Summary of Changes to the Registration and Visa system for UK / Irish GPs Going to Australia

There have been quite a few changes to the visa and registration process for UK / Irish GPs looking to move to Australia over the past couple of months – and more to come in September

Here’s a quick summary

Visa certificates: introduced in March, GP practices now need to arrange for a “certificate” if they are going to sponsor you for a visa. The certificates are controlled by the Department of Health and are designed to help direct GPs to more rural practices. So far practices have been able to get them for both outer suburban areas (where there has been a strong need for GPs) and rural areas. Having said that, each application is unique and there aren’t any strict guidelines on whether a practice will get one or not. The procedure is: apply for a job with a practice / have interview. Then, if all OK, the practice asks for a certificate (N.B. this doesn’t cost them anything). If they get one, then they can confirm the job to you. The practice now has 3 months to submit a visa nomination for you. This does cost money, so the practice will be looking for a commitment from you at this point. You then apply for registration etc. Once you have that, then you apply for your side of the visa

District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) / Distribution Priority Area (DPA): Overlaying the visa certificate requirement, the Department of Health has now introduced a replacement to the old District of Workforce Shortage system called “Distribution Priority Area”. First a bit of background. The DWS system was set up originally to direct overseas trained GPs to areas that they considered most in need of GPs, reserving “non-DWS” locations for Aussie-trained GPs and (with a few exceptions) those who had been registered to work in Australia for ten years or more. Broadly, this was the main system used to determine eligibility for a UK / Irish trained GP to work in a particular location. If it was a DWS area, then permission to work there and a visa, would follow.

They’ve replaced the concept of “DWS” GPs with a “distribution priority area”. In principle, it is very similar – directing GPs to areas where they might be most needed. The key change is that the areas where incoming GPs can work has been substantially reduced

In summary:
a. The requirement for a visa certificate affects new arrivals and those GPs who haven’t yet got (or can’t get) PR (permanent residency). It does not apply to GPs who don’t need a visa – ie those who go to Australia as a partner of a visa holder or who have PR / Australian nationality

b. The new Distribution Priority Areas affects all GPs who haven’t yet completed their 10 year moratorium and have got PR. (More background: the 10 year moratorium is based on the date of first registration in Australia and whether you have PR. So, when 10 years are up after your first registration and you have PR, then you are not restricted. Otherwise you are).

RACGP Changes: we’re expecting the RACGP to change their registration process on 1st September. These changes, like those for the visa certificate and DPA, are designed to direct GPs to more rural areas. In brief, the changes says that overseas-trained GPs must work in a rural area for at least 12 month. Their definition of rural is MMM2+ (Modified Monash Model area 2 and above). In practice, this will push out the area where GPs can work from the suburbs to more rural areas. In addition, GPs will need to work for these 12 months under supervision before being granted equivalent status to Australian-trained GPs (ie be given Fellowship of the RACGP). Once the 12 months are up, we believe that overseas-trained GPs will be free to work in DPA areas – as long as the new practice can also get a visa certificate (unless you don’t need one by then). N.B. Most clinics are looking for a 2 year commitment, so it is likely that a more rural clinic, which will proved the necessary supervision etc, will only offer 2 year contracts. There is still time to apply to the RACGP before the Sep 1st deadline and avoid this restriction!

Exceptions to the rules. In the past, there have been exceptions to the rules. For example, if you were a GP going to Australia as a partner to a visa holder, you could get an exemption allowing you to work in a non-DWS area. It would make sense for this type of exemption to be continued so that GPs, who’s partner gets a job (with a visa) in a city suburb, can also work there. However, this will require both the Department of Health to relax their DPA criteria and, from September, for the RACGP to allow overseas trained GPs to work in suburban areas (typically MMM1).

This map shows the new DPA and MMM2+ areas: https://beta.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/health-workforce-locator/health-workforce-locator

Put in the location of interest or click search the map. Then tick the box for distribution priority area and / or MMM2 (n.B. you need the 2019 MMM)

Current active vacancies:

We have vacancies in Adelaide (Gold Grove), Tasmania (Launceston), NSW (near Wagga Wagga), Perth (Byford, Harrisdale & Ellenbrook (though you would need to be going on a partner’s visa for this one)), Hamilton (Victoria, west of Melbourne). N.B. if you need a visa, these vacancies would need to be confirmed via a visa certificate and they are based on you starting your registration prior to Sep 1st

I would strongly recommend Paul Brooks and Monique to GP’s and other relevant health professionals contemplating a move to Australia. After having contacted at least five different agencies dealing with GP’s relocating from the UK to Australia, Monique and Paul Brooks took the top spot in terms of understanding my requirements especially with the type of position my wife and I were looking for, the workings of the Australian Health Care, the paperwork involved, Immigration requirements, adjusting to the Aussie lifestyle etc. Their consistent help throughout the 10-12 month period prior to the move is definitely worth mentioning. They helped us settle on arrival in Australia and made our relocation process a smooth transition, especially as we had no prior local contacts. Now in Australia for a year I could not have entrusted my relocation to a better team. I would give them a 10/10 and wish them immense success in the future.
Dr D. V.