibility and registration: The first step for Australian doctors seeking to practice in New Zealand is to get registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ). Fortunately, due to the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement, Australian-trained doctors are often eligible for a straightforward registration process. This agreement recognizes the qualifications and registration status of doctors on both sides of the Tasman, thereby simplifying the accreditation process.

Types of registration: The MCNZ offers different types of registration, depending on the doctor's qualifications, experience, and the nature of their intended work in New Zealand. The most common types are provisional general, general, and vocational registration. Australian doctors with specialist qualifications can apply for vocational registration, which allows them to practice independently in their specialty.

Application process: The application process involves submitting evidence of qualifications, proof of good standing with the Australian Medical Board, and details of medical experience. Depending on the category of registration, additional documentation, such as references or evidence of postgraduate training, may be required. The MCNZ website provides comprehensive guidelines and checklists for applicants.

Medical pathways to New Zealand for IMGs

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 medical 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.

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  • 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.

Working in New Zealand:

New Zealand has a high demand for doctors in both urban and rural areas, with opportunities ranging from general practice to specialised roles in hospitals. The healthcare system in New Zealand is a mix of public and private, and there are opportunities in both sectors.

Working in New Zealand also involves understanding and respecting the unique cultural aspects of healthcare delivery, particularly in relation to the indigenous Māori population. The MCNZ emphasises the importance of cultural competence, and doctors are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and its implications in healthcare.

Besides the professional aspects, living and working in New Zealand offers doctors a chance to experience a different quality of life. Known for its stunning landscapes, outdoor activities, and a more relaxed pace of life, New Zealand is an attractive destination for those looking to balance work with leisure and family time.

For doctors, moving to New Zealand can be a rewarding professional and personal experience. To find out more, register with Medrecruit. Once registered, you’ll be able to see and search for job opportunities, and if it’s the right time for you, we’ll put you in contact with a Solutions Specialist and our in-house doctor immigration specialist.

Together, you’ll be able to discuss your options and take your first steps toward medical registration in New Zealand.

Medrecruit Editorial Team
19 January 2024Article by Medrecruit Editorial TeamMedrecruit Editor