Potential threat to 457 working visas for GPs going to work in Australia

The RACGP has recently published their consultation on Skilled Migration Occupation Lists (the jargon term for which type of skilled person is eligible for an Australian work visas).

They’ve asked that overseas-trained GPs be taken off the medium and long term shortage list (MLTSSL) – from January 2018. (The MLTSSL is the “best” list to be on as it gives access to both long term work visas and the option of Permanent Residency. The other list, the short-term shortage occupation list (STSOL) is there to give work visas for occupations / skills where Australia thinks it will become self-sufficient in the next few years. These visas will be available for 2 to 4 years and holders will not be eligible for Permanent Residency or further on-going work visas.

We think that this is very unlikely to be implemented in January – time is very short for anything to be changed and such a quick change would severely impact GP provision across the country.

However, it is possible that GPs will be moved from the MLTSSL to the short term occupation list (STSOL) at the next review date in July 2018 or in January 2019. If that does happen and GPs go onto just the STSOL, then, while UK GPs will still be able to work in Australia, it would only be for up to 4 years

The RACGP arguments look to be more in favour of supporting the existing Australian-trained GP cohort working in cities than in ensuring that Australian patients have adequate GP cover. The visa agent we work with is of the view that the RACGP may be putting pressure on the government to increase funding for GP training within Australia.

What’s more they look to have based their case on the potential oversupply of doctors by 2025. It is, in our view, completely wrong to ask for GPs to be moved to the short term shortage list (with a 2 year time horizon) on the basis of an oversupply 7 years hence.

One key figure which the RACGP has not included in their submission: the number of overseas trained GPs that they have registered as Category 1 GPs (ie as equivalent to an Australian trained GP) was 1,848 in the seven years from January 2010 to November 2016 – 264 per year. This is both a very small proportion of the approximately 90,000 457 visas issued each year and a small proportion of the number of GPs in Australia (35,000).

Just to note: there are still a significant number of vacancies for GPs in and around the major cities. These vacancies are with practices reporting high patient demand with them turning patients away. More information on vacancies here: http://www.gpjobsinaustralia.co.uk/

Our view: At some point GPs will move from the medium & long term shortage list to the short term shortage list. It is doubtful they will do this in 2018 (either in the January or July 2018 changes) – there are still a relatively high number of GP vacancies across the country and such a change at short notice would directly impact their financial viability. However, as we get into 2019, it looks as if it will become more likely.

Our advice: if you’re in the process of registering with the aim of getting your visa / starting work in early 2017, then we think you should just carry on. If you are looking to take a job in Australia at some point in 2018, then if you can arrange to get registered and your visa in the first half of 2018, then you should do so. If you can’t begin your registration until the second half of 2018, then you should still be OK to make plans and talk to practices on the basis of getting a long term work visa. If you are looking to obtain a visa from early 2019, then please be aware that there is a chance that you may be limited to a maximum of 4 years work.

This is the link to the RACGP document: https://www.racgp.org.au/download/Documents/Reports/Submission-Removal-of-General-Practitioner-from-the-MLTSSL.pdf



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