How to Obtain a Medical License in Spain

Whether you want to explore the beaches of the Balearic Islands, walk the historic streets of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, revel in the exquisite cuisine or simple enjoy a relaxed lifestyle, Spain has it all. With a wonderful weather all year round, an emphasis on work-life balance, and an affordable cost of living, Spain is now considered one of the top countries to live and work for expats.

Getting my specialty medical training recognized in Spain was a much more complicated process than I originally anticipated. In my particular case, I completed medical school in Spain so I only need to “homologate” my specialty training which has taken me a few years. In any case, I am sharing the steps to obtain recognition of medical school and also the medical specialty training

The recognition of the medical school diploma is done through the Ministerio de Educacion whereas the Ministerio de Sanidad takes care of recognizing specialty training. These are two completely independent processes. Importantly, you do have to demonstrate that you are proficient in Spanish, a level of C1 or above.

Medical School Recognition

For those who completed their medical school outside the EU, I would email the Ministerio de Educacion directly to figure out the application requirements.  Typically, you would need to present the following documents:

  • Medical school diploma
  • Medical school transcript
  • Medical School course syllabus

These documents need to be translated to Spanish and the diploma and transcript need a Hague Apostille.

US Medical Students Interested in Completing Residency in Spain

Once the medical school diploma has been recognized by the Ministerio de Educacion, you can choose to do your residency training in Spain. In order to access the residency training,  you need to take the MIR exam (Medico Interno Residente) which is a very competitive exam that takes place once a year and your specialty and location of training are determined based on how you rank on the exam. There are quotas set at 4% for non-EU students, although this percentage can vary it is usually <10%. EU citizens are bundled in with the national students i.e. Spanish nationals.

Recognition of US Specialty Training

For physicians who have already completed their medical training in the US, once your US medical school diploma is recognized, the recognition of the residency training is a lengthy process requiring a significant amount of time and resources. You will need to gather the following documents:

  • Residency diploma
  • Residency rotation schedule and description of rotations
  • US State Medical License
  • US Board certification
  • Letter of Good Standing, typically from state medical board
  • CV

These documents need to be translated to Spanish, notarized, and the diplomas and licenses will need a Hague Apostille.  The documents are submitted to the Ministerio de Sanidad for review, and then the committee will offer a final resolution. In my experience, this process can take a few years, although the process is significantly faster if you trained in an EU country.

In a recent communication with the Ministerio de Sanidad, they shared that they are trying to expedite the recognition of non-EU medical specialties so it is likely that the timeline will improve within the next few years. They also updated their website with this FAQ which provides very helpful information as well as a direct email contact recontitextracom@sanidad.gob.es.

After the medical committee meets, there are 3 possible outcomes; no recognition, a positive  recognition of the residency training after completing a mandatory rotation (for 3 or 9 months) or the recognition of the training after passing a test + mandatory rotation. In order to get a rotation at the local hospital, you will need to contact them directly and if you are accepted you may get a small stipend. The clinical rotation is designed by the hospital on a case by case basis based on your residency training rotations and/or any areas they think you need to improve. Once the rotation and all the other required steps are completed, the Ministerio de Sanidad will expedite the “homologacion de título de especialista”.

Medical License/Registration

Once your specialty training is recognized Then you can apply for medical registration or licensure at the local Colegio de Medicos; here are the Colegio de Medicos for  Madrid and Barcelona.  Each province (provincia) has their own Colegio de Medicos, so you need to register in the place you want to work. After this is complete you can work as a specialized physician in Spain.

Bottom Line

While Spain is one of the best countries in terms of quality of life and culture, getting your medical and specialty training recognized can be challenging and lengthy, on the order of years, even for a native Spanish speaker.  Moving to Spain to practice medicine may be worth it for those who are committed to move and live in Spain long term. Buena suerte!!!  

Dr. Bulbena Cabre is a US trained psychiatrist who is originally from Spain. She trained at New York Medical College, Yale University and at the Icahn school of Medicine at Mount Sinai and works as an attending psychiatrist in NYC. She has applied for her specialty recognition in Spain and hopes to receive final recognition in the coming months. 

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