Locums for a Small World Blog

‘Can my spouse work?’ plus other visa-related questions about international locum tenens

Posted by Kari Redfield

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Imagine jetting to the other side of the world where you’ll immerse yourself in the local culture, travel extensively, and work a flexible schedule. Through our international locum tenens program, many physicians — and their spouses — live like locals in another country.

The idea of taking a break from our incredibly demanding, fast-paced U.S. medical field to see other parts of the world while still earning a living tends to get physicians dreaming. When couples consider how to make it a reality, many logistics come into play, such as whether both need to work or if just one can. For some, the former holds true. Other couples purposefully free up their spouse in order to more fully explore the new area.

Whatever your situation, this Q&A with Andee Nelson, an international placement specialist at Global Medical Staffing, will help clear up basic questions about visas and your spouse’s work privileges.

Can my spouse work too?
Whether or not your spouse can work will depend on many factors, including the location of the assignment, your spouse’s line of work, and your length of stay.

In New Zealand and Australia, where we place many international locum tenens physicians, the rules are that your spouse can work via your work visa if: 

  1. You work there for more than six months.
  2. Your spouse gets any necessary certifications/licenses to work in his/her profession.

We placed a physician in New Zealand, for example, whose wife wanted to work as a teacher. New Zealand recognized her U.S. training and schooling as valid, allowing her to secure the necessary professional certifications in advance of their trip.

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Why does an assignment need to last more than six months for my spouse to work?
A six-month assignment means that you, the physician, and your spouse must enter and leave the country in 182 days — not a day later — and this type of visa does not allow your spouse to work. If you both want to work, let your recruiter know as soon as possible, so we can secure an assignment that’s longer than six months.

Also, if you want to stay in the country longer than 182 days in order to travel, tell us upfront so we can secure the proper visa(s) and assignment to accommodate the extra travel time.

How long does the visa process take?
From when our physicians accept a locum tenens assignment, it takes four to six months to complete the medical registration and attain a visa, which we secure for our physicians.

Can we secure our own visas?
No. We do this for you because you need a job and in-country sponsor before you can apply for your medical certification and visa.

Does my spouse need a sponsor/job offer in the country before we go?
No, not in New Zealand and Australia. In these two countries, your spouse can work under your visa so they don’t need an upfront job offer, in-country sponsor, and separate visa. That said, your spouse may need to secure some type of certification/license to work in his/her field — and you should look into this in advance of your trip.

Can my Global Medical Staffing recruiter help my spouse find work?
If your spouse works as a physician, then yes, we can certainly look to place you both in the same city. If not, then it’s difficult for us to get too involved. That said, let us know if your spouse wants to work so we can secure the proper visa and assignment. Also, we can talk to our in-country clients to see if they know people in your spouse’s field. For example, one spouse worked as a nurse, and although the hospital where we placed our physician didn’t have a position for her, our client connected her to a hospital that did.

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Are there typically job opportunities for spouses where you place international locum tenens physicians?
That depends both on the location and your spouse’s field. The bigger the city, the more options your spouse likely will have. Remember that we place physicians in areas of need, which tend to be more rural. So even though we place extensively in Australia, we don’t often see opportunities in Sydney or Melbourne because there’s not a need there. However, we do frequently place physicians in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand, which are both big cities.

What can we do to prepare if we both want to work?
Research what jobs are available and where, keeping in mind where we place physicians. Also find out what types of certifications/licenses are necessary for your spouse to work in his/her professional field in the country where you’re considering a locum tenens assignment. If possible, try to speak with people with experience in that field in that country to gain additional insights.

Can my spouse volunteer while we’re abroad?
Although placing people in volunteer positions isn’t within our realm of expertise and responsibility, we have noticed that some spouses take on volunteer work for altruistic reasons and in order to meet people and get more immersed in the local culture — and because volunteering often doesn’t require special certifications/licenses or visas. If interested, definitely talk to us about it and we can connect you with the in-country client who may know of opportunities.

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My spouse may be able to work remotely with their company for six to nine months. Are there special visa considerations?
Neither New Zealand nor Australia would classify your spouse as working in their country for visa purposes since the employer is U.S.-based. For this reason, for these two countries, we would secure a visitors visa for your spouse when we secure your work visa. Other countries apply different rules to this same situation — so you can get more specific with your recruiter when you’re looking at assignments together.

If you’re considering international locum tenens, check out our open positions, do some research about your spouse’s work options, and give us a call at 800.760.3174.

Although we can’t find your spouse a job, we can help point them in the right direction and provide additional resources. Who knows … soon, the two of you could be learning to surf and snorkel, exploring underwater caves, trying exotic foods, immersing yourselves in a different culture, and spending many days simply admiring remote natural wonders — all on the other side of the world.

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Topics: Locum Tenens, Australia, New Zealand, Family, Spouse, Volunteer work, Visas

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