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 are registered annually, and over 17,000 registered doctors are practising in New Zealand. More than 40 per cent have trained overseas 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.

How to work as a foreign doctor in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, doctors who received their qualifications overseas are often known as International Medical Graduates (IMGs). You’ll usually see this term here and on official government documentation.

Suppose you are a doctor looking to immigrate to New Zealand. In that case, 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.

Suppose you are not yet a specialist, have completed your medical training in a country outside the UK or Ireland, and are looking to work as a doctor in New Zealand. In that case, 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 proper credentials, the Special Purpose – Locum Tenens pathway is an excellent 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 recognises doctors' qualifications and registration status on both sides of the Tasman, simplifying the accreditation process.

Types of registration: The MCNZ offers different registration types, 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. Additional documentation, such as references or evidence of postgraduate training, may be required depending on the registration category. The MCNZ website provides comprehensive guidelines and checklists for applicants.

Medical pathways to New Zealand for international medical graduates

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 paths consider a combination of qualifications and experience. All pathways require overseas doctors to complete a supervised practice period; 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 their Medical Degree and Internship training in the UK or Ireland are eligible for medical registration via this pathway. Suppose a UK or Irish grad has completed an internship in another country. In that case, they can apply to the Medical Council for recognition of that internship and the potential to be considered eligible for this pathway. To apply for this role, applicants must have a job offer from a New Zealand hospital and complete six months of supervised practice.

  • Comparable Healthcare System pathway: The Medical Council have designated twenty-four healthcare systems comparable to New Zealand's. If an applicant has worked thirty-three out of the last forty-eight months in a similar 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 to gain complete registration.

Working in New Zealand:

New Zealand has a high demand for doctors in both urban and rural areas. Opportunities range 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 with the indigenous Māori population. The MCNZ emphasises the importance of cultural competence, and doctors are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and its implications in healthcare.

What's the lifestyle like in New Zealand?

New Zealand offers a compelling lifestyle that attracts many international medical graduates seeking both professional opportunities and personal fulfillment. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, from majestic mountains to stunning coastlines, New Zealand provides a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Activities like hiking, skiing, and water sports are easily accessible, enhancing the work-life balance for medical professionals.

The country is celebrated for its relaxed pace of life and friendly, inclusive communities. Cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch offer vibrant urban environments with rich cultural scenes, excellent cafes, and a thriving arts community. For those preferring quieter, rural settings, places like the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay offer a slower pace of life amidst beautiful natural surroundings.

Safety and a high standard of living are pillars of New Zealand society, making it an ideal place for families. The healthcare system is robust, with three medical schools and investments in medical technology that allow for scope of practice and opportunities for professional growth and development.

How a medical recruitment agency can support IMGs

A medical recruitment agency, like Medrecruit, supports International Medical Graduates (IMGs) as they navigate the complexities of transitioning to a new healthcare system. We provide personalised guidance on registration and licensing processes, demystify the paperwork and compliance requirements specific to different countries, and ensure IMGs meet all regulatory standards.

We have extensive networks and partnerships with healthcare facilities, giving IMGs access to many job opportunities that may be private. We also match IMGs with roles that suit their skills and career aspirations, providing support throughout the job application process, from CV preparation to interview coaching.

Beyond placement, we often offer settlement assistance, helping IMGs with practical aspects of relocation such as finding housing, understanding local culture, and connecting with community resources, making the transition smoother and more comfortable.

Moving to New Zealand can be a rewarding professional and personal experience for doctors. 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 can 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