How To Become A Doctor In Canada From Another Country

Everywhere in the world, there is a demand for health care workers. As Canada continues to experience problems associated with an ageing population, more and more physicians are needed.

For this reason, Canada’s immigration programs have been opened to doctors. In particular, the Express Entry System’s Federal Skilled Worker Program allows physicians to apply for permanent residence in Canada.

Like many economic immigrants, physicians trained overseas deem Canada an ideal destination to start a new life. They wish to take everything they have learned about medicine in hopes of contributing to Canada.

Perhaps, you are a trained physician who is now a permanent resident of Canada. If you want to be a doctor in Canada despite being trained overseas, read on.

This article will tell you how to be licensed in Canada as a foreign-trained physician.

Being An International Medical Graduate (IMG) In Canada

Physicians who received medical training outside Canada are international medical graduates (IMGs). International medical graduates typically possess medical degrees in their respective countries. As well, physicians with clinical experience outside Canada fall under this category.

At times, even Canadian citizens emigrate to earn their medical credentials elsewhere (i.e. outside Canada). Hence, IMGs are not always foreign nationals. They may also be Canadian citizens who earned their medical degrees or licenses outside Canada.

In summary, an IMG:

  • earned a medical degree outside Canada
  • may have a license valid in his or her own country
  • might have clinical experience as a physician
  • may be a Canadian citizen who earned his or her medical degree or license outside Canada

Medical Practice In Canada

medical practice in canada

By law, a medical degree does not automatically qualify an IMG to practice medicine in Canada. Nor does a license or specialty make one eligible to be a physician in Canada.

Medicine in Canada is a health care profession like pharmacy and nursing. As with other health care professions, being a doctor is highly-regulated. Physicians may only practise medicine in Canada after licensure and registration.

As an IMG, you need to undergo a series of credential evaluations as well as tests. When it comes to credential evaluation, you will need to submit nearly the same quantity of documents for your immigration application.

What Tests Do IMGs Need To Take?

As mentioned earlier, you need to take certain examinations to either get into medical school in Canada or apply for residency or clerkship.

As an IMG, you also need to meet the requirements of your provincial health authority. 

Medical Credential Submission

Physicians Apply Canada is an online portal for IMGs to register for the necessary tests. It is account-based like the site of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). You have to create an online account through which you could submit or upload your credentials.

Testing And Assessment

The site mentioned earlier is run by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC). The Medical Council of Canada is one of the regulatory bodies for medical practice in Canada. Another national regulatory body for medicine is The Royal College Of Physicians And Surgeons Of Canada.

Apart from provincial medical exams, you need to take the following:

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

Some IMGs choose to “top-up” their medical education with additional medical training in Canada.

IMGs who want to attend medical school for this purpose need to take the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT. The test is available internationally. You could also sit in for it in Canada as well as the U.S.

To register, visit this site.  

Again, this is for IMGs who wish to attend medical school again for additional training.

Medical Council Of Canada Qualifying Examination Part 1 (MCCQE Part 1)

One of the requirements for IMGs is The Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part 1. It was launched in 2018. In the past, the test was administered in Canada. As of 2019, the MCC has made the test available internationally. It is one of the required tests for IMGs.

National Assessment Collaboration Practice Readiness Assessment (NAC PRA)

IMGs also need to undergo the National Assessment Collaboration Practice Readiness Assessment (NAC PRA). This, too, is by the MCC. Unlike the MCCQE, this is administered at the provincial level.

The NAC PRA is offered in seven provinces. It is designed to provide assessors 12 weeks to evaluate IMGs in a clinical setting. At the end of 12 weeks, applicants need to render medical service to rural communities.

Royal College Of Physicians And Surgeons Of Canada Exam

The medical examinations of the MCC are for IMGs who want to be general practitioners or family doctors in Canada.

For medical specialists, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons has its own examination.

A pre-requisite for the examination is licensure from the provincial health authority of your province.

Steps To Medical Residency In Canada

For many IMGs, medical residency in Canada is the most viable way to a medical license.

Unlike getting a license for specialized medical practice, applying for medical residency does not require 12 months to 24 months of post-graduate experience. Many IMGs do not have this wealth of experience in Canada at the time of their application, anyway. 

Post-graduate experience of less than a year makes you eligible enough to apply for residency- even if your experience is outside Canada.

Even IMGs with absolutely no recent experience are eligible to apply.  

Step 1: Pass Your IELTS, MCCQE Part 1, NAC PAR

In the IELTS (academic), no score should be below 7.0.

The MCCQE and NAC PAR have their respective fees. For the MCCQE, you need to pay around 1,105.00 CAD. At the time of writing, the NAC PAR costs 2,470.00 CAD.

Step 2: Participate In “The Match”

Once you have passed the necessary tests, you should apply for residency.

To apply for residency, you must do so through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). The service allows both IMGs and medical graduates of Canada to select the residency programs in provinces in which to have medical residency.

You need to create your online account with the CaRMS, upload your credentials (that means your test results and medical credentials), then apply to different provinces.

By the way, you may want to apply for more than one province.

Step 3: Wait For An Interview

Once a provincial health authority or health institution selects your profile, you will be called for an interview.

Pass the interview and you will be accepted for the provincial authority’s training pool.

Step 4: Rank Your Preferred Province Or Program

This is why it is a good idea to select more than one province or program.

Those that make the top of your list are the residency programs with which you could be “matched”.

Step 5: Get Assessed For Four To Six Weeks

Different provinces have different assessment periods. Typically, the assessment period takes four to six weeks.

For four to six weeks, your performance in a clinical setting will be assessed. If your clinical evaluation is satisfactory, you will be accepted for medical residency.

Are There Provinces That Are “Easier” For Medical Residency?

Through the use of bridging programs, some provinces in Canada shorten the time between application and medical licensure for IMGs.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is well-known for being one of the easiest provinces for IMGs to practice medicine. The Maritime province currently has two programs for IMGs.

One program is the IMG Bridging Program. Through it, IMGs could access resources and support to easily be licensed as physicians (GPs) in Nova Scotia.

Another program is Dalhousie University’s Med 3 Clerkship Opportunities For IMGs Program. This is a clerkship program that prepares IMGs for residency in Nova Scotia. Successful graduates of the program enter the first round of CaRMS matching.


Administered by the University of Manitoba, the Medical Licensure Program For IMGs Program provides IMGs assistance to pursue licensure in Manitoba.


IMGs only need to meet certain criteria to qualify for the province’s bridging program. One of the eligibility requirements is your school’s FAIMER membership. To see if your school is a FAIMER member, you could check here.

Saskatchewan has the Saskatchewan International Physician Practice Assessment (SIPPA). It is a 12-week assessment program that allows successful candidates to practice family medicine in the province.

British Columbia

Many IMGs practiced as full-fledged physicians in their home countries. Hence, many take issue with practicing medicine under supervision.

If you do not mind the added supervision, perhaps BC could be your province.

BC is one of the few provinces that issue IMGs provisional medical licenses. Provisional medical licenses allow IMGs to practise medicine. However, medical practice under a provisional license has limits.

To learn more about provisional medical practice in BC, visit this site.

What Discourages IMGs From Pursuing Medicine In Canada

You must have heard stories of doctors from the Philippines, India, or Sri Lanka taking on other jobs. Some work as taxi drivers in Ontario. Others are cashiers and clerks (not the medical kind) in department stores.

Here are two possible reasons why this happens:

The Costs And Time Of Applying For Residency

pursuing medicine in canada can be time consuming and expensive

Being a doctor outside one’s home country can be expensive. This is true if you come to Canada.

The fees for tests like the MCCQE costs hundreds of dollars. It is worth more than the Express Entry processing fee. As well, additional medical assessments cost at least 1,500.00 CAD.  

Add these to your living costs and you will see the high costs of being a doctor in Canada. For those who decide to take additional training, the costs could be even higher.

With limited finances, many IMGs try to work other jobs and save to apply for their medical residency and licensure.

The Competitiveness Of Applying For Residency

In most Canadian provinces, residency programs open very few spots for residency. With thousands of IMGs vying for residency, there is so much competition for limited spots.

Also, IMGs do not just compete with other IMGs. They would also have to compete with medical graduates of Canadian medical schools.

The provinces mentioned in the previous section open residency slots specifically for IMGs. Most provinces do not do this.


Canada needs more doctors.

Indeed, being one in Canada takes much time and resources on your part. This has discouraged many IMGs from being doctors in Canada.

However, if you pursue your goal of being a physician in Canada with the same degree of persistence you had in your country, that goal will be within reach.

With patience and persistence, you could be a licensed physician in Canada- just like thousands of other immigrant physicians who came before you.

Choose Canada Magazine

Each member of our team at Choose Canada Magazine has been in Canada for over five years, and has helped dozens of people worldwide find their life in Canada.

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