In this series on Singapore pharmacists that reside and work overseas, Part I gave an overview of the phenomenon, highlighting some of the pros and cons of practising overseas. Part II briefly covered some of the things the pharmacist should take note of when they are preparing for immigration. Part III will highlight the requirements for three countries in particular – Malaysia, Australia and the United States.

Of the pharmacists who are residing overseas, the majority of them were in Malaysia (27.2%), followed closely by Australia (25.6%) and the United States (15.6%) in 2015. Over the last decade, Australia and Malaysia constantly vie for the top spot while the United States remains firmly in the third place, making them the top three most popular countries among pharmacists who migrated and are working in foreign lands. What are the criteria for migrating to each of these countries as a pharmacist?

Malaysia

To protect the end users as well as the local workforce of Malaysia, all nationals except Malaysians require a work permit to work in Malaysia. There are three types of work permit in Malaysia. The first type is the "professional visit pass", which is usually issued to professionals employed by an overseas company but working with a company in Malaysia; the second type is the "temporary employment pass", usually issued for unskilled or semi-skilled workers in manufacturing, agriculture, construction and services fields. Finally, the third type is the “employment pass”, the pass that is usually issued for those who wished to practice as a pharmacist in Malaysia.

The employer must apply for this employment pass from the Expatriate Committee the Expatriate Services Division from the Immigration Department of Malaysia. The pharmacist should submit their academic qualifications and a recognised professional internship training certification to their employers. They must also apply to sit and pass the Malaysian Pharmacy Law Examination by the Pharmacy Board of Malaysia.

Australia

All pharmacists must be registered with the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) and have a working visa to practice as a foreign pharmacist in Australia. If the pharmacist intends to migrate to Australia, it is imperative first to apply for the APC skill assessment. The assessment will require the applicant to submit documents of personal identification, academic qualifications, evidence of registration overseas if any, with an original letter confirming their current professional status overseas, and work experience if any.

A registration fee of 1190 Australian dollars must be submitted together with the documents. For pharmacists who have never practised in Australia or New Zealand before, APC will review the documents submitted and grant a skill assessment letter and an eligibility letter once verification checks are completed. This entire process takes up to 8 weeks to be completed.

With the eligibility letter, the pharmacist can then register to sit for the Competency Assessment of Overseas Pharmacists (CAOP) examination, which requires an additional registration fee of 1750 Australian dollars. The candidate will receive a certificate from the CAOP if they pass the examination. Both the certificate of a pass from the CAOP and the APC skill assessment letter must be submitted together for visa or migration application with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

United States

There are four major steps to becoming a registered pharmacist in the US. First, all foreign pharmacists must sit for and pass the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency Examination (FPGEE)7. FPGEE is a 250-question multiple-choice computerised examination, administered over a five and half hour testing period. If the pharmacist has graduated from a country where English is used as an official spoken language, there may not be a need to sit for TOEFL exams to establish their language ability. After passing both the FPGEE and the TOEFL if needed, the pharmacist must submit all the necessary documents to the FPGEE to receive the FPGEC certification. Almost all the states accept FPGEC certification for obtaining a pharmacist license.

To apply for a pharmacist license, they have to submit the FPGEC certification and apply to sit for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the state pharmacy law examination. Finally, when both examinations are passed, the state may grant a pharmacist license to the pharmacist. States may require pharmacy internship hours before a full practising license is granted.

What does this mean for Singapore?

The number of registered pharmacists in Singapore has doubled in the last decade, from 1,330 in 20058 to 2,757 in 2015. A degree in pharmacy is a powerful one as the skills and knowledge in this field is one that is sought after in many countries, and immigration is not foreign in their line of work. However, the percentage of Singaporean pharmacists who are residing and practising overseas remain relatively stable, only seeing a slight increase from 6.46% to 7.22% over the last ten years, which may indicate that residing and working overseas is not an increasing trend in Singapore.

Perhaps more study can be done to examine factors that are keeping Singapore pharmacists in the country, and on how to turn these reasons into factors that can attract foreign pharmacists to Singapore as well. MIMS

Read more:
Pharmacists: Residing and practising in a foreign land (Part I of III)
Pharmacists: Preparing to immigrate to a job overseas (Part II of III)
Pharmacists' professional responsibilities: How do these differ between Singapore and other countries

Sources:
1. Singapore Pharmacy Council Annual Report 2015. Available at: http://www.healthprofessionals.gov.sg/content/hprof/spc/en/topnav/forms_publications.html. Last accessed 22 December 2016.
2. Work Permit for Malaysia. Available at: http://www.expatarrivals.com/malaysia/work-permits-for-malaysia. Last accessed 28 December 2016.
3. Expatriate Services Division, Immigration Department of Malaysia. Available at: https://esd.imi.gov.my/portal/. Last accessed 27 December 2016.
4. Qualifying examination for registration as a practising pharmacist. Available at: http://www.pharmacy.gov.my/v2/en/content/qualifying-examination-registration-practicing-pharmacist.html. Last accessed 27 December 2016.
5. Overseas Practitioner Registration. Available at: http://www.pharmacyboard.gov.au/Registration/Overseas.aspx. Last accessed 28 December 2016.
6. Overseas trained pharmacists. Available at: https://www.pharmacycouncil.org.au/pharmacists/overseas-trained-pharmacists/. Last accessed 28 December 2016.
7. Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency Examination. Available at: https://nabp.pharmacy/programs/fpgee/. Last accessed 28 December 2016.
8. North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. Available at: https://nabp.pharmacy/programs/naplex/.Last accessed 28 December 2016.