If a position is declared an Area of Need, the Medical Board of Australia can grant limited medical registration to a suitable International Medical Graduate (IMG) into that position under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (SA) Act 2010, and provided they meet all other registration requirements required by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

The following criteria must be demonstrated to meet the requirements for an Area of Need position:

  • a genuine vacancy exists;
  • the provision of medical services would fall below an acceptable level if the vacancy was not filled;
  • the market has been tested. The Australian medical community needs to have had the vacancy brought to its attention (e.g. relevant advertising). SA Health must be satisfied that there is no appropriately qualified Australian-trained medical practitioner to appoint to the position.

Please refer to the sections below for further information.

For Employers

If you are an employer and have been unable to recruit an Australian trained medical practitioner, it can be possible to recruit and employ an IMG who has not yet received general registration with Ahpra.

There are two government requirements that must be met before a position can be filled by an IMG:

  • Area of Need (AoN) – South Australian Government (SA Health);
  • Distribution Priority Area (DPA) - Australian Government/Medicare Australia

An IMG with limited registration can only access Medicare Benefits in positions that have been deemed Area of Need (SA Health) and Distribution Priority Area (DPA) (Medicare Australia).

For further information regarding the requirements for limited registration, please visit the Medical Board of Australia website.

Recruiting an International Medical Graduate (IMG) 

In order for an employer to appoint an IMG there are a number of steps to be followed. Alternatively, given the complex administrative arrangements involved, employers may choose to access recruitment agencies.

Step 1: Immigration

The doctor must meet Australian immigration requirements for either temporary or permanent entry visas.

Step 2: Area of Need (AoN)

If there is no current determination for AoN, an application must be made to SA Health.

Step 3: Ahpra Registration

The doctor must be able to be registered by the Medical Board of Australia. Please note all registration enquiries are processed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

Step 4: Medicare provider number & Distribution Priority Area (DPA)

An IMG will require a Medicare provider number (MPN) if they will be practicing privately and need to access Medicare benefits. Instructions on how to obtain an MPN are available through Medicare.

It is also at this point that the position is assessed to be in a Distribution Priority Area (DPA) area. To ascertain if geographic area where the medical services are required is determined to be a DPA, please visit the Australian Government's Doctor Connect.

Employers applying for an Area of Need position 

An application requesting a determination for a position to be deemed Area of Need must be submitted to SA Health. Following assessment by the Chief Medical Officer, the outcome is returned to the requesting body (within 10 working days). If successful, the Area of Need confirmation letter is forwarded to Ahpra to go towards the applicant gaining their limited registration.

Area of Need Application Form (PDF 511KB)

Labour market testing

The employer must demonstrate that labour market testing has been undertaken and that the vacancy could not be filled by a medical practitioner with general registration in Australia (i.e. previous advertising of the position has been unsuccessful). Australian-registered medical practitioners must not be disadvantaged by the recruitment of medical practitioners from overseas.

Expired determination for AoN

Determinations for an Area of Need are granted for a maximum of 3 years, once this time has elapsed it is the responsibility of the applicant to submit a new application to SA Health if the AoN is to continue to enable the ongoing employment of the IMG in that position.

It is it the responsibility of the requesting body to notify SA Health when the IMG, has either ceases employment or progresses to full registration.

Position description

A position description for the vacant position should be attached to the Area of Need application. The position description should outline the key duties that the incumbent is required to undertake, including information on the nature and scope of the position. The salary, essential skills, knowledge and experience essential to the position must be included.

For more information about the Area of Need process, please view the Area of Need Policy Guideline (PDF 598KB).

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Distribution Priority Area (DPA)

IMGs may only access the Medicare Benefits Schedule if they agree to work in a Distribution Priority Area (DPA) area. A DPA is an area in which the general population’s need for health care is not being met, and is assessed when applying for a Medicare Provider Number.

For the purpose of a DPA evaluation, geographic divisions set by the Australian Bureau of Statistics are used. Please check the DPA database (only for GPs) on the Doctor Connect website to establish whether a practice location is currently listed as a DPA.

For further information please refer to Medicare.

Useful forms and Resources 

Should you have any queries regarding the Area of Need process, please contact the Project Officer - Medical Workforce on (08) 8226 7231 or email Health.AreaofNeed@sa.gov.au.

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