Can an IMG become a Physician Assistant?

Can International Medical Graduate or FMG become a Physician Assistant in Canada

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) are Physicians who were trained outside of Canada.

Apart from acclimating to a different country, different weather, perhaps a different language and different customs, another challenge IMGs face when arriving in Canada is often ensuring English skills (written and oral) are high enough to meet admission requirements for different health care careers and to find a career that allows IMGs to utilize the skills they have acquired outside of Canada.

There are several options for IMGs, with one of them including becoming a Physician Assistant. I have outlined the PA pathway from an IMG perspective, and have also included other health care career options too.


IMGs may apply to all 3 PA Programs

To become a Physician Assistant as an IMG, you must complete an accredited Physician Assistant Program in Canada. 

IMGs cannot skip or advance past any aspects of the program due to their prior medical education. To complete a PA program successfully, you must complete both the first didactic year and second clinical rotation year, finishing all courses for the program.

Luckily, the PA program is approximately only 2 years (~24 months), and if you have completed your undergraduate degree, in addition to your graduate degree and with your health care experience, it is likely you qualify to apply to all 3 civilian PA programs in Canada (Manitoba, University of Toronto, and McMaster).

To Apply to a Canadian PA program, you must be a Canadian Citizen or PR of Canada

All PA program candidates must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada.

A permanent resident is someone who is a citizen of another country, but has immigrated to Canada. Students and workers who are on temporary work visas are not considered permanent residents.

You are not considered a permanent resident or citizen by marriage. Canadian citizens are those that may have been born in Canada, or have a parent born in Canada.

You can also apply to be a Canadian Citizen if you have had Permanent Resident status, and have physically lived in Canada for 1460 days during the six years prior to your Canadian Citizen application with adequate knowledge of English.

Why is this a requirement?

Although I cannot speak on behalf of the 3 PA Programs, keep in mind that obtaining a Canadian PA program degree allows you only to practice in Canada. The Canadian PA degree (BHScPA, BScPA, MPAS) does not allow you to practice as a PA in the United States, UK, Australia or other countries.

Are there any PA programs that accept international students?

There are some PA programs in the United States that accept non-residents/citizens into their programs.

English Language Requirements

The IMG applying for PA programs must meet English language requirements, and this differs for each school.

Once you have completed a Physician Assistant Program, you are to write the PA Entry Exam administered by the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC).

IMG to Clinical Assistant

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba have a Clinical Assistant position that is open to IMGs who qualify. Be sure to carefully check the University of Manitoba and CPSM websites carefully for the most up to date information on application criteria.

Requirements include:

  • having a medical degree from an approved faculty of medicine, OR
  • be licensed/registered to provide health care under an Act of the Manitoba Legislature, OR
  • be a graduate of an accredited Physician Assistant or Clinical Assistant training program, OR
  • be certified as an Emergency Medical Attendant – Level III

In addition the Clinical Assistant candidate must undergo a Clinical Assistant Assessment, which assesses  several medical competencies including History Taking, Physical Examination, Communication Skills, and Written as well as Oral Documentation Skills. There are several stations with a standardized patient.

If you’d like to learn more information, visit the Physician and Clinical Assistants of Manitoba.

IMGs and other Health Care Careers

Many IMGs also consider other allied health professions, such as applying to other professional schools or degree programs such as Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Respiratory Therapy, Medical Radiation Technologist, X-Ray/Ultrasound Technician, Lab Technician, Personal Support Worker (PSW), Health Care Aide, Health Policy Researcher/Analyst, Health Care Administrator, Research Assistant / Associate, Athletic therapist, Pharmacy Technician, EMG Technician, the list can go on and on.

This way, the IMG can stay within the field of healthcare and utilize some skills in order to transition to their life here in Canada.