How to immigrate to Canada as a doctor

Physicians and surgeons are integral to Canada’s healthcare system. The country faces a shortage of trained doctors across many areas of medical expertise, and consequently, the demand for foreign-trained doctors has never been higher. 

Whether you recently completed your medical education abroad or have several years of experience as a doctor, immigrating to Canada can unlock a wide range of opportunities. In this article, we explore immigration programs you can leverage to move to Canada as a doctor, the provincial licensing process, and in-demand jobs for physicians and surgeons in Canada.

In this article:

Reasons to move to Canada as a doctor

As an internationally trained doctor, settling in Canada can be an attractive opportunity for various reasons, including:

Shortage of skilled physicians and surgeons

Canada faces a severe shortage of trained doctors across different specializations. Estimates show that, between 2022-2031, up to 40 per cent of new job openings in medicine may remain unfilled, even with newly graduating physicians and surgeons entering the workforce and experienced doctors immigrating to Canada from abroad. 

High demand for doctors in almost all provinces

Across all Canadian provinces, the 10-year employment outlook for physicians is projected to be good or very good, which means there will be ample job opportunities available for foreign-trained doctors. Medical occupations ranging from surgeons to specialist physicians feature on the in-demand occupations lists of many provinces and both federal and provincial governments are trying to encourage foreign-born doctors to settle and work in Canada.

Scope to earn high salaries or set up a flourishing practice

Doctors employed by hospitals and healthcare centres earn generous salaries in Canada. Many physicians in Canada are self-employed with private practices, and their income is based on a pay-for-service model. Under the pay-for-service model, the doctor gets paid by the provincial healthcare system (and not by the patient) for providing health services. The median income for family physicians in Canada is $216,833 per year, whereas specialist doctors and surgeons earn a median income of $273,510 per year.

Does Canada accept foreign-trained doctors?

Foreign-born doctors are crucial for keeping Canada’s healthcare system running smoothly. Physicians who’ve completed their medical education outside Canada may be eligible for several immigration programs and can establish lucrative careers here.

However, before you can start practicing medicine in Canada, you must get a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC), which usually involves passing a knowledge test, and register with your provincial college of physicians and surgeons. 

Due to the shortage of doctors Canada faces, plans are being made at both the federal and provincial levels to make it easier for international medical graduates to settle in Canada permanently. In mid-2021, the Medical Council of Canada removed one hurdle to physician licensing—the MCCQE II test—and since then, foreign-trained doctors only need to pass one exam to get their LMCC.

Canadian immigration programs for international medical graduates

Foreign residents with the skills and qualifications needed to bridge critical skill gaps, including in the field of medicine, may be eligible to apply for permanent residence (PR) in Canada. There are several immigration programs you can choose from to move to Canada as a foreign-trained doctor.

Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program

The Express Entry Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program allows internationally qualified skilled professionals to move to Canada as permanent residents. Under the FSW program, applicants are invited to apply for PR based on their profile’s Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) rather than occupation. 

Your CRS score is based on factors such as your age, education, work experience, language proficiency, and other factors. You also get extra points if you have a Canadian job offer from a clinic, hospital or other health institution, a provincial nomination (see below section on PNP), or Canadian work experience or educational credentials. In order to get a job offer, you will need to complete your licensing process first. 

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)

All Canadian provinces and territories, except Quebec and Nunavut, have Provincial Nominee Programs that allow them to nominate candidates with in-demand skills and qualifications for permanent residence. 

Several PNP programs have an Express Entry stream where candidates are selected based on CRS scores, but other PNP streams allow provinces to nominate skilled workers in specific professions or National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes to bridge skill gaps in their labour market. You may have a better chance of receiving a provincial nomination from a province that is looking for qualified physicians or surgeons. See the section on in-demand jobs in medicine below for relevant NOC codes for your profession.

Some PNP programs require Canadian work experience in your primary NOC. Depending on your area of specialization, you may be able to get a job offer from a Canadian healthcare centre or hospital and qualify for an employer-specific work permit. Your prospective employer will need to get a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to show that there are no other specialized doctors in your field to fill the role. However, you will need to get your Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) first.

Here are some PNP streams and draws you should keep track of as you prepare to immigrate to Canada as a doctor.

Province  PNP streams for doctors
British Columbia
Alberta
Ontario
Manitoba
  • Skilled Workers in Manitoba: For skilled workers with a full-time job in Manitoba, who’ve been working with that employer for at least six months.
  • Skilled Workers Overseas: For experienced foreign workers with skills needed in the local labour market and an established connection to the province.
Nova Scotia
  • Physician stream: Dedicated stream for general practitioners, family physicians, or specialist physicians (NOC 31100, 31101, 31102) who have an approved offer from the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
  • Nova Scotia Express Entry Labour Market Priorities: For foreign workers in the Express Entry system who meet Nova Scotia’s labour market needs.
  • Skilled Worker Stream: For foreign skilled workers and recent graduates with work experience and a full-time job offer in Nova Scotia.
New Brunswick
Saskatchewan
Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Priority Skills NL: For individuals with work experience in in-demand occupations, and have a high level of education and language ability. Several medical specialists are on the priority occupations list.
  • NL Express Entry Skilled Worker: For qualified candidates with a high-skilled job or job offer from an NL employer.
  • Skilled Worker: For skilled foreign workers with a full-time job offer or ongoing employment in NL.
Prince Edward Island
Northwest Territories
Yukon
  • Yukon Express Entry (YEE): For Express Entry applicants who have a full-time and year-round job offer from an eligible Yukon employer.
  • Skilled Worker: For applicants with a full-time job offer from an eligible Yukon employer in a NOC TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 occupation.
Note Icon  Note: This list is not exhaustive, and depending on your situation, you may qualify for other immigration programs as well.

How to get licensed as a doctor in Canada

Medical occupations are regulated in Canada and you must be licensed by your provincial or territorial regulator before you can work as a physician or surgeon in Canada. You can begin the licensing process online before arriving in Canada. 

Here’s an overview of the registration process for foreign-trained doctors in Canada:

Getting a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC)

A Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) is a qualification in medicine issued by the Medical Council of Canada to medical graduates who meet the eligibility criteria. Once you receive an LMCC, you’ll be enrolled in the Canadian Medical Register. 

It’s important to note the LMCC is NOT a license to practice medicine in Canada. However, you need to complete this step to be eligible for provincial registration.

To be eligible for a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Medical education: You must have graduated from a medical school listed as acceptable in the World Directory of Medical Schools. You’ll need to get your medical credentials, including any postgraduate training credentials, successfully source-verified through the MCC to prove they are valid and equivalent to a Canadian medical credential.
  • Qualifying exam: Applicants must successfully pass the MCCQE Part I examination. This is a one-day exam that assesses your medical knowledge and ability to make clinical decisions. The test is administered online in 80+ countries, so you may be able to complete it before arriving in Canada.
  • Eligible work experience: You must have completed at least 12 months of acceptable postgraduate medical training in your home country.
  • Pay the LMCC application fees

To apply for an LMCC, visit physiciansapply.ca and create an account. Click on Other Service Requests and Apply for LMCC. Follow the instructions provided to create your application and submit your documentation.

Typically, it takes three to four weeks for MCC to review your information and confirm your eligibility for LMCC. After that, it can take an additional six to eight weeks for your LMCC documentation and Certificate of Registration to be mailed to you.

Getting licensed by the provincial college of physicians

The next step is to apply to your provincial regulator for a license to practice. The licensing process for physicians and surgeons varies by province/territory. Different provinces also offer different licence types, ranging from licensing for independent practice to licensing for clinical observership. 

Depending on the province you’re interested in, you may be able to complete all or part of the licensing process from your home country before moving to Canada. We recommend that you review the registration information provided by your college of physicians and surgeons or contact your regional college of physicians (listed below) for a comprehensive overview of the application process.

To be eligible for a licence to practise medicine, you must typically meet the following requirements:

  • Have a valid medical degree and an LMCC from the Medical Council of Canada
  • Have Canadian citizenship, permanent residence, a valid work permit (doctors may qualify for a work permit under certain situations, such as if they completed their medical education in Canada or if their prospective employer can prove that there are no other doctors with a similar level of specialist expertise in Canada), or a certificate of registration authorizing independent or academic practice or postgraduate education
  • Prove proficiency in English (or French) language as required by your regulator

In some provinces, you may need to acquire Canadian work experience in medicine on a provisional licence before qualifying for a licence to practise independently. The requirements for a provisional licence are similar, and you must apply through your provincial or territorial regulator. There may also be other requirements you need to meet, including providing certificates of professional conduct or references and having professional liability coverage before you begin practicing.

Note Icon  Note: British Columbia (B.C.), Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia offer Practice-Ready Assessments (PRA) where candidates work under supervision and are evaluated over a period of 12 weeks with an aim of obtaining an independent licence to practise in Canada. This is the final step in an alternative licensing route. You can only begin your PRA after registering with the provincial college.

In-demand jobs in medicine in Canada

Many provinces and territories in Canada require physicians and surgeons to meet local labour market needs. The shortage of trained medical professionals is expected to continue until at least 2031, even accounting for new medical graduates and foreign physicians immigrating to Canada.

Between 2022 and 2031, it is expected that there will be around 48,900 job openings for general practitioners and family physicians, but only 29,400 new job seekers to fill those roles. Similar trends are expected for surgeons and specialist physicians as well.

According to recent provincial and territorial data, here’s where medical professionals are most in demand in Canada:

National Occupational Classification (NOC) Provinces that have high demand
NOC 31100: Specialists in Clinical and Laboratory Medicine British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island
NOC 31101: Specialists in surgery British Columbia, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador
NOC 31102: General practitioners and family physicians British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Canada’s territories
Note Icon  Note: This list is based on in-demand jobs data published by various provinces and territories and recent PNP draws. Labour market requirements change over time and provinces may prioritize other NOCs where skill shortages are more acute. Read our in-demand jobs in Canada article series for more information on the scope of your occupation, average wages, and more.

How much money do doctors make in Canada?

The average income for medical professionals varies by province, area of expertise, and years of work experience. It also depends on whether you’re employed by a hospital or health care centre or run an independent practice.

According to Canada’s Job Bank, the median annual income for general practitioners and family physicians (NOC 31102) is $216,833, but senior physicians in some parts of Canada can earn upwards of $450,000.

The median income for surgeons (NOC 31101) and specialists in clinical and laboratory medicine (NOC 31100) is $273,510, and their annual earnings may be as high as $550,000.

How to find work in Canada as an international medical graduate

Once you’re authorized to practice medicine in your province or territory, you’ll have the option of either getting a job at a hospital, clinic, or community health centre or starting your private practice.

Establishing a solo practice typically entails a few extra steps, including finding and leasing a location, registering for an independent practice license, applying for Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), setting up your billing, and more. Read Dr. Bill’s New Physicians Guide for tips on setting up a successful practice.

Most foreign-trained doctors start their careers in Canada by working at a hospital or health centre. Although you can find jobs for physicians and surgeons listed on popular job portals like LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, and Glassdoor, there are certain dedicated employment platforms for medical professionals as well. These include: 

As a newcomer, the job search process can be confusing and overwhelming, even if you’re in a high-demand occupation like medicine. Here are some tips to help you navigate the recruitment process and land a suitable job as a physician or surgeon in Canada:

Enhance skills that are in demand in the Canadian job market

The skills Canadian healthcare organizations look for in physicians and surgeons may be different from your home country. For instance, soft skills may be in high demand for family physicians, while surgeons may need to build expertise in specific surgical technologies. 

The easiest way to identify skills gaps and suitable job opportunities is to review job postings for your professional category. Some job descriptions, for instance, may require applicants to have specific certifications or training to work in a particular field of expertise. These can be a good starting point to prepare for the job market.

Craft a Canadian-style resume

Resume formats from your home country may not be well-suited to the Canadian job market. The ideal format for your resume will depend on how much practical medical or surgical experience you have. Many Canadian employers shortlist resumes using an