These countries are offering the best opportunities to expats in healthcare
Since the pandemic, the demand for experienced health professionals in many countries has increased. Canada, Ireland and Australia are currently offering attractive incentives to welcome expats working in healthcare.
Ø Canada is easing permanent residency for doctors and nurses
Canada plans on welcoming 465,000 new immigrants in 2023. They will mostly be skilled immigrants who can solve the labor shortage. According to Statistics Canada, there are currently 4 vacancies for every unemployed person, which means that there simply aren’t enough workers in the country. These workers include sought-after doctors and nurses. CIC News reports that in September, there were around 136,000 unfilled vacancies in the Canadian healthcare sector.
Health professionals are eligible for Express Entry, a fast track for immigrants in sectors experiencing shortages. However, this pathway used to present hurdles for doctors who are self-employed and do not have a traditional employer-employee relationship or fixed monthly income to submit as part of their application. In September, Sean Fraser, the Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that this hurdle would soon be removed. Doctors should then be able to obtain permanent residency via Express Entry, even as self-employed workers.
Provincial governments are also working hard to attract doctors. The province of British Columbia, for instance, has decided to attract family doctors by removing its fee-for-service system in early 2023. This system allowed doctors to charge only a fixed amount per consultation, irrespective of what ailment they were treating. From 2023, these doctors should be able to charge different fees depending on other factors, like the time spent in one consultation and the complexity of the ailment.
As reported by CBC, the provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba are offering to cover the licensing fees of medical professionals and partly pay for these workers’ childcare, living expenses and transportation. The IEN (Internationally Educated Nurses) program of Manitoba, for instance, welcomes applications from foreign nurses living in Canada, whether on temporary or permanent visas, who wish to receive funding for various costs related to their work and social integration.
Ø Ireland is easing visa requirements and offering relocation packages for health workers
Ireland is experiencing a brain drain of its young people to other EU or English-speaking countries. And like Canada, Ireland is simultaneously experiencing low unemployment rates and a labor shortage, especially in skill sectors like financial services and healthcare. Over 2021 and 2022, the Irish government has been unveiling measure after measure to attract healthcare workers.
In October, the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) announced a generous relocation package for medical professionals moving to the country. This package of over €4000 will cover the flight, initial accommodation (first month), professional licensing and test fees of all expats in healthcare. Their cases are assessed individually, and they may receive higher funding if they are flying from a faraway non-EU country or if they have additional costs like the IELTS (English language proficiency test) or family relocation.
Various health positions have been added to the country’s Critical Skills Employment Permit. This includes general practitioners, pharmacists, paramedics, psychologists, radiographers, dieticians and podiatrists, among others. This permit has various advantages: there is no need to undertake a Labour Market Needs Test to check if an Irish worker could have taken the job, family reunification is rapid and easy, and after 2 years on this permit, an expat can become self-employed in Ireland. To get this permit, foreign healthcare professionals must receive an initial 2-year work contract and be offered at least €64,000 per annum.
Ø Australia offers incentives for foreign health professionals to move to its rural regions
In Australia, the largest state, Victoria, home to the city of Melbourne, offers similar relocation packages as in Ireland. The state’s Department of Health website says that international health workers can benefit from a relocation package if they join the public healthcare system. They receive $10,000 (Australian dollar) if they are moving to a metropolitan area and $13,000 if relocating to a rural region of Victoria.
As reported by the medical recruitment company Wavelength, rural Australia has a severe shortage of doctors and nurses. There is one doctor for every 3,000 patients in rural Australia, as compared to one for every 400 patients in metropolitan areas. This is why international medical specialists are offered a higher relocation package for moving to rural Australia, even if the cost of living there can be lower than in cities. Various health professionals are eligible for this relocation package: GPs, pharmacists, midwives, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, laboratory scientists, and medical officers.
Aged care is one of the sectors facing the direst labor shortages in the country. The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme, which was expanded in April 2022, brings nurses, midwives and healthcare managers from Pacific countries (Timor-Leste, Fiji, Vanuatu, etc.) to work in aged care in rural Australia. They are part of the 35,000 skilled workers Australia wants to welcome every year. In October, the Home Affairs department started speeding up the processing of work visas to reduce the backlog.
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