IMG Secrets

How Long Does It Take To Be a Licensed Doctor in Canada?

Obtaining a medical license can vary significantly, ranging from 2 years to 9 years or more, depending on your background and the specialization you desire. 

With regard to this matter, I would like to share my perspective, taking into consideration three crucial factors regarding how you enter Canada:

  • Residency
  • Province-based specialization
  • Royal College pathway

Let’s jump to find out more. 

How Long Does It Take To Get a License as an IMG Through Residency?

To obtain a license in Canada as an International Medical Graduate (IMG) through residency, several steps need to be followed. I am giving you a high level overview. 

Based on my experience with IMGs, the best-case scenario is that this entire process typically takes around two to three years. Afterward, you can pursue your desired residency program. For instance, if you choose Family Medicine Residency, the duration of the residency would be two years. Hence, in total, you can expect to obtain your license within a span of approximately five years. Of course, there are IMGs who take more and also who take less.

How Long Is Residency in Canada?

IMGs embark on their journey into the R-1 Royal College program through residency, which varies in duration based on the chosen specialization. Residencies can range from 2 to 6 years in length. To provide clarity, here’s a comprehensive list of residencies along with their respective durations. 

[table id=38 /]

It’s worth noting that if an IMG opts for sub-specialization training, additional years will be added to the overall training program. 

For example, anesthesia residency is 5 years long. A super specialization in Pediatric Anesthesia would take one more year after anesthesia residency for a total of 6 years. 

How Long Does It Take To Get a License as an IMG Through Province Based Specialist Path?

If an individual chooses to pursue the province-based specialist pathway, the most favorable outcome would involve them undertaking a clinical fellowship lasting two to three years. 

Consider a scenario where they spend three years in fellowship and subsequently secure employment as a consultant through the province-based specialist pathway. The hospital would grant them a generous timeframe of 7 years to complete all the necessary requirements before their license becomes unrestricted. Consequently, the best-case scenario for an IMG to obtain a full license via the province-based specialist pathway spans a duration of 10 years. 

Although this timeframe may appear lengthy, it’s important to note that during this period, the IMG would be working as a consultant, receiving compensation accordingly, and would not be required to repeat the entire residency program.

How Long Does It Take To Get a License as an IMG Through Royal College Pathway?

Lastly, let’s discuss the Royal College pathway for IMGs. In this pathway, certain IMGs who have received training in specific countries are granted direct eligibility by the Royal College to take the certification exam. They are given a maximum of five years to obtain the Royal College certification. 

Based on my experience, IMGs following the Royal College approved jurisdiction route have typically achieved certification within one to two years. This represents the most favorable outcome in Canada. However, it’s important to note that these individuals have already completed their postgraduate or residency training in other countries before moving to Canada. When factoring in the duration of their residency training abroad, the overall timeline would still range from seven to ten years or longer, depending on their chosen specialization. It’s crucial to keep in mind that these estimates may vary based on the specific field of specialization, but overall, this is the general timeframe to expect.

What is the Time Line if the IMG is a Canadian Citizen?

The timeline for a Canadian citizen pursuing a medical career varies based on the chosen pathway and residency specialization. However, it’s important to highlight that the previously mentioned timelines apply to all IMGs, regardless of their immigration status. Whether individuals are Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or have moved to Canada on a work permit, the timelines for obtaining licenses and achieving certification remain consistent. Of course, there may be some exceptions. 

The author Dr. Rajeev Iyer, MBBS, MD, FASA is an experienced IMG and has helped many IMGs, American & Canadian Medical Graduates be successful.

He is an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of the University of Pennsylvania or any other institution.

Scroll to Top