Ultimate Guide to Practicing Medicine in New Zealand

by Dr. Ashwini Bapat

Interested in practicing medicine in New Zealand? Here is a country spotlight to elucidate the process for a US-trained physician. The three key components include registration with the medical council, finding a job, and obtaining a work visa. Once you start clinical practice, there will be a period of supervision – which seems to be more helpful than burdensome –  typically for the first 12 months or for the duration of your stay if staying for less than 12 months.

Registration with the medical council and finding a job can be pursued simultaneously.


Registration with Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ)

US physicians wishing to practice medicine in New Zealand must register with the Medical Council of New Zealand. This incredibly useful registration self assessment will determine the appropriate process for you. The registration process is easier if you are board certified in your specialty by either the US allopathic or osteopathic boards.


Registration pathways:

The  Special Purpose Locum Tenens registration is for physicians looking to work in New Zealand for 12 months of less. It is for individuals who are board certified in their specialty by either the US allopathic or osteopathic boards;  eligible specialties include Anesthesia, Cardiothoracic surgery, Dermatology, Diagnostic & Interventional Radiology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, NeuroSurgery, OB/GYN, Orthopedic Surgery, ENT, Pediatrics, Pediatric Surgery, Palliative Medicine, Pathology, Plastic Surgery, Psychiatry, Radiation Oncology, PM&R, and Urology. At the end of the 12 months or when your contract ends (whichever comes first) the registration will be canceled.

The Vocational Specialist Registration (VOC 3) is for physicians hoping to work in New Zealand for 12 months or more. This process and application is specific for your specialty.

The Comparable Health System Pathway is for individuals who are not board-certified in their specialty and generally involves more involved supervision to progress to VOC3 or Special Purpose Registration.


Finding a Job

You can find a job on your own or through a recruiting agency. The job will require an identified supervisor for your clinical practice to fulfill the above requirements.


On your own:

There are several resources to help you find a job.

The Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) website has plenty of job openings for international doctors. It offers a broad range of opportunities for Senior Medical Officers (doctor’s who have completed training )  in a range of environments from fast-paced metropolitan centers to community-focused healthcare in urban, rural, and remote settings. 

Kiwi Health Jobs advertises all jobs posted to New Zealand’s 20 districts health boards (DHB) and those available by other public, private, and non-profit employers. Alternatively you can search the district health boards directly or the vacancies listed by the New Zealand Medical Journal and New Zealand Doctor.


Recruitment agency:

There are many recruitment agencies that hire US physicians to work in New Zealand. An agency’s fees are typically covered by the hospital – not the physician.

Below you will find our partner recruitment organizations. For complete transparency, some of the organizations are providing a referral award to Hippocratic Adventures which we will use to cover the costs of building, developing, and maintaining this website.  If inquiring with the organization, please mention that you are with Hippocratic Adventures and you will help to support our community.

STAT Recruitment established by a doctor, has been connecting US physicians, across all specialties, to job opportunities in New Zealand and Australia for more than 20 years. As a preferred supplier to New Zealand’s 20 District Health Boards and on various tenders throughout Australia, they have strong relationships with hospitals and healthcare providers and see the recruitment process as a partnership, ensuring they find the right position for you. Their extensive experience will guide you through the process of registration and immigration.

Head Medical is a leading specialist in international medical recruitment, having helped 1,000s of physicians find new roles in amazing locations including UK,  Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, the Gulf, Canada and Caribbean.  So, if you think you might be interested in a new challenge and a change of scene, please get in touch for a chat with one of their recruitment specialists. Their expert team will support you with your licensing and immigration paperwork and provide practical advice to ensure your relocation goes as smoothly as possible.

Origin Medical Recruitment has over 10 years’ experience in successfully helping doctors from the US and elsewhere come to work in New Zealand, Origin is one of the preferred suppliers to the 20 District Health Boards. Their objective is to help you and your family have the best experience possible by taking all the stress and complication out of the medical council, immigration and logistical steps needed to work in New Zealand. There is zero cost to doctors in using Origin’s services, so please get in touch today and they’ll be delighted to assist you.

NZDr is a New Zealand owned and operated specialist medical recruitment agency. They are one of several preferred suppliers to all 20 District Health Boards and recruit Hospital Specialists and GP’s across New Zealand. NZDr assists with finding the role and location that is right for you, be it Locums, Permanent or a Fixed Term contract. They provide a tailored vacancy search, guidance through the Medical Council registration process and manage the immigration process through their own in-house licensed immigration advisor.


Salary & Work Culture

The standard work week for a general practitioner ranges from 32-40 hours per week and anything above it is typically compensated as overtime. The annual salary (in NZ dollars) varies with type of practice, seniority, and location –  a resident salary is around $100,000 (yes, a resident salary), a general practitioner salary is around $180,000, and a specialist salary is around $200,000 – 300,000.

Importantly, New Zealand has a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) for physicians who work for the District Health Board. The MECA is a standard contract, which does not vary based on location, and includes standard salary steps,  annual leave, employment benefits, etc. The base salary is calculated by the year in which you passed your boards and is the same for all specialties. For more information check out Answering 15 Common Questions about Moving to New Zealand

The salary for a permanent or fixed term position isn’t affected if a recruitment agency is involved as compensation is typically based on experience. A job package could also include a stipend for costs related to relocation, housing, and car rental.



You need a job offer before applying for a visa and you need to be eligible for registration or registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand. There is a shortage of healthcare providers in New Zealand and you can explore various visa options here.

We recently contacted Martin King, a licensed immigration adviser at NZDr for his expertise regarding physician immigration to New Zealand. He shared that: 

“There are various visa options available dependent upon your length of stay and other personal requirements:

There are 2 main categories of visa, Temporary such as Work and Study visas which are appropriate for a specific purpose and finite period of time and Residence visas which provide a longer term or permanent option. All visa options require an offer of employment and approval of the appropriate medical registration enabling the work to be undertaken.

Work visas are issued in keeping with the duration of the work contract up to a maximum of 5 years. Partners can be issued with their own work visa that permits employment with any employer, school aged dependents under 20 can be granted student visas to attend school and they have domestic student status.

Residence can be applied for through the straight to residence pathway. This is a fast-track process for those with the highest-demand skills, including all Physicians. All immediate family (partner and dependents) are included in the one application. Dependents up to age 24 can be included as long as they meet the dependency requirements.

All applicants for all visa types must meet health and character requirements. It’s advisable to complete a visa eligibility check with an immigration adviser before proceeding, particularly if there is any health matter. “

Want to check your eligibility for a visa? Email Martin King from NZDr for your FREE eligibility check – no obligations, no strings attached. 


Additional Resources

We have partnered with ExpatMD, a full service consulting company that can help you transition to Australia or New Zealand. Mention Hippocratic Adventures for a 10% discount on their services. They can help with navigating the medical licensing system, job search, interview preparation, application assistance for Board Certification, CV and cover letter writing, and relocation assistance. They are comprised of  American doctors, with over 10 years experience of living and working in both New Zealand and Australia. Here is the affiliate link for the ExpatMD book (proceeds support the development and maintenance of this website)

Bottom Line

A US-trained physician can practice medicine in New Zealand without repeating residency. This process can take 3-6 months and requires a bit of paperwork. But at the end of it all imagine yourself spending the weekend hiking from hut to hut, soaking in a natural hot spring, learning about the Maori culture, and eating a meat (or veggie) pie! Worth it?


Dr. Ashwini Bapat is a palliative care physician, Founder and CEO of EpioneMD, which provides virtual advanced care planning and serious illness coaching to individuals and telepalliative care consultation to healthcare organizations. She resides in Portugal.

For a personalized approach to moving to New Zealand learn more about how our Guidance Service can help. 

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