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Foreign national doctors: applying for entry to the UK

The current political situation in the United Kingdom with Brexit has meant an exodus of many European nationals and made Britain a less attractive destination for European workers. This has resulted in staff shortages in the NHS and a drive to recruit more NHS workers from overseas. So as a doctor overseas wishing to relocate to the UK, these are some key facts you need to know.

Since 2018, there is no longer any cap on the numbers of doctors and nurses who can employed under Tier 2 visas. So the NHS is open to recruit as many doctors and nurses as are needed to fill vacancies. These jobs can be found listed on the NHS jobs website.

Obtaining a License from the General Medical Council:

All Doctors must have registration with a license to practice issued by the General Medical Council (GMC). This applies whether the doctor wishes to practice privately or for the NHS. The first thing to do therefore, before coming to the UK, is to contact the GMC who can assess steps that you will need to take to obtain a license, prior to coming to the UK. This depends on the country where you gained your primary qualification, the work you want to do in the UK and whether there has been proof of post-graduate training.

In the UK, following completion of a degree in medicine, all doctors train for two foundation years in which they are granted provisional GMC registration. They will not become fully registered until those two years have been successfully completed. The GMC therefore expect equivalent experience from overseas doctors and as such registration could be provisional or full, depending on the Applicant’s level of post qualification experience.

The UK also requires that the Doctor coming to the UK is proficient in English language. The Doctor must speak English to a minimum standard of IELTs 7.5 in all four areas, which are speaking listening, reading and writing.

International doctors must also undertake the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) tests. These may only be taken after the Applicant has achieved the English language requirement minimum and are taken in two parts. The first part may be taken whilst the Applicant is overseas, however the second part must be taken in the UK.

The Shortage Occupation List:

Some doctors are in more demand in the UK than other areas of medicine. The roles most needed to be filled in the UK are listed on the Shortage Occupation List. This is a list prepared and updated regularly. The current list shows a shortage of consultants in clinical radiology, emergency medicine, old age psychiatry, trainees at specific levels in emergency medicine and Core trainees in psychiatry. The list also shows non-consultant, non-training role shortages in emergency medicine including A&E, old age psychiatry and pediatrics.

The appearance of a role on the Shortage Occupation List means that, in most instances, the employer in the UK should not need to advertise the position you intend to fill in the UK. There are exceptions to this, as detailed on the Shortage Occupation List.

Applying for the UK Tier 2 (General) visa through Certificate of Sponsorship: The Applicant will then apply for a visa to come to the UK on Tier 2 (General). In order to obtain a visa there are Immigration Rules which must be met. These are that the employer has applied for and been granted a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). You should discuss the timings of this with an immigration lawyer as if a Restricted CoS is required, there can be delays to intended timings of the application, this is as Restricted CoS are only issued by the Home Office once a month.

The Applicant must demonstrate their qualifications and minimum level of income in order to enter the UK under Tier 2 (General).

Westkin Associates


5th Floor, Maddox House,
1 Maddox Street
United Kingdom
0207 118 4546

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