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Canada doctor shortages

Canada doctor shortages – immigration opportunity for foreign-trained doctors


Canada doctor shortages is a crisis

Canada is facing severe labour shortages in the healthcare sector. In early 2022, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) alerted that the need for more healthcare workers in the country is at a critical point. The CMA warned:

“Two years into the pandemic, organizations representing health workers across the country are sounding the alarm that Canada’s health care system is collapsing.

Without immediate action, there is little to hope for in the future. While Canadians are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and public health measures are being loosened, the same cannot be said for health workers. 

On top of severe exhaustion and burnout from working through two years of COVID-19, healthcare workers now face both massive system backlogs and a shortage of colleagues to cope with demands.”

See also Record high Canada job vacancies in healthcare and social assistance sectors

Accordingly, Canada is aggressively looking to foreign-educated doctors to help fill part of the healthcare labour shortages.

To facilitate this, Canada has been actively improving healthcare workers immigration and foreign credential recognition. These improvements include creating more residencies for international medical school graduates.

Canada immigration opportunities & challenges

Canada’s healthcare labour shortages present tremendous opportunities for foreign-trained doctors to work in Canada and transition to permanent residence and citizenship.

Foreign-trained doctors can now participate in Express Entry system

In September, Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser announced changes to the express entry system to boost the number of foreign-trained doctors who want to come to Canada. Fraser said that doctors would receive an exemption to allow them to apply for the federal express entry system.

Previously, Express Entry was not available to foreign doctors because it isn’t open to people who are self-employed. Because many doctors work using a fee-for-service model, they were precluded from being able to apply for the express entry system.

Canada uses the Express Entry immigration pool draws system to manage permanent residence (PR) applications. It is the most popular way to immigrate to Canada.

Typically, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conducts Express Entry immigration pool draws approximately every two weeks.

In each draw, IRCC issues candidates from the Express Entry immigration pool an Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for Canadian PR. Importantly, only a limited number of candidates with the highest Comprehensive Ranking System scores in the pool get ITAs.

After IRCC approves your application and you complete the landing process, you will officially become a Canadian permanent resident.

Fraser said he expects foreign-trained doctors would generally score high in the system now that they have access. It is open to people who are temporarily in Canada now and those working outside the country who wish to come here.

“We’re going to be sending a signal to the world that we want you to come to Canada and we want you to know that you’ve got a pathway to permanent residency that is much faster than many economies around the world.”

You can check any Express Entry draw here at Canada Express Entry draws – Latest Report.

Recognition of foreign-trained doctors credentials

Before a foreign-trained physician can practice in Canada, they must have their qualifications recognized by the appropriate Canadian bodies.

Canada’s federal and provincial governments have identified credential recognition as a challenge to foreign-trained doctors who desire to work and settle in Canada. Credential recognition and/or finding timely ways to get their credentials upgraded to Canada requirements (re-credentialling) is a known challenge.

In Canada, regulation and licensing to practise medicine happens at the provincial level. The federal government is encouraging the provincial governments to improve the process by offering funding to help with the work. The last federal budget included $115 million for that effort.

And in June 2022, Canada announced a $1.5 million project to help foreign healthcare workers get their credentials assessed and recognized in Canada.

Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to the Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, said this will help foreign healthcare workers fill important jobs in Canada.

The key aims of the project include:

  • identifying problems that foreign health care workers face in getting credentials recognition
  • speeding up the process of credential recognition and removing barriers to working in the health care sector; and also
  • making policy recommendations to address foreign health care workers concerns and issues

In April 2022, Canada’s province of British Columbia (BC) also announced recruiting foreign health care workers with $12 million funding. The is to recruit foreign health care workers by making it easier – and cheaper – for Canada to recognize their credentials.

BC will provide $9 million in bursaries to help foreign-trained nurses pay for credential assessment fees. That will benefit about 1,500 nurses in the first year alone.

Those bursaries will range from $1,500 to $16,000, depending on the credential assessment or upgrading.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia recently announced changes to streamline the process of evaluating foreign-trained doctors. Other provinces are also working on that effort.

See also:

Canadian medical residency requirements

A major hurdle for foreign medical graduates to practicing medicine in Canada is the lack of residency spots.

In response to the health-care crisis, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and the Ontario Fairness Commissioner, have all recommended increasing access for internationally educated physicians (IEPs) and expanding residency positions for IEPs.

Foreign nationals aspiring to practice medicine in Canada must get a medical degree from a school accredited by Canada. You can see if your medical school is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools. Find your school in that online directory for “Canada Note”. This means medical degrees obtained from this medical school are acceptable to the provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities and all medical organizations in Canada.

The newly-graduated doctor must then pass the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part 1 exam. They must also pass the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) Examination, which assesses their readiness for a Canadian residency program.

After that, the foreign-trained doctor has to apply for a Canadian work permit with the IRCC and apply for a post-graduate residency spot through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). CaRMS is the national organization that matches medical school students with postgraduate training residencies accross Canada.

Foreign-trained doctors who succeed in obtaining residency spots will then be supervised by a Canadian medical school for at least two years. After that they will take their certification exam in family medicine and getting their certification to join the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC).

The final step is for the foreign-trained doctor to apply for a license from a provincial or territorial medical regulator to practice family medicine there.

Canada doctor shortages – Quick facts from IRCC

  • IRCC continues to prioritize temporary resident work permit applications for essential workers in health care.
  • In 2022, IRCC has accepted over 8,600 temporary and permanent resident applications from foreign nationals intending to work in the health sector.
  • In 2021, IRCC approved work permit and work permit extension applications for over 2,500 specialized physicians, 620 nurses, and 550 nurses’ aides and orderlies.
  • Since 2015, over 22,400 people, including nearly just over 3,600 physicians and 8,600 nurses, became permanent residents through Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program.
  • Economic programs under Express Entry for physicians include, the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Canadian experience class.
  • As of June 2022, approximately 4,300 permanent residents were admitted under the health care streams of the time-limited Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Pathway.
  • The Government of Canada is seeking to build on the success of Express Entry to better respond to a range of evolving economic needs and priorities, including through legislative changes introduced in Bill C-19. The provisions came into force upon Royal Assent on June 23 and will be fully implemented following changes to internal IT systems.