A guide for overseas doctors planning to train and work in the UK as a GP

Welcome!

We know that settling in a new country can be daunting, especially if you are about to start a new job and are bringing your family with you. We hope these pages will be helpful in finding the support and guidance you need.

We have provided a collection of resources with practical information to help you settle into life in the UK and make the transition a little easier. For peer support, you may wish to join the international and overseas group on the RCGP forum.

"I'm delighted that you are considering coming to the UK to work or train as a GP. If you decide to settle here as a GP, you will find a huge amount of support - from the NHS and your new colleagues, national groups of GPs from your country of origin, and from the Royal College of GPs, our professional home. The NHS is an amazing organisation, that provides a huge range of care from cradle to grave for everyone, free at the point of contact and general practice is a vital part of the NHS.

I have been a GP in the NHS, working in both England and Wales, for 35 years, and I can truly say that I love the job! Getting to know and care for your practice patients is a real privilege, and as GPs we know what is happening in our communities better than any other professional. I do hope that one day I will be welcoming you to the RCGP as a valued colleague. ” - Professor Kamila Hawthorne MBE MD FRCGP FRCP FAcadMEd FLSW, Chair of RCGP Council

GPs and their teams are at the heart of the NHS and at the centre of our communities. Together they provide over 360 million consultations every year, diagnosing and treating the physical, social and psychological issues that patients are dealing with. No two practices are the same, so whether you are interested in working as a salaried GP in a large inner-city practice, as a partner in a small rural practice or even as a locum doctor to gain experience in a variety of work settings, there is a role for you as a GP in the NHS.

The GP workforce is very diverse – just like our patients. There are thousands of GPs from countries other than the UK working in the NHS. They are especially valued for the new skills and perspectives that they bring to practices. Find out more about the RCGP and our definition of a GP

The UK government has produced a guide on moving to the UK. You can find out more about living in or moving to different parts of the UK depending on where you are planning on settling.

For general information some useful websites to visit include Citizens Advice, IMG Connect, Expatica and Britain Explained

We have tried to explain the roles of various organisations you will most likely encounter in your journey to work or train as a GP in the UK. 

Housing

Guides to buying and renting property in the UK can be found on property website Rightmove which will also give you an idea of the housing options available across the UK, and associated costs.

Some additional resources:

Education

In the UK, schools are either state schools funded by government and are free for all pupils, or they are independent schools and charge fees to the parents of the pupils.

Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of five (four in Northern Ireland) and 16 and is devolved in the UK, with each of the four nations having separate systems. 

Children usually attend primary and secondary schools closest to where they live if there are places available. In England, you must apply through the local council for a school place. Each school has regular inspections and you can view the reports on the Ofsted website to find out how well a school has performed. 

Further education and higher education are not compulsory although the UK has some of the best universities in the world! For an overview of the education system in the UK and more information on the individual systems in the four UK nations follow the links below:

Childcare 

There are several childcare options available to parents including nannies, nurseries, childminders and creches. In most regions children from age three are entitled to some free childcare.

There is country specific detail for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and more general information on childcare options and costs across the UK on these websites:

Opening a UK bank account

Setting up a new bank account can be challenging. There are different types of accounts and costs. 
It is worth checking with your existing bank to see if they have a relationship with a bank that has a presence in the UK. You may be able to apply for an international account online. For example, Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, and NatWest all offer international bank accounts. 

MoneyHelper has numerous articles on how to open a bank account, types of bank account and how to choose the right bank account for you. 

Here are some helpful guides on all things related to banking and managing your finances:

Driving in the UK 

You may be able to drive in the UK (England, Wales and Scotland) for up to 12 months on your foreign licence. You can check eligibility on GOV UK as well as get information on exchanging your foreign licence for a UK licence. The process in Northern Ireland is different.

Accessing healthcare

Anyone who is a resident in the UK can access the NHS. The NHS is free to all at the point of delivery. You should register with a GP in your local area to ensure you can easily access medical care if and when you need it.

Find out more information on services provided by the NHS

Broadband, phone and TV

There are numerous broadband, mobile phone and TV providers in the UK. Here are some useful resources to help you get started:

You can compare deals on comparison websites such as:

Cost of living

Living costs vary across countries and regions, with the highest costs generally found in London. This is often taken into account in salaries by including an allowance known as London weighting.
 
You can find an overview of the cost of living in the UK on Numbeo and Expatica.

The NHS was created in 1948 as part of a new state welfare system. The principles of the NHS are to provide a comprehensive service and good healthcare to all, regardless of wealth. Funding for the NHS comes directly from taxation. Today, more than 67 million people in the UK receive free care at the point of need.

The NHS covers the full spectrum of primary and secondary care, from antenatal care and treatment for long-term conditions, to emergency treatment and end-of-life care. It is the largest employer in Europe.

Responsibility for healthcare in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly respectively.

Working as a GP in the NHS

General practice, or primary care, is often described as “the bedrock of the NHS”, dealing with around 90 per cent of all patient contacts.

As a generalist, a GP needs to have a high level of understanding across the full range of medical and surgical specialties and the skills to provide appropriate care in a safe and cost-effective way. Many GPs also now lead multi-professional teams to provide integrated services for patients that were historically provided in secondary care.

GPs deal with a wide range of health problems and will treat patients throughout their lives. Their work involves:

  • providing both regular and reactive health promotion
  • making accurate diagnoses and risk assessments
  • dealing with multi-morbidity
  • coordinating long-term care
  • addressing the physical, social and psychological aspects of patients' wellbeing throughout their lives

They are also involved in deciding how health and social services should be organised to deliver safe, effective and accessible care to patients in their communities. 

You can read about life as a GP and a typical day in general practice on the NHS website.

GPs in the UK, many from overseas, enjoy a rewarding and varied career that offers unrivalled flexibility, with the option to fit the job around other major commitments, such as having a family. It also provides the opportunity to practise in your region of choice, and to decide to be wholly a generalist or to develop skills in a specific area as a GP with an extended role.

Making the transition to NHS general practice 

It can be difficult to adjust quickly to working in the UK. However, there are many sources of information available. 

The GMC runs a free online workshop, Welcome to UK Practice. This session will help doctors new to NHS practice, or new to the country, to understand the ethical issues that will affect them and their patients on a day-to-day basis.

The King’s Fund offers a free online course; The NHS explained: how the health system in England really works, which runs over four weeks with each weekly session taking around two hours to complete.

The GP International Induction Programme is designed for GPs who have never worked in NHS general practice before. The programme must be completed before being included on the Medical Performers List and working independently in general practice.

Other sources of information: 

Finding a GP role that's right for you 

GPs can move between many different roles and locations throughout their careers and build flexible working patterns around the needs of their patients as well as their personal lives. 

The UK needs more GPs and there are vacancies in many areas of the country. This means that there are lots of job opportunities for GPs moving to the UK, and you should not have any difficulty in finding a suitable role at a practice that is a good fit for you.

There are some areas with particularly high levels of vacancies, including urban centres, rural communities and coastal towns. Several websites advertise GP vacancies including RCGP jobs which will give you an idea of the variety of roles on offer. 

There is a variety of roles you could take up as a GP. These are explained on our Career Options page which includes tips and advice. Read about why Dr Jodie Blackadder-Weinstein chose GP and her portfolio career. 

All non-UK nationals, including EEA nationals (except for the Republic of Ireland) require one of the following to be able to work in the UK:

  • a Health and Care Worker visa

  • a Skilled Worker visa (replaced the Tier 2 visa) 

  • Indefinite leave to remain status

You may have specific rights to live and work in the UK, if you are the spouse of an EEA national, or because you have commonwealth ancestry rights. If you think this may apply to you, please check the GOV.UK website.

BMA members can access a free Immigration advice service which provides basic immigration advice in connection with your employment and study in the UK. You can stay up to date by signing up to the BMA's free visa alerts service.

Health and Care Worker Visa

A Skilled Worker visa allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer. This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa.

As a doctor working in health or adult social care, you are eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa instead. It’s cheaper to apply for and you do not need to pay the annual immigration health surcharge. You must have a job offer in the UK and be granted a licence to practise by the GMC.

4-month visa extension post CCT

The government has introduced an additional four months as a grace period on Skilled Worker visas for GPs at the end of their training. This is intended to allow you to have extra time to secure work with an employer and arrange sponsorship with them. 

If you started your training in August 2023 or after this, your additional four months will automatically be applied. If you started your training before August 2023 you will need to apply for the extension. 
You should contact your local training body visa team for details on how to apply. Here are some initial pointers: 

  • You cannot apply more than one month before your current visa is due to expire (the end date on your BRP card or visa). Applications submitted too early will be rejected by the Home Office. 
  • Make a Skilled Worker Visa application (using the health and care route) via the UKVI website.   
  • o Please note you will need to pay the associated visa application fees at this time, but will be refunded later. 
  • As part of this application, you will need to use the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) number currently issued to you for your training – or the most recent one if you’ve had an extension before your CCT date.
  • o   Your CoS number is: Located on your previous CoS
  • o   Add the start date as the day after your visa expires 
  • o   Add the end date as your start date plus 4 months 
  • The Home Office will then ‘hold’ your application for a period 4 months.  Please note they will not assess your application and you will not be given a decision or a new visa. Your application will just be placed in a holding position so that your stay in the UK will not be curtailed and you will not be asked to leave

Visa Sponsorship: Planning for Post-CCT

If your visa is due to expire at the end of your training, this information should help you to plan ahead, so that when you CCT, you are in the best possible position to move smoothly into a role as a qualified GP. 

The 4-month visa extension or grace period is not an alternative to securing sponsorship with your next employer after completing your training and you will not be given a new visa. This scheme is only to allow you to legally remain in the UK while you are looking for employment and waiting to start work.  If you have already secured employment and sponsorship with a new sponsor by the end of your training, you will not need to apply for the extension.

Good to know

  • Plan ahead as far as possible so that you can move directly into a job without delay.
  • You should think about this early in your ST3 year and talk to your local NHS links.
  • It's quicker if you can secure a job with a practice which already has a sponsoring licence, but this can be applied for if the practice doesn’t have it and is willing to get it.
  • It may be worth double-checking your CCT date is accurate with your deanery (who can confirm this with the RCGP GPSA team) to ensure the correct timing of your application.
  • General practice jobs are on the shortage occupation list, so a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) isn't required.
  • You must have a confirmed job offer before applying for your visa.

Applying for jobs

  • Check the RCGP Jobs board
  • Talk to your Educational Supervisor and Training Programme Directors, as they may be able to signpost you to local opportunities and initiatives to support you if you are due to CCT
  • Find out which practices in the area you are planning to work can sponsor Health and Social Care Worker visas. Your Local Medical Committee (LMC) should be able to provide more information on this.

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

  • To apply for your CoS you will need passport details, your address, details of your job, etc.
  • If you have a job offer from a practice which already holds a licence for Tier 2 visa sponsorship, they will be able to apply for your CoS straight away.
  • If you have a job offer from a practice which isn’t already a sponsor, they will have to be prepared to apply to become a sponsoring practice and complete this process before you apply for your CoS. Securing a licence can take around 8 to 12 weeks so allow enough time for this.
  • More information and support for practices:
  • o    UK visa sponsorship for employers on GOV.UK
  • o    Employer Helpline: 0300 123 4699
  • o    businesshelpdesk@homeoffice.gov.uk
  • Once the sponsor licence is granted, the practice can apply for your CoS.
  • When you have been assigned a CoS you must apply for your visa within three months but cannot apply more than three months before the start date of the job listed on the certificate. See certificates of sponsorship on GOV.UK.

Gov.uk/Home Office

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

BMA

More immigration and visa information 

If you do not submit a new Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) before the end of the grace period, your visa application will be considered on the information you have already provided and may be refused. 

If you have dependants, they should apply at the same as you to extend their visas. If your dependants apply later their applications may not be considered in line with your application and may be refused.

This does not affect your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). Any extension taken under this scheme submitted before the expiry date of your visa will extend your permission under Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971, and this time period within the UK will be counted as Skilled Worker permission for the purposes of calculating eligibility for settlement. Section 3C extends the person’s existing permission until the application is decided (or withdrawn).  

If your training is extended (i.e. your CCT date is delayed), you will need to apply for a normal extension visa. You can then use the additional 4 months post CCT date should you need it once you have successfully completed your training.

You will be able to work as a locum GP whilst you are seeking permanent employment in the field. However, the purpose of this scheme is to find permanent employment at a Skilled Worker licenced employer.

If you were to leave the Common Travel Area (consisting of the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands) whilst your application is outstanding it will be treated as withdrawn and you will be unable to return the UK. If you were to leave the Common Travel Area during this period, you will need to make an application from overseas once you have been offered a job.