Advice for medical or other professionals wanting to work in the UK

With the current shortage of medical and other professionals in the UK, it should be easy for anyone with the appropriate qualifications to find employment or set up an independent practise. A difficulty in doing either of these things is that there are many quite strict, complicated, and sometimes confusing rules that can restrict entry to this opportunity.

The following guide provides some information about the different processes for EEA and Non-EEA doctors and dentists, and what the criteria are for each category.

EEA Doctors and Dentists

Doctors and dentists who are from the European Economic Area (EEA) will find there are significantly less barriers than there were in the past, and that it is somewhat easier to obtain the required permission to work in the UK.

You will qualify for registration in the UK as an EEA doctor or dentist if you are from one of the following countries:

  • Austria (Österreich)
  • Belgium (België / Belgique / Belgien)
  • Bulgaria (Bǎlgarija)
  • Cyprus (Κύπρος)
  • Czech Republic (Česká Republika)
  • Denmark (Danmark)
  • Estonia (Eesti)
  • Finland (Suomi)
  • France (France)
  • Germany (Deutschland)
  • Greece (Ελλάδα)
  • Hungary (Magyarország)
  • Iceland (Ísland)
  • Ireland (Éire)
  • Italy (Italia)
  • Latvia (Latvija)
  • Liechtenstein (Liechtenstein)
  • Lithuania (Lietuva)
  • Luxembourg (Lëtzebuerg)
  • Malta (Malta)
  • Netherlands (Nederland)
  • Norway (Norge)
  • Poland (Polska)
  • Portugal (Portugal)
  • Romania (România)
  • Slovakia (Slovensko)
  • Slovenia (Slovenija)
  • Spain (España)
  • Sweden (Sverige)
  • UK (United Kingdom)

Further to this requirement, you should also have obtained your professional qualification in one of the countries listed above. It is important to be aware that if your professional qualification was obtained anywhere else, you will not be considered an EEA doctor or dentist, even if you are a national of one of the approved EEA countries.

Conversely, if you are not a national of one of those countries but you have obtained EC rights and you have obtained a professional qualification from one of the approved EEA countries, then you will be considered to be an EEA doctor or dentist for assessment purposes.

The benefit of being considered an EEA doctor or dentist in the assessment process is substantial. You will have basically the same rights as a doctor or dentist born in the UK with a qualification from the UK, once the General Medical Council (GMC) accepts your registration. Under this stream of registration, you will not be required to prove your English language ability.

Non-EEA Doctors and Dentists

If you are not originally from an EEA country, have not obtained EC rights, and did not obtain any medical qualification in an EEA country, then you will be considered a non-EEA applicant, and you will be referred to as an “International Doctor” or “International Dentist”. This is not a good status to have, but at least it is a recognised one.

Those who fit into this category are treated quite differently from those with EEA status. Whereas those with EEA status have parity with doctors and dentists who are UK nationals with qualifications obtained in the UK, those with International Doctor or dentist status certainly do not.

Before a non-EEA International Doctor or Dentist can obtain registration with the GMC, the individual must first possess a valid work visa. The specific type of visa you obtain will depend on the type of post you are intending to work in.

  • The highest level is Tier 1, which is for fully qualified doctors and dentists who will be working in a non-training grade.
  • Below this is Tier 2, which is available to those who have been invited to the UK by an employer who was unable to fill an existing vacancy (whether training or non-training) with a suitably qualified candidate from the UK or the EEA.
  • At the bottom is Tier 5, which will allow an international doctor or dentist to enter the UK for training of up to two years, at the end of which they must leave the UK (note that some advice suggests the doctor or dentist must return to their home country, but in practice such an unfair rule could never be enforced).

It is very difficult to obtain a Tier 2 visa because there is a rule requiring doctors or dentists to completely exhaust the possibility of finding a qualified UK or EEA candidate before considering applications from International Doctors and Dentists.

International Doctors and Dentists may also have to pass a Professional and Linguistics Assessments Board (PLAB) examination prior to being able to register with the GMC. There are, however, some exceptions to the rule. You will not have to take a PLAB test if:

  • You have EC rights, or
  • You have a sponsorship approved by the GMC, or
  • You have a postgraduate qualification approved by the GMC, or
  • You are eligible to enter the GP or Specialist register of the GMC

It may seem completely unfair that a doctor or dentist born and raised in an English-speaking country such as Australia should have to take an exam to prove English language competency while a doctor from Austria does not have to. That’s because it is unfair.

Even though these barriers to entry are real, they are certainly not impossible to overcome. In some cases, it may be a lot easier for certain individuals to get past the restrictions, and this is something that Hylton-Potts has extensive experience in assisting with.

We may, for example, be able to help you fast track an application for EC Rights or even to obtain the right of indefinite residence in the UK. There is a multitude of other ways we can help you as well.

We help doctors, dentists, pharmacists, architects, veterinary surgeons and care workers.

How to get off to a good start

Hylton-Potts has been a trusted name in EC Rights law since the very beginning. We also have established an excellent track record over more than two decades of helping medical professionals of all kinds to secure the right to train, work, and live in the UK.

Our long experience and in-depth knowledge of all the relevant laws and regulations, combined with a good working relationship with the relevant authorities, enables us to provide top-notch advice and legal assistance to all medical professionals.

To find out more about our services, call Hylton-Potts Legal Consultants on 020 7381 8111 or send an email to [email protected].

We would be interested in your comments, especially if you have found yourself in this situation and have advice for others or likewise if you are contemplating going this route yourself, please leave a comment so we can come back to you or contact us directly.