FAQs and Extra Information
Below are some of the general questions we’ve been asked, together with additional information, all to do with having a GP Job in Australia.
What formal qualifications do I need to be a GP in Australia?
The RACGP (Royal Australian College of GPs) has recently tightened their rules on who they will accept.
The following is a brief summary. Full details can be found here:
Our full time vacancies in Private or Corporate practice near to the main cities are for “Category 1 doctors”, as determined by the RACGP. The following is our understanding of the current system. Please note that each application is assessed individually, so our advice is just a guide:
If you have MRCGP and you’ve trained in the UK with either a CCT or hold the old JCPTGP certificate or were assessed by PMETB, then you should be a category 1 doctor. If you’ve trained in Ireland and you’re a graduate of the ICGP and hold MICGP membership, then you should also be classed as Category 1. If you’ve trained in New Zealand and you hold Fellowship with The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (FRNZCGP), then you should also be classed as Category 1. (N.B. If you trained in the UK and have either a CEE (Certificate of Equivalent Experience) or you gained MRCGP via IMAP, then you may be classified as Category 2. See the RACGP website for more details or contact us to discuss).
19AB, DWS and non-DWS
19AB is the law which Australia passed in 1996 to restrict the locations where overseas trained doctors (IMGs – International Medical Graduates) can work in Australia. An IMG coming to work in Australia for the first time is subject to a 10 year moratorium on where he or she can work. For these first 10 years, doctors subject to the moratorium need to work in areas designated as District of Workforce Shortage (DWS). GPs not subject to the moratorium are able to work in any area (DWS or non-DWS). By and large, this latter group of doctors is made up of Australian medical graduates and those IMGs who have been released from the Moratorium. There are some exceptions to the restrictions under the 19AB rules:
- if you work in more remote areas, the moratorium may be 7 years.
- if you’ve held prior registration with the AMC, then the Australian authorities may agree to the moratorium start date being the date of your first registration. Hence, if you are returning to Australia more than 10 years after first registration, then you may be able to work in non-DWS areas (this bit of legislation is complex and there may be a requirement to hold permanent residency for this to apply to you – please ask for further advice)
- if your spouse or partner has a profession listed on the Skilled Occupation List (http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/_pdf/sol-schedule1.pdf) and has a job in an area which would not be DWS, then you may be able to obtain an exemption to work in that area.
- there are some other, very specific exemptions which can apply to jobs in the Melbourne area – please contact me for more information: [email protected]
There is an online map showing the current DWS areas:
5 Steps to Registration to Work as a GP in Australia
There are 5 steps – AMC / RACGP / AHPRA /Visas / Medicare number
1) First step is registering with the AMC. The main hurdle in this section is getting all your (original) documents together and getting two sets of notarised copies.
2) Once you’ve sent one set of all your documents to the AMC, they carry out a paperwork check. If everything is in order, they send them on to the RACGP, who in turn, check that you meet their requirements to be a category 1 GP. As well as the documents that were needed by the AMC, the RACGP will ask for: Letter of good standing from the RCGP and a formal offer from your employer. (N.B. the websites say that these documents should be part of the application process to the AMC. However, you only need to send a covering letter saying “documents sent with application to AMC”). See this link:
If all is OK, then they will give you category 1 status as “FELLOWSHIP ad eundum gradum”.
3) This then allows you to apply to the AHPRA (the national health board – a bit like a national version of our PCTs) who will give you actual registration to work as a GP. (N.B. You can start the AHPRA part while the RACGP are signing off the fellowship but they won’t finalise it until the RACGP gives their approval). The AHPRA require you to send them the second set of notarised copies of all your documents. You then get a letter “in principle” from the AHPRA confirming registration, which you use to get your work visa.
4) The work visa you’ll need is a 457, which is sponsored by your employer. Assuming the employer is a registered sponsor, this part takes between two to four weeks. The 457 visa covers your partner / family
5) Once you get to Australia, go to the local AHPRA office to pick up your actual registration document using the “in principle” letter you received earlier. You then need to arrange for a Medicare number, so you can bill Medicare for your work. To do this, you’ll need to visit the practice you’re going to work for to sign the forms and then have them sent off for approval. This stage takes a further 2 weeks.
6) Then you can start work!
Notarising Documents in the UK
You’ll need to send various key documents to the AMC (and then later to the AHPRA). Do not send originals, it is safer to send to notarised (certified) copies. The notarising can be done by a local Notary Public (look up Notary Public in [your town/city] in Google). Alternatively, the Australian Consulate in London can provide this service at a cost of £20 per document, which I think will be less expensive than a local solicitor. See here for more information:
N.B. We have a standard letter of advice on how to go about AMC registration, which we can send to you once you’ve got a job offer
What does “Bulk billing” and “Mixed billing” mean?
GP practices usually bill for each GP appointment. Bulk billing. In practices which accept “bulk bill patients” (the majority now), there is an agreement between the practice and Medicare (the Australian NHS) to allow the practice to bill Medicare for the consultation and / or treatment. In doing this, the practice foregoes some money (bulk bill rates are lower than mixed bill rates) but gains higher patient numbers, a secure cash flow, reduced admin time & debt collection. Mixed billing: the practice will bill (& receive payment from) the patient for 100% of the invoice. The patient then claims a rebate from Medicare.
What is DWS?
DWS stands for District of Workforce Shortage. It is the mechanism by which the Australian Government directs GPs to areas where there are fewer GPs per head of population than other areas. With the exception of Out of Hours and purely private medical services, all vacancies in Australia for doctors newly arriving in Australia are in a DWS area.
The areas covered by DWS change over time. They are listed on this website:
It is important to note that DWS status can be taken away from a practice – even if they haven’t found a suitable doctor. However, if that practice has found a doctor and agreed contracts, it is usually possible to get a DWS extension to allow the doctor time to get AMC registration and visas etc. Also, once you’ve started work in a practice in an area which subsequently loses its DWS status, this will not affect you.
What type of visa do I need?
Usually, you’ll need a 457 visa. This is a temporary long stay visa for skilled employees. This will cover you for up to four years, after which you can apply for another one. If you are coming with family, then the 457 visa covers family members as well. The employer will sponsor you for the visa and we will assist. However, you may need to employ a visa agent if you don’t have time or the inclination for all the form filling. This can cost $2,000 to $3,000. The 457 Visa will allow you to work part time if you want to (and have agreed it with the practice) – there is no requirement to be full time.
Once you’ve started work in Australia, you can apply for Permanent Residency (PR). This is quite quick (6 to 9 months). We strongly recommend you use a registered migration agent to help with this.
Note on applying for PR via the Skilled Occupations list before moving to Australia vs applying for a 457 business visa: Our clients won’t ordinarily consider GPs who are looking to arrange PR via the Skilled Occupations list prior to going to Australia due to the uncertainty and length of time this takes.
How many Australian $ to the UK £?
www.xe.com will give the latest currency rates and is free and very simple to use. Approximately, the Australian dollar will follow the US dollar. Current exchange rate (Dec 2016) is $1.71 to £1.00
I want to come in 6 to 12 months time. Will the employers work that far ahead?
The short answer is that some will, some won’t. It depends on location. In Perth, yes they will. In other areas, it is a bit hit and miss – it depends on how the individual practice and what other candidates are applying.
Do the practices offer any financial help with moving?
Some clients offer help, some don’t. Those that do tend to be the bigger corporately owned practices who are used to helping doctors come from the UK. The smaller, privately owned practices generally don’t have a lot of money available for up front payments (typically a maximum of $10,000). There is a balance in all this though. Any upfront payment made by a surgery is usually set against a reduced % in terms of remuneration. So, the corporates will offer an upfront payment of say $35,000 plus a 60% of takings as remuneration. A privately owned practice might offer a $10,000 up front payment and a 65% of takings. These figures get adjusted according to the length of contract you’re willing to sign (shorter equals less money). Having said all this, there is quite a bit of negotiating to be done and there are no hard and fast rules.
Yes, you’ll need this. It is based on your total billings. A rough guide is: if your billings are $400,000 per year, then the insurance will be $5204. If your billings are up to $500,000 then it becomes $5370.
If you’ve taken your original medical diploma in English, then you don’t need to take a language test. If not, then you will need to have taken one. If you came to the UK via PLAB, then its likely that you took IELTS then and that will be fine (no matter how long ago – you just need to have been working as a doctor in an English speaking country since then though). If you need to take the test, please note that it is Academic IELTS that’s needed and you’ll need a score of at least 7 in all modules. This page on the AMC website will give you more information:
Timescales and start dates:
There is some pressure on vacancies at the moment as there are more candidates looking to go out to Australia. This has meant that employers are more interested in talking to doctors who can come sooner rather than later. However, this depends on location (and to some extent on the employer – corporates are better at looking further ahead than privately owned practices). Our best estimate is the following:
a) Melbourne & Victoria. Employers are often looking for candidates who are available “soon” – usually within 3 months. This means you would need to have already applied to the AMC (though not necessarily to have done the RACGP bit yet).
b) NSW. For Newcastle and rural NSW employers will consider candidates with start dates up to 6 months ahead. There are very few jobs in the Sydney Metropolitan area
c) Brisbane & Queensland. Employers will consider candidates who can start within 4 – 6 months ahead – perhaps a bit longer for specific vacancies
d) Perth and Western Australia. Some employers are willing to consider candidates who are look at start dates 9 months ahead. Others are at 6 months
e) Other areas. There is quite a bit of flexibility still on start dates for outlying areas and places like Tasmania and Darwin
Bearing in mind the time it takes to get AMC & RACGP registration, it is worthwhile getting this started as soon as possible – it will certainly help when talking to employers to be able to say that your documents are in process at the AMC.
How long are the contracts?
Most practices would like you to commit for two years or more. However, 12 month contracts are available in some areas. Please note that the longer the contract you sign up for, the more money they’ll pay you as an upfront payment (and vice versa).
How many hours will I work?
Practices in Australia usually open 6 days a week, and sometimes 7 for up to 12 hours a day. Typically, you will work a 40 hour week, though you may be able to work slightly fewer (32 or 36 hours) by arrangement.
There are locations where you can work part time or just Monday to Friday. (Unfortunately, these options are unlikely to be available in Melbourne or Sydney at the moment)
It is usually best if you can be part of a rota where you will work 1 evening per week and some weekend days, though these hours can be negotiated. This will give you the opportunity to build your own list of patients quickly.
What is the pay like in Australia?
Working out salaries is complex as they are based on a commission of the billings that you do. For instance, you may work on a 50% commission or upwards to a 65% commission.
For lower commissions, you will receive a lump sump, spread over 12-15 months. With higher commissions, this lump sum will be reduced.
Typically, you should be earning $250,000 to $300,000 gross
There is detailed information about pay and the Australian tax system on our Salaries Page.
Holiday pay, sick pay, MDU and superannuation
Unless otherwise stated, employers do not pay for these on top of the deal arranged. For superannuation, you will be expected to put aside a proportion of your income to plan for retirement.
We think it is advisable to take out health insurance for the long term for when you are in Australia as this will give you & your family additional cover to what may be obtained via the Australian Medicare system. For the record though, there is a reciprocal health agreement between Australia and the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Slovenia and Norway. Nationals of these countries can obtain a Medicare card, entitling them to the same levels if health care as Australian citizens. It takes several weeks to get a Medicare card, so initially at least, you’ll need travel insurance for the first few weeks in Australia. Nationals of countries other than those listed above will need long term health insurance. This information applies to spouses / partners of UK nationals. If you are a UK citizen but your spouse / partner is not, then he or she will not be covered by Medicare and will require health insurance
You will normally be taxed as a self-employed contractor. You can put some costs against your gross income and then pay tax on the remainder. Tax rates are less than for the UK (typically just under 35% overall).