Jan 142011


The Specialist Pathway and General Pathway (e.g- going through the training pathway via gaining general registration then joining a training program) are two different things.


The specialist pathway entails having had previous training from your country AND being recognized by the specialty college (e.g. Royal Australasian College of Surgery/ Physicians/ EM/ GP). Being recognized as a specialist by the various colleges is very difficult, but NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

The steps involved: (from what I have seen with my friends who came here as specialists and have been recognized by the colleges)

1. Obtain a fellowship in one of the hospitals under your speciality. (This is perhaps one of the most important because it allows you to meet the big bosses of the colleges who will ultimately decide if you are comparable to the rest of the graduates in Australia. Fellowships may take 1 or 2 years, but most will be paid work. Some hospitals now require you to pass the AMC MCQ before you can apply (similar to the US where the USMLE step 1 is required).

2. Submit your credentials to the specialty college who will either do one of 2 things:

a. Approve you outright as a comparable specialist but you need to take the specialty boards

b. Ask you to train a bit more (another 1 or 2 years more) but then you still need to take the specialty boards

3. After the specialty college gives you full accreditation, you can then apply for the Specialist Pathway via the AMC.

4. Once you get the Specialist Certificate from the AMC, you can then apply for permanent residency.

This process may take around 3 to 4 years… if everything goes well!

GENERAL PATHWAY  (a.k.a – going through general registration and then applying to a specialist college for further training)

Compared to the specialist pathway, the general pathway involves having to go through the bottom rung (e.g. – junior doctor) and then qualifying for general registration through the AMC and then applying for the specialty of your choice.


  1. Apply for and pass the AMC MCQ and IELTS (all bands above 7.5).
  2. Apply to an Australian hospital and start work as a junior doctor. Being a junior doctor can mean just finished internship (Post-graduate year 2) OR you already have previous training in a specialty and the hospital is accepting you as a registrar in a specialty (commonly medicine and emergency medicine, but people get into surgery and paediatrics as well)
  3. Ask for rotations in Emergency Medicine, Medicine and Surgery – the 3 required specialties for general registration with APHRA.
  4. Pass the AMC Clinicals exam! (It takes 1 to 1.5 years to get a schedule, but some people have passed the AMC clinical exams first before doing the required rotations in number 3 above.
  5. Obtain permanent residency. This may not apply to some of you who might have received your permanent residency through other means.
  6. Apply to the specialty college of your choice. (Most colleges now are asking for full registration, hence this is step 6, but previously, you could apply to the college of physicians and college of emergency medicine before you pass the AMC exams and obtain full registration.) The College of Surgery and College of Anaesthetics require permanent residency. It is one of the first questions on their application.
  7. Pass the specialty primary and then fellowship exams. Some of the colleges only have 1 exam (RACP) some have the primary and fellowship (ACEM).

This process, from passing the AMC exams to becoming a consultant specialist may take around 10 years… or more!

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Jul 302010

You’ve done your AMC MCQ, passed the AMC Clinicals part, and have just finished your core rotations in ED, Surgery and Internal Medicine. Then, you were able to get your full registration status from the National Medical Board of Australia. Congratulations, you are now eligible to apply for permanent residency! (In reality, if you are from one of the competent pathway countries such as the UK, Ireland or US, and you applied to have your general registration certificate, you would have skipped through taking the AMC MCQ, clinicals and even IELTS. -> go straight to applying for a permanent residency).

There are several options in applying for a permanent residency in Queensland – we don’t know exactly how many options there are, and we don’t pretend to be immigration specialists specially if your circumstances are a bit complicated (you have children, you have parents that you want to bring over at the same time, etc). Getting proper and correct advice is always the ideal situation. The options listed here are just 2 of the simple options that you can go through based on our friends’ experiences with applying to attain permanent residency.

First of all, why should you apply for permanent residency anyway? Isn’t your working visa good enough to let work here?

It all depends on your long term plans – if you’re keen on staying and getting accepted into training programs, permanent residency is the best option – most colleges now are requiring you to have permanent residency. If you were really just here to try things out, and eventually go back for further training, then permanent residency isn’t the best option for you because you will be devoting a sizeable amount of money for it.

The second point to getting a permanent residency status is that it allows you to gain medicare status (i.e -be eligible to be treated for universal healthcare) and apply to government grants such as the First Home Owners Grant (FHOG). More importantly, when you apply for a bank loan/ mortgage, having the permanent residency visa status will open doors for you with the amount or percentage that you are eligible to borrow. Many banks will only allow a maximum of 80% of the property value to be loaned (or even lower with some banks) if you do not have permanent residency. Having the permanent residency status will allow you to have 90-95% loans – that means you only have to shell out 5% to 10% of the property value!

Anyway, topics above are a whole book by itself, so we should go on to the options:

Option 1 – Apply directly to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship – www.immi.gov.au. The website has a range of visas that you can apply for. You need to check regularly to the type of permanent residency visa you can apply for because the rules keep on changing. The last change occurred this June 2010. The Australian government changed the Critical Skills Occupations List (CSOL) which doctors with full registration currently belong (and I believe will be apart of for the next 5 years at least). You will need to apply to the General Skilled Migration visa, subclass 175 (Skilled Independent Migrant Visa) http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/175/. You will need to pass a points test to be eligible to apply for this visa. Click the link and have a read on what you need to do. The main question that you will most likely ask is – the GSM subclass 175 visa is “offshore”, but I’m currently in Australia! We know it kinds sounds incredulous, but, that is the immigration ruling – you are considered “offshore” whenever your prior training for your skill was acquired from another country. If you were a medical student here but had a different citizenship prior to medical school, you will be eligible for the “onshore” visas. Anyway, before you lodge your application, make sure you have all your paperwork / certificates ready. They require you to have been assessed, which means you hold the AMC certificate and you are also a holder of the certificate of Full Registration from the National Medical Board of Australia. You should have a valid IELTS certificate as well, in our case we had to take a new IELTS exam because the time lapse from passing the AMC MCQ to passing the AMC Clinicals was about 2 years – by that time plus other factors, we needed a new IELTS exam. It is a pretty straightforward exam, so it shouldn’t be a big problem. There are other paperwork requirements that you will need to pass (such as a police certificate from the Australian Federal Police and the other countries where you have previously worked in). Getting paperwork and certificates together require a lot of attention, even if you do decide to go thru a migration specialist. Most of the work will be done by you anyway so we figured why pay someone 1000 to 2000 dollars to help fill in an application and mail it to us when in fact you do 95% of the work anyway? But, if you need peace of mind for the rest of the 5% work, go for a migration agent. Hopefully, you had complete documentation and everything goes well, you should get a processing number for your visa and a department of immigration agent has contacted you in 4 to 6 weeks to tell you that they have received your paperwork and have begun to process your visa. It may take up to 6 months to get a ruling, and then, because you have an “offshore” visa, you will need to leave Australia and go to an external country with a Australian embassy, and your final processing will be done there. Hence, you will spend a sizeable amount of money because you need to fly out of the country, and spend at least 6 to 8 working days in a foreign country for your visa processing.

Option 2 – The second option is similar to the first in that you will eventually apply through the immigration department but with a slightly different subclass. The second option begins with applying for a State Sponsorship – in Queensland, the website to go to would be http://www.workliveplay.qld.gov.au . The requirements to be eligible to apply for the state nomination can be read at http://www.workliveplay.qld.gov.au/dsdweb/v4/apps/web/content.cfm?id=3800. This nomination will allow you to apply for the General Skilled Migration – Offshore Skilled Sponsored (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 176). The main advantage of getting the state nomination is that it allows for faster processing of your permanent residency. We went through this process and our permanent visas were processed in 4 weeks instead of 6 months! The main disadvantage is that they would ask you to live in Queensland for the next 2 years (not that it’s a bad option really! I love sunny Queensland!) After gaining State Sponsorship, you can now apply through subclass 176. The Queensland Government will forward your application to the immigration department so that you could complete your requirements.

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