by Dr Holly Anne Hills MRCVS
Veterinary professionals are privileged to have a set of transferable skills that are highly sought after all around the world, and your veterinary training can open the door to a whole range of opportunities. Whatever it is that draws you towards adventure, making the move abroad is a big decision, and requires significant research and planning.
Some of these countries offer particularly great experiences for vets interested in working with wildlife, or with livestock, and many are drawn in by the intrigue of experiencing different agricultural systems, unusual species, working in a developing country, or simply just a better work-life balance and opportunities to develop both professionally and personally.
This article will go through some of the biggest considerations for planning to relocate abroad, but there are many other things you personally will need to take into account.
The most important thing is to plan and be organised, so that once you have found the right job in the right location, you can relax and look forward to your adventure!
Visas and Licensing – Make sure you’re legal
Obtaining the correct visas and documentation to allow you to live and work in a country are one of the first and most important things to consider once you have chosen a destination. Most overseas employers will provide advice and assistance with visa applications.
You must ensure you apply for the correct visa – one that allows you to work – or you will encounter problems down the line. It’s never a bad idea to plan ahead and consider how long you intend to be abroad – make sure you apply for an appropriate-length visa.
Most have an expiry, and strict rules about extensions, so if there’s a chance you might stay, look ahead to see what could be involved.
Allow ample time to complete applications – you will need to gather various documents and copies of these, and being organised in advance will make for a smoother process and ensure you don’t miss anything.
Visa applications can be rigorous, and one tiny mistake can mean your application is rejected, so set aside adequate time, don’t rush, and be aware they can take some weeks to be granted, so don’t leave it until the last minute!
You must also register as a veterinary surgeon in the country in which you will be working if it is required, or take examinations in order to be able to practice. You may need to provide evidence of your status in your home country such as a letter of good standing from your governing body.
You may also need certain work permits to allow you to work with some species such as wildlife, or carry out government work. The jobs you apply for abroad should also be able to provide you with information regarding any necessary examinations or memberships and assist you with the registration process.
It’s worth checking with your university or governing body to find out where you can practice with your qualification – For example members of the RCVS (and all UK graduates) can practice in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and South Africa without any further examinations.
You will need to register with the Australasian Veterinary Boards’ Council (AVBC) and with the individual Australian state’s veterinary board, or the Veterinary Council of New Zealand, depending on where you want to work. Conversely for vets relocating from Australia or New Zealand there are certain requirements which change depending on the country you are hoping to work in.
Further licences may be required to carry out certain work. South Africa require vets to work for the government and complete 12 months Community Compulsory Service to gain full affiliation to South African Veterinary Council.
Unless you completed your training in the USA or Canada, you will usually need to sit examinations to enable you to work there. Vets moving from the USA or Canada also have a series of options available to them internationally
For further information speak to our dedicated advisors at The Vet Service and or contact the respective governing bodies in each country.
Cost of Working Abroad
Moving abroad can be an expensive business, and it’s not just as simple as finding a job and hopping on a plane. There are numerous costs that you will incur along the way including visas, licensing and exams to allow you to practice, as well as relocation fees, flights and insurance.
You will need to save to cover some of the costs, but some clinics will assist you, especially if they are actively recruiting overseas vets. Some employers offer relocation packages that include sponsorship for visas and return flights.
Many will also provide you with accommodation and a vehicle, as well as assist with professional fees such as registration and insurance.
Some employers will also offer a one-off relocation payment. Check job adverts carefully or make sure you speak to The Vet Service team to see what financial assistance is provided, and if it isn’t clear, ask so that you don’t get caught out later.
Finding a Vet Job Abroad
Some overseas practices actively recruit foreign vets, and adverts for jobs abroad can often be found on standard job sites. Consider whether you wish to find work yourself, or whether the assistance of The Vet Service might make things easier for you.
Remember that we are experienced in relocating professionals abroad, so will be able to provide advice and assistance with all aspects of planning from the work itself to visas, licensing, and living arrangements.
Do plenty of research before choosing a position and make sure that it’s right for you by finding out as much as you can about the position you are applying for. Most employers are happy to discuss the position with potential applicants.
Interviews take place over the phone and via video calls, so take the opportunity to ask lots of questions. If the clinic employs other overseas vets, ask to be put in touch with them to discuss their experience.
Research and familiarise yourself with the clinic and it’s work just as you would any other job – make sure the workload and professional opportunities are suitable for you, don’t just think about the location!
Salaries overseas can be quite different to those you are used to in your home country – do a little research to make sure you are being offered an acceptable package in line with your experience and qualifications, and that your pay would align with the cost of living in your chosen destination.
It’s easy to get caught up on the excitement and complexities of moving abroad, but ensuring that your job pays you fairly, and offers you enough time off for studying, CPD, and holiday is really important.
Other Logistics when Working Abroad
You need to consider other seemingly smaller but essential logistics when planning your adventure.
Healthcare and insurance
Not having adequate insurance can land you with some hefty bills if you need medical treatment. Check with any prospective employers as to whether they provide you with any medical insurance, especially if you are moving to a country where healthcare is not free at the point of service.
Make sure you give good consideration to how you will find a place to live, and don’t leave it until the last minute.
Many overseas jobs will provide you with accommodation, but it may be sensible to book something short term for when you arrive, so that you can explore the area and decide where to live permanently once you have settled in.
Location and work life balance
Consider what it is you want from your move abroad, what your hobbies and interests are, and how you want to spend your time outside of work.
You’ll soon build a social life through your new colleagues, but being close to other opportunities to explore the area or meet new people is an essential consideration and will help you settle into your new life.
Working abroad is a great way to travel and experience different cultures and ways of working.
If you think working abroad as a vet is for you, take the time to properly research the country you are visiting to make sure you can legally work there, and get as much information as possible about the clinic you’ll be working at. Enjoy your travels!
Speaking to the The Vet Service team will offer you a great insight into different practices, current employees and potentially organising to spend time at the practice (such as trial shifts, finding the latest roles or working as a locum first).