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Guidance for non-EEA international doctors

Specific information for non-UK doctors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who wish to work in Britain.

Definition of ‘international doctor’

An international doctor is one who, regardless of where they obtained their primary medical qualification, doesn’t have the right of indefinite residence, is not settled in the UK (as determined by immigration and nationality law) or who doesn’t benefit from European Community rights. This definition includes doctors who have received a primary medical qualification from a UK university and completed their foundation training but who don’t have settled status or right of indefinite residence.

Settled status: indefinite leave to remain in the UK in prescribed circumstances

Some international doctors may be entitled to settled status in the UK, for example those who are married to a British citizen or who have at least 1 grandparent born in the UK.

Registering with the General Medical Council (GMC)

You will need to register with the General Medical Council (GMC) before undertaking direct patient care. International doctors can join the UK Specialist Register by applying for a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR), which proves you have undertaken training equivalent to that undertaken by a UK Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) holder.

Find out more about applying for a CESR.


Joining the UK training programme

In March 2006, permit-free training in the UK was withdrawn, which means it’s not possible to get a post as an international trainee if there’s a suitable EU graduate available. This has made it much more difficult for international trainees to get UK training posts.

The GMC website provides advice for international medical graduates about their options, as well as information about the PLAB exams. Exemption from PLAB only occurs if you’re on a sponsored post, such as exchange schemes or the International Doctors Training Programme (see below).

The Medical Training Initiative (MTI)

In the UK, the selection of UK/EEA trainees takes place once a year in March, for jobs commencing the following August. 

The selection process for these posts is conducted through the College as part of the MTI scheme. Find out more about the MTI.



International doctors require a visa to work in the UK. There are 3 types of visa relevant to working as a doctor:

  • Tier 1: successful application to tier 1 allows doctors to seek work in the UK in any non-training grade
  • Tier 2: for doctors who’ve been offered a post in the UK for which the employing authority was unable to find a suitable UK or EEA doctor to fill the post; this may be either a training or a non-training post
  • Tier 5: for selected international doctors to come to the UK to train for up to 2 years, following which they must return to their home country; the training won’t lead to a CCT

For more information about visa applications, please visit the UK Border Agency website.

Further information

More information about UK immigration for doctors is avilable on the BMA website.