How to register as a physiotherapist in Australia when you’ve qualified overseas
Sari Coakley is an Irish physiotherapist living and working in Australia. She qualified in Ireland, but needed to register in Australia in order to work. This is her story and the route she took.
Plenty of career opportunities for physiotherapists in Australia
From the minute I graduated as a physiotherapist in Ireland, I dreamt about working and travelling with my career in Australia. I always saw Australia as the land of sunshine, endless opportunities and a country where sports medicine and research were ahead of the rest of the world. I had attended online lectures and conferences where the leading experts in tendon and anterior cruciate ligament research presented and they were from Australian Universities. With the prospect of furthering my career, expanding my knowledge and spending my weekends outdoors on Bondi Beach, I decided to take the leap to go about getting registered to practice as physiotherapist in Australia.
Getting physiotherapist qualifications from Ireland recognised in Australia
I had four years’ experience working as a physiotherapist in various settings and had completed a Masters in sports and exercise medicine in Ireland. This really helped when applying for jobs and I was offered a higher wage due to my masters degree. This of course makes complete sense but in Ireland having a Masters in sports medicine never equated to a higher position or salary. Educated healthcare professionals are held in high regard in Australia and I found plenty of job opportunities even before arriving in Sydney in December 2019.
How an Irish-qualified physiotherapist can register to work in Australia
In May 2018, I began to research ways to register as an Irish qualified physiotherapist in Australia. There are three options:
Option 1: Register with the Australian Physiotherapy Council Directly
A) The standard assessment pathway. This involves applying for an eligibility assessment (which takes up to 2 weeks to come through) and this then allows you to sit the written exam (both written and remote written assessments are held four times a year, remotely and at venues in Melbourne and Sydney). If you pass this, you can then take the 3 clinical exams (Musculoskeletal, neuro and cardiorespiratory), which are only done in Melbourne, Australia.
The total cost of this process is $7475 AUD (plus a 1.5% transaction fee) that works out to roughly €4660!
Don’t forget you also need to pay for flights to Melbourne (anywhere from €1500 or more) plus accommodation etc as I’m sure you might be making a bit of a holiday out of this if you’re going all the way to Australia for your exams!
Total Cost (approximately): A$9475 /€6200
B) FLYR Pathway. Thankfully a newer pathway which allows eligible candidates with qualifications from approved countries to gain registration bypassing the clinical assessment stage. The Cultural Safety Training and written assessment can be completed without travelling to Australia. FLYR Pathway saves candidates time and money in completing assessments. To access the FLYR pathway candidates need to complete an Eligibility Assessment. To qualify for FLYR, candidates must have met all of the following criteria:
- Completed an entry-level physiotherapy qualification in an approved FLYR country
- Held registration without restriction with the relevant regulatory body within the past 5 years
- Be able to practice without any restrictions
- Have an entry-level qualification that is diploma-level or higher*
(*Singapore candidates must have completed a Bachelor-level degree)
The following countries are approved FLYR countries:
- Hong Kong
- the United Kingdom
- South Africa
(*Qualification must be Bachelor-level degree)
Cost: A$3,275/ €2040
Option 2: The Equivalence of Qualification Pathway
This is an accelerated assessment process which measures evidence of overseas training courses and qualifications against the requirements for accreditation of Australian physiotherapy programs. The Council has assessed many University programs and has found them to be substantially equivalent to an Australian entry-level qualification.
If your University, qualification, and cohort (years of study) match EXACTLY with an entry below, you can make an application for an Equivalence of Qualification – Existing Program.
Only one Irish university, Royal College of Surgeons, is on the Equivalence of Qualification Pathway for classes of 2009-2015 only.
Cost: A$1,752 / €1100
Option 3: Register as a physiotherapist in New Zealand and then apply for registration as a physiotherapist in Australia
Australia and New Zealand have the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Act, which allows any profession to have their qualifications recognised in either country (physiotherapist’s included). So if you are registered as a physiotherapist in New Zealand you can apply for registration as a physio in Australia. (Cost of New Zealand registration approx €1000.)
If you require a ‘skills assessment’ for your visa (usually for the skilled visa’s and for sponsorship visas) then you need to do this through the Australian Physiotherapy Council (APC) and you can find out more about that here. The cost for a skills assessment with the APC, AHPRA registration, international criminal check and certificate of good standing:
Cost: A $ 2594 / €1618
If you don’t require a skills assessment for your visa (usually if you are applying for your working holiday visa) then you can register directly with the Australian Physio Board (NOTE: if you require a skills assessment you will still also need to apply to the Australian Physio Board for registration. You can do this BEFORE applying for your skills assessment through the Australian Physiotherapy Council.
To register with Australian Physio Board you need to complete the ‘Application for Trans Tasman mutual recognition as a physiotherapist’ which you can find here. The cost of this is currently $314 AUD (approx €195) which is your AHPRA registration and application fee.
If you apply for NZ registration and then Australian registration without needing a skills assessment, total cost: €1618
Or, if you need a skills assessment for your visa it will be: A$1650 + €1618= €2650
The physiotherapy registration route for Australia that Sari chose
I chose to go down the path of registering in New Zealand first. I did not need a skills assessment until I was applying for a 482 visa one year later (temporary skill shortage visa aka sponsorship) so I broke the tasks down into three main steps:
- Get documents together for New Zealand and Australia registration
- Apply for registration in New Zealand
- Apply for registration in Australia under the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement
When I was applying for registration in New Zealand, it was all done via hard paper copy and proof of certain competencies and reflective pieces. Thankfully they have gotten rid of snail mail and the applications are done electronically online and seem to be a lot faster. It took me about four months to complete and I sent off a 170 page document to New Zealand via registered post. This was in 2018 so things have been made much easier now and can take as little as a day to submit. The cultural competencies are now done as an online module, which is much easier to access and the application process could be completed within a day or two if you have the necessary certified paperwork.
I have made a concise ten step guide on how to get registered as an overseas qualified physiotherapist in Australia under the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement here.
Documents required for physio registration in New Zealand
The documents that are required for New Zealand registration are as follows and some require to be notarised:
- Certified copy of the photo and signature page of your current passport or your birth certificate
- A certified copy of your criminal record from each country you have lived in for more than 12 months while aged 18 years or over, which must be no more than 3 months old at the time you apply
- A certified copy of a current certificate of registration or annual practising certificate issued by HCPC, CORU, HPCSA, or a Canadian physiotherapy regulator
- Certified copy of your degree certificate or certified copy of your academic transcript
- Certificate of Good Standing from every country in which you have been registered to work as a physiotherapist
Once you have gathered these documents, you can start your online application form by clicking here.
The New Zealand physiotherapy board has introduced an International Express Registration Application form. This form is for practitioners already registered in or graduates from approved physiotherapy programmes taught in the UK, Ireland, Canada, and South Africa to apply for registration as a physiotherapist in New Zealand.
If applications are completed fully without any errors or requests for further information from the board, registration should be processed within 30 days.
Getting AHPRA registration for physiotherapy
Whilst you are waiting for your New Zealand registration to come through, you can begin gathering and putting together the documents required for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
The documents required from AHPRA are:
- An international criminal history check (ICHC) reference page provided by an approved vendor.
- A letter of good standing sent directly from CORU or your registration board directly to your AHPRA state office. Each AHPRA office has its own state office so if you think you wish to practice to New South Wales for instance, ask your registration board to send the letter of good standing directly to the NSW AHPRA office.
- Practice history document which the board requires you to have practiced at least 450 hours within the previous three years, or 150 hours within the previous 12 months in your intended scope of practice. This document must include:
- Your detailed practice history, including your previous scope of practice as a physiotherapist and when you last practiced.
- Your intended and/or practice as a physiotherapist
- Activities carried out since you last practiced as a physiotherapist, including any continuing professional development you may have done.
- Certified copy of foreign passport
- Certified copy of foreign or international drivers licence
- Certified copy of your original academic transcript or certificate that indicates completion of your physiotherapy qualification
- Original certificates of registration status or certificates of good standing to be forwarded directly from the registration authority (CORU from Ireland) and New Zealand Physiotherapy board to your AHPRA state office.
- Signed and dated curriculum vitae that describes your full practice history and any clinical or skills training undertaken
- Prepare a list of any countries you have lived in for greater than 6 months consecutively since the age of 18
- Practice history document
Once you have received evidence of registration in New Zealand, you can apply for an annual practicing certificate. This is required to register with AHPRA even if you never plan on practicing in New Zealand. This should be approved with 1-2 business days.
Last step: begin your application with AHPRA
Finally, the last step is starting your application with AHPRA. The application form can be found online here.
TIP Keep in mind annual registration must be renewed in Australia by 30th November every year and the registration year runs from Nov to Nov in Australia. If you register in October for example and pay one years registration, you will still have to renew your registration in by 30th November for the following year. Just something to keep in mind if you are submitting your application for registration in November or October and don’t plan on practicing until the following year.
PLEASE NOTE: Costs quoted were correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
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Common questions people ask about physiotherapy registration for Australia
What is a certified copy?
A ‘certified copy’ of an original document is a copy that has been verified as being a true copy of an original document. This is done by a person who is authorised to certify copies of original documents.
What is the standard for having documents certified?
The following certification process is for the purposes of AHPRA and the National Boards, if you are required to provide certified documents for other purposes that are not related to AHPRA or the National Boards, you must check that organisations’ requirements.
You must follow the process as outlined to certify a copy.
- For hard copy application forms, certified copies will only be accepted in hard copy by mail or in person (not by fax, email, etc). Photocopies of previously certified documents will not be accepted.
- For online application forms, certified copies of documents can be uploaded with your online application.
- Any documents containing a photograph (e.g. a passport, driver’s licence, etc.) must be certified by an Authorised Officer with the statement ‘I certify that this is a true copy of the original and the photograph is a true likeness of the person presenting the document as sighted by me.’
Who can certify documents?
- Health professions: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner, Chinese medicine practitioner, Chiropractor, dentist, medical practitioner, medical radiation practitioner, midwife, nurse, occupational therapist, optometrist, osteopath, paramedic, pharmacist, physiotherapist, podiatrist, psychologist
- Public servants: Federal, state or territory or local – employed for five years or more.
- Teacher (full-time or part-time) at a school or tertiary education institution
- Legal professions: Legal practitioner, patent attorney, trademarks’ attorney
- Court positions: Bailiff, justice of the peace, judge, magistrate, registrar or deputy registrar, clerk, master of a court, CEO of a Commonwealth court
- Commissioner for Affidavits, or Commissioner for Declarations (dependent on jurisdictions)
- Government representatives (elected): Federal, state or territory or local
- Employees of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
- Bank officer, building society officer, credit union officer, finance company officer – employed for five years or more
- Veterinary surgeon
- Accountant (member of ICA, ASA, IPA or CPA, ATMA, NTAA)
- Minister of religion, or marriage celebrant
- Member of:
Chartered Secretaries Australia
Engineers Australia, other than at the grade of student
Australian Defence Force (an officer; or a non-commissioned officer with five or more years of continuous service; a warrant officer)
- Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
- Notary public
- Holder of a statutory office not specified in another item in this Part
- Police officer
- Sheriff or sheriff’s officer
- Notary public
- Australian Consular Officer or Australian Diplomatic Officer (within the meaning of the Consular Fees Act 1955)
- Employee of the Commonwealth or the Australian Trade Commission who works outside Australia
- Justice of the peace
Do I need to have any work experience for registering in New Zealand or Australia?
New Zealand: Applicants who have gained their primary physiotherapy qualification overseas who have a physiotherapy qualification from a four year full time undergraduate degree programme sufficiently-similar checklist to the physiotherapy curricula undertaken by undergraduates in New Zealand are eligible to apply for registration without showing evidence of additional post-qualification physiotherapy practice experience.
If you have a full time three-year (or four-year part time) undergraduate physiotherapy degree programme as your primary qualification a minimum of one year full-time post-qualification physiotherapy practice experience as a fully registered physiotherapist (i.e. with unconditional registration).
This experience must be gained in a professionally supported environment, carried out under the supervision of a more senior physiotherapist and include observed practice and guidance for professional development.
Evidence of successful completion of a formal course of university level physiotherapy study additional to their primary physiotherapy qualification i.e. Graduate Diploma, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters.
Australia: No prior work experience is required for registration
What do I need to include in my CV?
Heading Details to include:
- Personal Information –
- Qualifications Obtained –
- Bridging Programs / Qualifying Examinations Include dates, facility, city, state and results.
- Clinical / Procedural Skills Please note whether competent and /or observed.
- Work / Practice History Current and Previous Positions.
Details to include:
- Dates (for example; 30/06/2000 – 30/06/2002)
- Position(s) – Title
- Facility (including name, address and contact details ie City, State, Country)
- Responsibilities (including whether position was full-time/part-time and if part-time include hours of work/week)
- Internship and Observership
- Provide in the chronology of the practice history details of internship rotations and any periods of observership.
- Gaps in Work / Practice History Please provide an explanation of any period since obtaining your professional qualifications where you have not practised and reasons (eg undertaking study, travel, family commitment).
- Registration History Provide a list of jurisdictions ie authorities:
- where you are currently registered to practice and your registration number
- where you have been previously registered to practice and your registration number (if known)
- where you have applied for registration and that application remains under consideration
- References and Publications Note: If provided this should be limited to 1-2 pages.
Other important information
You must declare on your CV:
- that the ‘The Curriculum Vitae is true and correct as at (insert date)’. This declaration must be signed and dated.
- The Boards will only accept the original signed Curriculum Vitae.
- You must also attach certified copies of any results or performance reports from bridging courses undertaken, skills assessment, observership (as applicable) that have been stated in the CV.
Do I need to have a visa to apply for registration in Australia or New Zealand?
No, you do not need a visa when applying for physiotherapy registration in either Australia or New Zealand. You can apply for a visa after and do not require a skills for a working holiday visa.
What is the cheapest way to register as a physiotherapist in Australia?
The Equivalence of Qualification Pathway (€1100 excluding AHPRA registration) is the quickest and cheapest way of gaining registration as a physiotherapist in Australia but it is only available for a select cohort from several universities. If your University, qualification, and cohort (years of study) match EXACTLY with an entry below, you can make an application for an Equivalence of Qualification – Existing Program.
If your university is NOT on the Equivalence of Qualification Pathway existing program list, registering in Australia under the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement (via New Zealand first, €1618 including AHPRA registration) is the most cost effective way.
Is it really worth all the hassle?
Working in Australia has afforded me amazing opportunities such as working with a professional National Rugby League Club, working at the FINA World Swimming Championships, learning from excellent physiotherapists and starting my own clinic.
How much time should I give myself to complete registration?
As much time as possible. Now with the applications all being online, 3 months should be adequate time to gain registration if you have all the documents required via any of the pathways.
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