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Medical Professionals Making Aliyah: Licensing and Integration

Medical Professionals Making Aliyah Licensing and Integration TCS

Transferring your foreign medical licensing to Israel used to be a bureaucratic hassle. In the past, Olim wouldn’t even be able to apply for a license to practice medicine in Israel until they were registered as citizens. As such, they’d arrive and not be able to work, instead having to go through the long-winded application process to have their license transferred or apply for a new license.

That isn’t the case anymore.

Thanks to Nefesh B’Nefesh – Israel’s largest resource for North Americans making Aliyah – and its work with the Israeli Ministry of Health, prospective Olim can now submit documentation before making the move. They still won’t get their licenses until they’re officially Israeli citizens, but the process is much simpler than it used to be.

However, there’s still paperwork to complete and requirements to meet if you’re a medical professional making Aliyah. Read on to discover what those requirements are and what resources are available to you as you work to integrate yourself into Israel’s medical community.

Applying for an Israeli Medical License – The Basics

Applying for an Israeli Medical License – The Basics TCS

First, the good news – if you’ve already completed your studies at a recognized medical school in the U.S. or Canada, you’re likely automatically approved for your medical license in Israel. The only exceptions are if you got your degree online – Israel doesn’t recognize online medical degrees – or if you’ve yet to complete at least one year as an intern or doing clinical work.

Assuming you meet the criteria, you’re exempt from taking the Israeli medical licensing exam. This is as long as you’ve completed all sections of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). If you haven’t, you can either resubmit to take the exam again or start your examination process anew in Israel.

Not having completed your internship doesn’t bar you from working in the medical field in Israel. Olim who haven’t finished that first year will have to take Israel’s medical licensing exam – The General Medicine Licensure (GML) – before they begin practicing. If you have already completed medical school in the U.S. or Canada and don’t yet have your USMLE, you should be able to take the GML without attending further classes.

The Documents You Need to Get Licensed

The Documents You Need to Get Licensed TCS

Let’s assume you’re eligible for automatic licensing because you’re a practicing physician who has completed your internship. You still have to complete and submit a fair amount of paperwork before you receive your GML. You submit most of this paperwork by mail to the following address:

Licensing Department,

Ministry of Health,

Yermiyahu 39,



However, some aspects of the paperwork must first be completed online before you can send it, as you’ll discover below.

The Paperwork You Need to Send Physically

The Paperwork You Need to Send Physically TCS

First, your physical paperwork. The Ministry of Health needs to receive all of the following from you before it processes your application for a GML:

  • Either a copy of your Teudat Zahut (your Israeli identification card), a copy of your Israeli passport, or a copy of your foreign passport if you’re applying for your license before you’ve made Aliyah.
  • A pair of recent passport photos.
  • A valid and verified medical license, which will likely be your USMLE certification. Those from countries other than the United States should submit their country’s equivalent certificate.
  • The diploma or certification you received from your university, which will also require verification.
    • Note that the diploma must state that you completed all of the university’s requirements, meaning partial certification isn’t accepted.
  • A letter of good standing from the state in which you’re licensed.
    • This letter should confirm that you haven’t received any complaints for negligence, discipline, or failure to uphold your professional ethics.

In some cases, you may also need to provide a specialist’s certificate, though this is a condition that’s typically reserved for Olim moving to Israel from outside the United States. The letter of good standing is also interesting because you need to have it notarized if you opened the envelope in which it arrived. However, notarization isn’t necessary if you have the relevant board send the letter directly to the Ministry of Health or if you keep your copy sealed and send it straight on.

The Online Portion

The Online Portion TCs

As for the online portion, that comes in the form of Israel’s “Medical Licensing Questionnaire,” a form that you complete and submit via the web. It’s a fairly simple questionnaire that asks for your phone number, citizenship status, and, crucially an Israeli address.

Needing to have an address doesn’t necessarily mean you must own or rent a property in Israel – you can use the address of a friend or family member. However, not having any address to provide means that your file doesn’t get opened. You can’t complete the GML process without that file.

Also, you’ll be asked to provide your name in English and Hebrew. However, this doesn’t mean you use your Hebrew name. Instead, you provide the Hebrew transliteration – the literal translation of each letter of your name from the English alphabet to the Hebrew one – when providing this version of your name.

Additional Documentation

Additional Documentation TCS

Beyond the required documents listed above, there are a handful of others that you may need, depending on your situation.

For instance, you’ll need to send any relevant documents if you’ve decided to change your legal name from that shown on your licensing or certification paperwork. That document needs to show what your name was before – ideally the same that’s on your other paperwork – so the Ministry of Health can confirm that you’re not an imposter.

You may also choose to sit the GML exam as a tourist before you make Aliyah, assuming you don’t pre-qualify for your license. If that’s the case, you must complete a signed affidavit noting that you understand that a passing grade on your GML exam is only valid for three years, after which you’ll have to retake it if you haven’t made Aliyah.

Finally, you may be fortunate enough to have already been accepted as a specialist in an Israeli medical institution. If that’s the case, you need to submit a letter from the Scientific Council of the Israeli Medical Association (Moetza Hamadait) as proof.

Post Application – License Receipt

Post Application – License Receipt TCS

Once you’ve successfully completed your application – as well as any exams you need to take – you’re almost licensed. However, you will need to have an Israeli cell phone (and Israeli number) to receive the SMS that confirms your success and makes a simple request – pay for your license.

The amount varies depending on the type of license you have, with prices ranging from around 360 NIS to 1,086 NIS. You can find a full list of license prices on the Ministry of Health website. You’ll make the payment online using the link provided in the SMS, and need to provide your date of birth and Teudat Zehut number. Assuming everything checks out, your license will be sent to your home address in Israel via registered mail. Look for a little red slip – that tells you to head to the local postal services to grab your full license.

Licensing Reimbursement

Licensing Reimbursement TCS

Many of the requirements mentioned above have only come into practice recently. Before that, Olim who wished to get their GMLs had to go through a much more complicated process, often requiring them to pay money upfront.

If you’re one of those Olim, you may be eligible for reimbursement.

First, a reimbursement of up to 500 NIS is available for any Olim who has previously taken the GML. It’s a retroactive reimbursement that you can only receive if you took the exam less than 10 years ago and you have the receipt that you can send to the Ministry of Health.

Second, there’s a further reimbursement available for Olim who had to translate or notarize their documents in the process of transferring their current medical license into an Israeli one. This reimbursement is for up to 4,000 NIS, but it’s only retroactive for up to two years before the date you made Aliyah. Again, you’ll need to provide your receipts to the Ministry of Health or, failing that, verified copies of those receipts.

Medical Professionals and Army Service

Medical Professionals and Army Service TCS

Once you have your GML, you’re officially licensed to practice medicine in Israel. You may need to undergo further licensing – or transferal of licenses – for your specialty, but you’re free to set up a clinic or join a hospital as you see fit.

However, there’s one aspect of becoming a doctor in Israel that many don’t expect – army service.

Both male and female doctors are expected to serve in the Israeli army, though there are restrictions in place. For instance, nobody who’s 34 or over has to complete a military stint. You also don’t need to serve this stint if you are between the ages of 30 and 33, and you are both married and have at least one child.

Assuming you don’t meet these exemption criteria, you have a GML, and you’ve completed your “Shnat Histaglut,” which is a year-long acclimatization period post-Aliyah, you may be drafted.

Service time varies depending on your age. For men, the following currently applies:

  • 23-26 – 24 months
  • 27-29 – 20 months
  • 30-33 – 18 months

Women have slightly different criteria:

  • 23-26 – 24 months
  • 27-29 – 18 months
  • 30-33 – Exempt from military service

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) may call you up at any time after your first six months in the country following Aliyah. However, you can defer this call-up for up to 24 months. It’s also possible that the IDF may try to call you up within the first six months of your arrival. In this case, it’ll present you with a waiver that essentially says you are okay with being called up early. You have the right to refuse to sign.

What to Expect When the IDF Calls You Up

What to Expect When the IDF Calls You Up TCS

Assuming you’re eligible for a military call-up, you’ll want to know what to expect from your service as a doctor in the IDF.

All military physicians complete a 3.5-month program designed to educate them about the Israeli army’s medical systems, as well as deliver an “Ulpan” if the doctor needs help with learning Hebrew. Following that program, you’ll serve the rest of your time as a doctor in the army.

Barring some specialists, almost all doctors called up by the IDF will serve as battalion doctors on army bases, where they’ll provide general medical treatment to the soldiers stationed at those bases. Once your allotted time nears its conclusion, you’ll be asked if you wish to stay with the army and take an officer’s course. You don’t have to do this. However, choosing to stay in the army by taking the course means you’ll serve as a reserve – called doing “Milu’im – and will receive a salary from the army. Of course, you may be called up from this reserve position at any time to serve in a conflict.

MedEx – The Annual Conference Designed for Doctors Considering Aliyah

MedEx – The Annual Conference Designed for Doctors Considering Aliyah TCS

It would be remiss not to mention the MedEx event – operated by Nefesh B’Nefesh – that takes place annually in the United States. This event is for doctors who are considering making Aliyah, but have yet to start the process.

It’s extremely helpful when it comes to integrating into Israel’s medical system as quickly as possible.

Beyond help with the licensing paperwork, the event also hosts a job fair, through which prospective Olim can apply for positions before they land in Israel. You can also get any relevant documents notarized at the event and meet representatives of the Israeli Medical Association to start the specialty recognition process.

You can find details about the next MedEx event on the Nefesh B’Nefesh website.

Consider Making Aliyah as a Doctor

Consider Making Aliyah as a Doctor TCS

Given Israel’s shortage of doctors, the country is trying to make it as easy as possible for medical professionals who want to make Aliyah to get integrated into its medical sector. That starts with the application process – it’s much easier to transfer an existing medical license over to Israel than it was in the past. Combine that fact with the doctor shortage ensuring that there are plenty of open positions, and Olim who are medical professionals should enjoy long and happy careers once they arrive.

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