IMG Secrets

How to Become a Doctor in Canada as an IMG?

There are 4 pathways to becoming a doctor in Canada as an International Medical Graduate (IMG). I have personally seen IMGs take these pathways and I will share my experience here. These are

  1. Traditional pathway
  2. Job-based pathway
  3. Atlantic Province program pathway
  4. Clinical fellowship pathway

Let’s jump to find out more about each of these.

1. Traditional Pathway

The first and perhaps the commonest pathway to becoming a doctor in Canada as an IMG is the traditional pathway. I have seen many IMGs take this route. Essentially they apply for Canadian permanent residency from their home country. They apply for residency matching in Canada after finishing their medical training in their home country.

Here are the steps for this:

  • Medical College/School Recognition: Make sure your medical school or college is recognized by World Health Organization. This is easy to check.

I have included a screen recording example below from Google. You go on a website called World Directory of Medical Schools. You click on search the medical directory and then you see all these options now because I am an IMG from India, I’m going to say India in the country and I’m going to say New Delhi in the city. The very first thing that opens is All India Institute of Medical Sciences now I click on it and go to sponsor notes I see two options one is Canada the other is USA this means if I’m a graduate of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi India, I am good to move to Canada. You can check your medical college or medical school anywhere in the world similarly.

  • Credential Evaluation: The next step is your medical degree should be verified by the Medical Council of Canada. For this, you have to submit all your credentials like a medical degree, internship certificate, and PG training (if applicable) on this website called physiciansapply.ca.  Medical Council of Canada using a third party will verify all these documents to make sure they are genuine. This does cost a lot of money but it’s part of the process.

Below is the screen recording of Google and physiciansapply.ca 

    • NAC or the National Assessment Collaboration: This is a one-day OSCE-based exam. This is structured similarly to USMLE Step 2 CS, but thankfully the USA has moved away from this and instead uses the OET. Since Canada is still doing NAC, the expectation is you pass this examination. I have included a screen recording of the NAC website.
  • Apply for PR:  As you’re working through the above steps simultaneously you must plan to get your Canada permanent residency (PR). Canada offers PR on a point-based system. You could start your application right from your home country.
  • CARMS Matching: Now let’s assume you get your Canada PR and you’re through with all the above steps, the next step is you apply through a website called CARMS for matching in a Canadian Residency program.
  • Complete Residency Training: Residency training is variable depending on your specialty and is based on requirements by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. I will give some examples below:
    • Family Medicine 2 years
    • Internal Medicine 3 years
    • Pediatrics 3 years
    • Anesthesiology 5 years
    • Radiology 5 years
    • Pediatric Surgery 7 years
  • Clear Royal College Exams: Congratulations, you have accomplished the last step and you’re now a fully certified doctor in Canada.
  • Obtain a License: The next step is you need to obtain a license to practice in any province of your choice where you want to work. During your residency training your license will be called a training license, but once you have a full license you can work as a consultant in your specialization.

It is long, it is complicated, and it takes time, but this is how the process is. Once you’re certified by the Royal College of Canada getting a license is pretty straightforward. After this, you have the choice of opening your own clinic (of course depending on your specialization) or joining a small clinic, or an academic practice. Ultimately, this would be your choice.

2. Job-Based Pathway

The second pathway to becoming a doctor in Canada as an IMG is to first move to Canada through a job.  This is the option I personally suggest IMGs take. Although this is more difficult, to begin with, it makes life easier in the long run.

Here are some job examples:

  • Research Associate
  • Research Fellow
  • Research Assistant
  • Lab Assistant
  • Medical Lab Technologist
  • Dental Assistant
  • Any job you may like to do

Here is what you should watch to be eligible for obtaining PR through Canadian Experience Class

  • Skilled job
  • Be on the job for at least 1 year
  • Paid job

Here is how you should apply for these jobs. Simultaneously you prepare for applying for matching by doing the following steps:

  • Make sure your medical college is recognized by the World Health Organization
  • Credential evaluation
  • MCCQE1 exam
  • NAC Exam
  • CARMS Matching
  • Residency
  • Royal College Exams
  • Licensure


The benefit of this approach is, you’re already in Canada, you understand the Canadian system, make connections, and get to know Canadian Consultants who can write a letter of recommendation. All this will help you match into the Canadian Residency program much more successfully than the first option.

3. Atlantic Immigration Program

The third pathway to becoming a doctor in Canada as an IMG is the Atlantic immigration program. This is where IMGs focus to go to four Atlantic provinces in Canada. This is called the Atlantic program because these provinces are located right next to the Atlantic Ocean. These are:

As an IMG you can apply for jobs in these provinces, establish yourself, obtain Canadian permanent residency, and then simultaneously you can start applying to CARMS matching. With this focused approach and all the connections you’ve made, you can apply for matching into the programs in these provinces. So, this will help you be competitive in your application because you have a focused approach to where you want to be.

In my opinion, Canada is trying hard to recruit talent in these sparsely populated provinces and hence runs these types of programs to attract skilled workers.

4. Clinical Fellowship Pathway

Finally, option four to become a doctor in Canada as an IMG is to get into Canada as a clinical fellow. If you are an IMG interested in doing postgraduate/residency training in your home country or have already joined the postgraduate residency training, then you explore this option. If you are still in training, you finish your residency in your home country and then you apply for a clinical fellowship in one of the top 17 universities in Canada.

Once you come to Canada as a clinical fellow you can take two different approaches:

  • Repeat Residency
    • Many IMGs I have seen do this. They take the clinical fellowship experience to be competitive in applying for a residency program in Canada or the USA. This is because you have Canadian experience, you have hopefully made some connections in Canada and you may now have letters of recommendation from Canada Consultants. All this makes a big difference. I have previously written about how to be successful with the pre-residency fellowship that you can check here by clicking this link. 


  • Province-Based Specialist Pathway
    • There is another opportunity for you if you come in as a clinical fellow. You could explore the options of alternate pathways in Canada through this you directly function as a consultant in Canada without repeating residency all over again. I have seen IMGs do this and be successful in Canada if you come through this route. Here are the details of this pathway. 

This article is originally published on IMGSecrets.com. If you find this anywhere else this is stolen content and immediately report this at IMGSecrets.com

How can I be successful in being a doctor in Canada as a fresh IMG?

If you’re a medical student or in your post-graduate training, focus on building your CV. This is valued when you apply for a residency either in Canada or in the U.S. or anywhere else as an IMG.

Here are some of the things you could do to be successful:

  • Voluntary Work
  • Get involved in educational projects
  • Build your list of lectures
  • Get involved in quality and safety projects
  • Get involved in research projects
  • Present at conferences
  • Explore the opportunity to do an observership
  • If you are a medical student, explore a clerkship.

The earlier you start, the better it is.

Check Other Videos On How To Succeed As An IMG

How to succeed as an IMG | Live Q&A

Choosing the Right Work Permit: What is best for you?

How to find jobs at the top 17 Universities in Canada | Proven IMG Framework

Canada Immigration: The mistake I made as a skilled worker and how you can avoid this

How to Get Medical Residency in Canada Without Citizenship?

Can IMGs Work in Canada as Licensed Doctors Without Residency or Citizenship?

Get a Canadian Work Permit: Don’t Waste Time on PR!

Medical Council of Canada MCCQE1 Preparation Tips for IMGs


Dr. Rajeev Iyer MBBS, MD, FASA
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology,
U Pennsylvania, USA

The opinions in this article are author’s own. They do not represent the opinions of University of Pennsylvania or any other organization. 

5 thoughts on “How to Become a Doctor in Canada as an IMG?”

  1. Dr. Christene

    Thanks so much Dr. Rajeev For the explicit explanations always, I think you are doing a wonderful job.

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