The number of foreign ‘visa trainees’ in medical residency is up 70 per cent since 2019Canada has an acute shortage of doctors — a staffing crisis that is expected to get much worse in the years ahead as the number of residency positions on offer fails to keep up with rapid population growth
Despite those challenges, roughly 1,000 Canadian doctors who went to school abroad are turned away every year because they can’t get residency spots in Canada, according to a CBC News review of medical school data. Physicians are required to go through a residency in order to be licensed to practice.
Canadian doctors who want to come home to work are routinely told it’s not possible because resources are limited and there are only so many residency positions to go around.But the medical schools that run residency programs still find room for foreign nationals from countries like Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — people who frequently have no intention of staying here to work over the long term.
All of this is done with Ottawa’s blessing. The federal government has exempted medical schools from immigration laws that require Canadians get priority for a job.Critics maintain that dismantling the foreign “visa trainee” program — which gives several hundred residency spots to non-Canadians — would free up positions so more homegrown doctors can work here in Canada and help chip away at the physician deficit.
In the current academic year, 1,810 Canadian international medical graduates (IMGs) applied for a residency, according to data from the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). They include doctors who went to medical school in countries like Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Because Canadian medical schools privilege their own graduates and strictly enforce a quota on IMGs, only 370 of them were actually placed with residencies to complete the required post-graduate training.The result is a massive brain drain, as many qualified Canadian physicians are forced to go to the U.S. — a country where residency positions are more readily available.