Foreigners are welcomed to immigrate to the UK as doctors. The UK needs and welcomes workers from a variety of vocations. However, doctors relocating to the UK from outside the UK and the EEA must understand the legislation and the process. Immigration regulations in the United Kingdom are complicated and multi-layered. As a result, it is always beneficial to have a fundamental understanding of it.

Relocating to the UK and restarting might be one of the scariest and most thrilling experiences you will ever have. Moving to a new country is never straightforward; juggling what to anticipate from your new position, attempting to comprehend the basics of locating a house and a school for your children, and familiarizing yourself with visa requirements.

This essay describes how to immigrate to the UK as a doctor, what you need to know, the exams you need to take, and other information.

Are Immigrant Doctors in Demand in the UK?

England has an extremely low percentage of doctors per population compared to other countries. For example, in OECD EU countries, the average number of doctors per 1,000 inhabitants is 3.7, whereas England has just 2.9. Germany, on the other hand, has 4.3.

To match the current OECD EU average of 3.7 physicians per 1,000 inhabitants, England would require an additional 46,300 full-time doctors.

Over 100,000 secondary care positions remain unfilled as of March 2022, with over 8,000 being medical positions.

Doctors Titles in the UK

Medical Student

Regardless of the expense of training, acquiring a spot to study medicine at university is extremely difficult. Students will study for five years, which is nearly double the length of most ordinary university programs. In addition, many students will graduate with a £100,000 debt.


When medical students graduate from medical school, they will begin their Foundation Year training. The first year of this program is called FY1. Throughout this year, medical students receive practical experience in the NHS, adding to the theoretical and limited experience they obtained at Medical School.


FY2 is known to be the second year of foundation training. This year, medical students will acquire additional experience in two specialties at two different NHS trusts.


This is not a medical phrase in the traditional sense but rather a term used by doctors to indicate a gap year they may choose before entering specialty training.

Junior Doctor

Any doctor in training and not a consultant is considered a junior doctor. Based on their specialty, junior physicians may have up to eight years of experience working as hospital doctors. Other terms used to indicate junior doctors include:

  • ST – Specialty Trainee in a hospital specialty. It involves an STR (Specialty Registrar), or they have a number representing the number of years spent in training, for example, ST4 psychiatry.
  • SPR, which stands for Specialty Registrar in a hospital specialty.
  • SHO, which stands for Senior House Officer.
  • GPST, which stands for General Practice Specialty Registrar.


They are the most senior doctors who have finished their training in a medical specialty and are registered on the GMC’s specialist register. Becoming a specialty consultant might take six to eight years after graduating from medical school. The consultant must oversee the junior doctors.

Locum Doctor

This term describes doctors who work for agencies to cover temporary openings and shifts in clinical situations. The work is frequently well compensated; contact the Holt team to learn more.

Registration and license for Doctors in the UK

All doctors who want to go to the UK and practice medicine must be registered with the GMC, follow GMC guidelines on good medical practice, and be subject to GMC Fitness to Practice proceedings. Doctors with registration but no license may operate as academics or outside the UK. They are not permitted to engage in any activity requiring a license to practice in the UK, such as clinical work.

Doctors that have never been registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) must apply for registration with a practice license. They will be unable to apply for registration unless they have a license.

Several factors will influence the registration criteria in the UK, including:

  • Your country of origin
  • The nation where you received your primary medical education
  • What kind of work you wish to do
  • If you have finished a post-graduate training program or an internship

To apply for registration, you must first have an approved primary medical qualification. If unsure, verify your credentials’ status with the GMC.

Furthermore, IMGs or international medical graduates will be needed to prove their medical knowledge and abilities. All candidates may be asked to demonstrate proficiency in the English language before enrolling. NHS Employers offer a helpful resource for IMGs on their website.

It should be noted that being registered with the GMC does not ensure that you will find work in the UK.

Types of Registration for Immigrant Doctors in the UK

Provisional registration 

Provisional registration (combined with a license to practice) permits freshly qualified doctors to work in an authorized Foundation Year 1 position. The legislation prohibits temporarily registered doctors from working in any other capacity. After completing Foundation Year 1, you will be eligible to apply for complete GMC registration.

Doctors having the following nationalities, rights, and credentials are eligible for provisional registration:

  • UK medical graduates who earned their medical degree at a UK university recognized by the Medical Act of 1983
  • International medical who graduated and have passed the PLAB test and have an appropriate primary medical qualification but have not completed an internship
  • Nationals of the EEA, Switzerland, and other EC-member nations who qualified outside the EEA and Switzerland
  • Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, and doctors with EC rights who graduated from EEA or Swiss medical schools
  • If the practical training counts towards a medical degree that requires it for compliance with Directive 2005/36/EC, doctors qualified in EEA member states can apply to do their practical training (internship) in the UK.

Full registration 

Doctors with complete registration can operate in any professional medical practice in the UK, as long as they have a license to practice. Doctors must have specialized registration to work as a consultant (other than as locum consultants), and those who want to practice as GPs must be on the GP register.

Doctors qualified outside the United Kingdom may be qualified to apply for complete registration immediately, provided they possess an approved primary medical qualification. In addition, they have completed a term of post-graduate clinical practice (internship).

Documentary proof will be required to support a doctor’s application. Original documents are the only ones that can be accepted. To finish the procedure, all doctors must present at the GMC for a pre-registration identity check. A doctor’s photo will be taken and made available to employers so that they may be confident in the doctor’s identification.

The General Medical Council (GMC) requires new full-registration graduates and IMGs, including those returning to practice following a prolonged absence, to work within an approved practice setting (APS) as determined by the GMC to be suitable for such doctors. The GMC advises that EEA graduates work in an APS when they initially start working in the UK under complete registration. The vast majority of NHS employers will have authorized practice setting status.

To protect the public, the APS system requires doctors new to complete registration in the UK to work within a system that can be appropriately supervised and appraised. The GMC website contains further information about APS.

Specialist registration 

All consultants (excluding locum consultants) must be on the General Medical Council’s specialized registry (GMC). To be qualified to apply for GMC specialist certification, doctors and physicians must have finished a GMC-approved training program and received one of the certificates below:

  • CCT, also known as Certificate of Completion of Training 
  • CESR, also known as Certificate confirming Eligibility for Specialist Registration

Doctors who have not finished a full GMC-approved training curriculum and want their training, credentials, and experience evaluated for admittance into the specialist register must apply for a CESR under The General and Specialist Medical Practice Order. It is not feasible to be an expert without simultaneously being a full registration holder.

GP registration

Doctors in general practice in the NHS must be registered with the General Practice Register from April 1, 2006 (other than GP registrars in training). Locums are also subject to this requirement.

For entry to the GP Register, you must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for General Practice Registration (CEGPR) if you haven’t completed the UK GP Certificate of Completion of Training program. 

Video description 

PLAB test 

NHS employment 

BMJ careers

UK skilled worker visa application on UK visa and immigration website 

Health and care worker visa 

How to Immigrate to the UK as a Doctor?

The National Health Service (NHS), which the UK government manages, is the largest employer in the UK. The General Medical Council is the regulating body (GMC). A GMC registration is required to work for the NHS or a Private Healthcare Organization.

As previously said, there are several paths you may pursue to obtain your GMC. Your present medical credentials will determine the way you choose. The GMC registration guarantees that all physicians in the UK fulfill the high standards necessary for medical practice.

In many circumstances, you may need to complete additional examinations before practicing in the UK.

Immigrate to the UK as a Doctor from EU/EEA Nations

You can immigrate to the UK as a doctor and work if you are a doctor and an EEA national. To go to the United Kingdom and work as a doctor, you do not need to apply for a visa or have a job offer in hand. But, you must pass the English proficiency test. Medical graduates from EEA nations must apply for registration as well.

Immigrate to the UK as a Doctor from Non-EU or Non-EEA Nations

Step 1 – Demonstrate your English

Foreign doctors seeking registration must demonstrate to the GMC that they are fluent in English. This can be shown by taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Occupational English Test (OET)

Candidates for the IELTS must demonstrate that they fulfill the GMC’s standards in the academic edition of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, which contains four sections:

  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Listening

Prospective registrants for the GMC’s register must have an IELTS score of 7.5 or above. More information on the test may be obtained on the IELTS website.

The OET was established on February 8, 2018, as an alternative to the IELTS. The GMC website has further information regarding the OET.

The OET is a global English language exam for the healthcare industry. It evaluates healthcare professionals’ language communication abilities who seek to register and practice in an English-speaking setting. It is designed for healthcare professionals and is available to physicians, nurses, and midwives in the UK.

The OET website has a comprehensive list of professional regulating agencies that accept the test.

To satisfy the GMC’s standards for the OET, applicants must attain a Level B in each skill (listening, reading, writing, and speaking). The test is intended for healthcare workers, focusing on real-life scenarios that medical personnel may face. More information on the test may be obtained on the OET website.

Step 2 – Take the PLAB test

The GMC uses the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board) exam to guarantee that overseas doctors have the fundamental medical knowledge and communication skills required to practice in the UK. Doctors who want to take the PLAB must have passed the IELTS or OET tests.

The PLAB test is divided into two parts:

  • Part one consists of a written multiple-choice test with 180 single-best-answer questions.
  • Part two consists of a practical objective structured clinical exam (OSCE).

The first part of the PLAB test can be taken anywhere worldwide, but the second part must be done in the UK. More information regarding the PLAB test, including dates, locations, and fees, may be found on the GMC by visiting their website.

2022 Update: Indian doctors and medical graduates can now practice in the UK under new regulations as announced by the General Medical Council, GMC, in 2021. An international medical graduate who has passed the United States Medical License Exam (USMLE), the Australian Medical Council (AMC), or the Canadian Medical Council (MCCQ) exam can receive a license to practice in the UK from the General Medical Council, UK. Those who do not qualify for the exams mentioned above can still appear for PLAB to become doctors in the United Kingdom if they do not qualify for the above-mentioned exams.

MRCS (Membership Exams of the Royal College) and Medical Training Initiative (MTI) programs also allow individuals to obtain jobs as doctors in the UK without PLAB approval.

Step 3 – Apply for a job

You have reached the point where you may apply for employment. Next, you must seek out a position and apply for it personally. 

The majority of vacancies are posted on NHS employment or BMJ careers. Job competition is fierce, so be prepared. Try our advice on applying for work in the UK healthcare industry. It also provides tips on how to write a decent medical CV.

Step 4 – Apply for GMC registration

This essay mentioned this step in detail in the section mentioned above.

Step 5 – Get a Certificate of sponsorship

A sponsorship certificate is an electronic record containing your personal information and information about the employment you’ve been offered.

Your sponsor (company or deanery) will provide you with a certificate of the sponsorship reference number that you must include with your visa application. Your sponsor must also provide you with other information to assist you in applying, such as the amount of money you will be paid.

Step 6: Applying for a UK work visa

Tier 2 will be replaced by the skilled worker visa on December 1, 2020. Suppose you have a job offer from the NHS, an organization that provides medical services to the NHS or an organization that provides adult social care. In that case, you may be able to apply for the health and care worker visa under this route.

If you obtain a UK work visa for three years or less, it will cost £232; if you get a visa for over three years, it will cost £464. There is no difference between applying from within or outside the UK for this fee.

Your dependents will pay the same fee. You can file for your visa up to three months before your employment in the UK starts. The date is mentioned in your sponsorship certification, and you should get a verdict on your visa within five working days.

Here are some tips when you make your application:

  • Check that all of the information on your sponsorship certificate is correct.
  • If you are not currently in the United Kingdom, provide your criminal records Certificate with your application.
  • Ensure you file for your skilled worker visa within the timeframe specified on your sponsorship certificate.
  • Your employer may be required to pay the immigration skills fee. This fee should not be imposed on you. You should seek legal counsel if your employer requests that you pay it.
  • Ascertain that you have the necessary maintenance money in your bank account and proof to support this.

Step 7: Move to the UK

Has the UK Home Office approved your skilled worker visa application? Excellent. You can now begin writing your article. You can begin your stay up to 14 days before the commencement date of your sponsorship certificate.

Remember that you must obtain your biometric residence permission before beginning your study. Then, when your visa is accepted, you will receive one automatically.

  • The maximum period of residence for this form of visa is 5 years and 14 days, or the duration specified on your sponsorship certificate plus one month.
  • Your visa is linked to your employment; if you leave or are fired, you will be unable to stay in the UK.
  • The UK offers you the option of extending your visa or leaving the country once your visa expires.
  • If you leave the UK, you must wait 12 months before returning on a skilled worker visa.

Benefits of Immigrating to the UK as a Doctor

The UK has traditionally been one of the most attractive EU destinations for foreign doctors. This is because of various factors, such as its reputation for providing high-quality treatment, research excellence, and world-class training and development programs.

Annual leave

In the United Kingdom, you are expected to be paid annual leave plus eight days of paid bank holidays each year. The further you remain as an NHS doctor, the more annual leave you earn. What you are entitled to be summarized in the table below:

Length of your service

Annual leave entitlement

0-5 years

27 days + 8 days of bank holidays

After 5 years

29 days + 8 days of bank holidays

After 10 years

33 days + 8 days of bank holidays

If you work on a bank holiday, you should be given another day off in exchange. This is known as time off in lieu of work, or TOIL.

Study leave

Trainees in FY2 and higher, as well as non-trainees, will be eligible for paid study leave. This usually is 30 days each year for trainees. Most of this time is spent on mandatory training sessions offered by the training program. In addition, trainees are given some time to pick what to do. These are often used to attend classes, conferences, and study for examinations.

Study budget

Trainees and occasionally non-trainees can access funds to attend courses and conferences. It often includes course expenses and, in some situations, travel, and lodging. It usually does not cover all expenditures, but it surely helps. More information may be found here.

Study sessions

Study sessions are distinct from study leave and are scheduled weekly or monthly. The distribution of study sessions differs by specialty and region.

Trainees, and occasionally non-trainees, can have 1 to 2 half-days per week or month to study or perform administrative work. These may be utilized to work on audits, seminars, publications, and research, among other things. It may also be used to catch up on paperwork, although it should ideally be more scholarly.

Sick leave

You have the right to paid sick leave and your yearly leave. Sick days are not taken from your yearly leave days. If you become ill while on annual leave, you may be able to reclaim it and utilize it at a later date.

Please keep in mind that if you miss too many training days in a year, you might have to extend your training or retake a year.

Maternity and Paternity leave

Maternity leave: All pregnant NHS staff are entitled to one year of maternity leave, irrespective of the length of service. During this period, it is unlawful for your employer to terminate you. Maternity pay may be available based on how long you worked for the NHS throughout your pregnancy. 

Paternity leave: Paternity leave is granted to fathers for two weeks. This is known as “Maternity support” leave and is available to same-sex partners and nominated caregivers for single moms. It might be paid leave if the father or same-sex partner/nominated caretaker worked for the NHS for a year before the baby’s birth.

Part-time training

You may ask to finish your training on a part-time basis. This can be for several reasons, such as balancing employment and other responsibilities such as caring for children or an aging family member, pursuing a part-time degree, or seeking work-life balance.

This is referred to as “less than full-time training,” or LTFT. You can only work half-time, which means it will take you twice as long to finish your training. For instance, GP training takes three years if you work full-time or 100 percent of the time. If you work LTFT at 50%, it will take 6 years.

Your yearly pay with LTFT training will be significantly lower than that of full-time employment, which may have concerns for people on a Tier 2 visa, which requires you to make more than £30,000 per year.

Parental leave

You are also entitled to 18 weeks of parental leave for each kid over the course of 18 years until your child reaches the age of 18. Some weeks are paid. However, the majority of this leave is unpaid. It may be utilized for various purposes, including assisting your child’s transition to school, accompanying them to the hospital, or simply spending extra time with your children.

NHS pension

I’ve been told by several financial advisors that there is no better private pension plan to replace the NHS pension – at least that’s what I’ve been told! This BMA page provides more information about the NHS pension so you can decide whether you want to opt out.

NHS discounts

NHS personnel also receive discounts on goods and services. Remember to inquire whether any store, restaurant, hotel, or service provides discounts to NHS staff.

Infographic How to Immigrate and Work in the UK as a Doctor

Average Doctor Salary in the United Kingdom

Doctor salaries in the United Kingdom range from 61,300 GBP (the lowest) to 282,000 GBP (the highest). In the United Kingdom, the average annual compensation for a doctor is roughly 76,300 GBP. This figure covers transportation, housing, and other advantages. A doctor’s income in the United Kingdom varies according to specialization and function in the profession.

In the United Kingdom, an experienced doctor might make up to 121,300 GBP annually. Doctors with at least 20 years of experience can earn up to 143,200 GBP. In the United Kingdom, the monthly payment of an MBBS doctor might range from 2,560 GBP to 9,750 GBP.

Doctors’ Salary in the UK as Per the Specialty

Doctor salaries in the United Kingdom vary depending on their specialty, including general practitioners (GP), physicians in training, consultants, and specialists. The following is the difference in a doctor’s income in the United Kingdom according to specialization:


Average Salary Per Year

Nuclear Medicine Physician

184,000 GBP 


225,000 GBP

Skin Care Specialist

109,000 GBP

Advanced Practice Provider

101,000 GBP 

Physical Therapist

118,000 GBP

Physician – Anesthesiology

242,000 GBP 


153,000 GBP

Occupational Health Safety Specialist

102,000 GBP


183,000 GBP


222,000 GBP

Advanced Nutrition Aide

104,000 GBP 


180,000 GBP


88,000 GBP

Behavioral Health Specialist 

80,200 GBP

General Medical Practitioner

138,000 GBP


130,000 GBP 


255,000 GBP

Counseling Psychologist

177,000 GBP


134,000 GBP

Clinical Psychologist

222,000 GBP


175,000 GBP

Genetic Counselor

119,000 GBP

Physician – Cardiology

267,000 GBP

Forensic Pathologist

198,000 GBP


156,000 GBP

Mental Health Therapist

131,000 GBP

Correctional Treatment Specialist

129,000 GBP

Emergency Department Physician

154,000 GBP

Naturopathic Physician

222,000 GBP


223,000 GBP

Invasive Cardiologist

276,000 GBP

Obstetrician / Gynecologist

190,000 GBP

Vision Rehabilitation Therapist

120,000 GBP

Neurophysiology Technologist

61,800 GBP


193,000 GBP


214,000 GBP

Exercise Physiologist

167,000 GBP

Registered Respiratory Therapist

115,000 GBP

Physical Therapy Director

140,000 GBP

10 Highest Paying Cities for Doctors in the UK

The cities listed below are some of the highest-paid cities in the United Kingdom for doctors (form the lowest to the highest):


Average Salary Per Year


186,000 GBP


189,000 GBP


190,000 GBP

Kingston upon Hull

190,000 GBP


194,000 GBP


197,000 GBP


200,000 GBP


200,000 GBP


201,000 GBP


203,000 GBP

Doctor Salary in the UK by State

The typical pay of a doctor in the UK is as follows, depending on the state in which they practice (form the lowest to the highest):


Salary Per Year

Northern Ireland

152,000 GBP 


159,000 GBP


234,000 GBP


317,000 GBP


A Health and Care Worker visa permits medical professionals to enter or remain in the United Kingdom to work for the NHS, an NHS supplier, or in senior social care. There are various steps and layers in getting a UK work permit for doctors. For example, they must take the PLAB test, prove their English proficiency, look for a job, register, and so much more.

If you want to know more about other types of UK visas, check out the bar at the top of the page.


Can a foreigner work as a doctor in the United Kingdom?

Doctors qualified outside the United Kingdom may be eligible to apply for full registration immediately provided they possess an approved primary medical qualification and have finished a term of postgraduate clinical practice.

What is the highest paid doctor in the United Kingdom?

  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Orthopedic and trauma surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Cardiology

Do physicians in the UK get paid overtime?

If a doctor works 40 hours per week on average, and the hours are consistently Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., NO BANDING applies. That implies they will only receive minimal salary. If you work on-calls and night shifts, you can easily anticipate an extra 30-40% (of your basic income) on top of your basic compensation.

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