Australian work visa restrictions to affect UK doctors

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UK doctors may face tighter Australian work visa restrictions if they plan to move down under because Australia is trying to reduce levels of immigration of foreign doctors. The Australian government looks set to remove a number of medical professions from an approved list of occupations that make foreign nationals eligible for work visas and permanent residency.  Australian visa categories used by overseas doctors include the Temporary Business 457 work visa and Training and Research 402 Visa. It may also be worth considering permanent skilled immigration visas such as the Skilled Independent 189 visa and Skilled Nominated 190 visa.

According to a report published by ITV news, the job roles that the Australian government is planning to exclude from the list include:

  • Anaesthetists
  • Cardiologists
  • General practitioners
  • Gynaecologists
  • Intensive care specialists
  • Paediatricians

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) claims that the country has access to plenty of trained, ‘home-grown’ doctors to fill roles because of a ‘training boom’, which has increased the number of medical graduates by 50 percent over the last 12 years.

Australian Immigration Skilled occupations list

Dr Michael Gannon, president of the AMA, said: “Because of the growth in medical workforce numbers in Australia, a number of medical occupations are proposed for removal from the skilled occupations list.

We do not expect that this will have a big impact as there will still be other visa options available. However, it is the first sign that we are overcoming medical workforce shortages and are less reliant on international recruitment.”

According to Dr Gannon, despite doctor numbers being ‘in balance’, the way in which medical professionals are dispersed across Australia has meant that some specialities have are short of numbers.

Gannon said: “International medical graduates looking to come to Australia need to know that job opportunities are limited, often confined to short-term roles or areas of medical workforce shortage like rural locations.”

Increase in Number of UK doctors working in Australia on visas

5,494 certificates have already been issued by the General Medical Council in Britain this year alone, demonstrating fitness to practice for doctors seeking to work overseas. Approximately 1, 829 of the 5,494 certificates were given to doctors looking to work in Australia.

The most recent data available reveals that 7,528 UK doctors were working in Australia in 2014, compared to 6,721 in 2013.

In October, UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt, vowed to ‘end the NHS’ dependence on foreign doctors by increasing the numbers trained in medical schools by 25 percent. Additionally, he stated that newly qualified doctors would have to commit to working for the NHS for a minimum of four years following graduation.

History of UK doctors heading to Australia

In November 2015, reported that more UK doctors were moving down under on Australian skilled immigration visas such as the employer sponsored Australian 190 visa, skilled independent 189 visa and temporary work visa, the 457 visa.

At the time, a report published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that Australia was in need of at least 26,500 new doctors plus 47,700 new nurses.

However, the AMA claims that there is no longer a need for so many overseas doctors. UK doctors may in future find it more difficult to benefit from Australian salary rates which can be up to 50 percent higher than UK rates and likely shorter working hours in Australia.

Meanwhile, the Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, stated that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could potentially make Tier 2 immigration easier for Australians. However, it remains uncertain whether UK immigration requirements for Australia will be relaxed.

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