Blogs > Introduction to the NHS / GMC Registration

So you have decided that the UK is for you - what is the process?

  • March 03, 2018

Hello IMG friends! This blog post is going to provide you with an outline of the process for an international Doctor who wants to relocate to the UK. Moving to the UK has many advantages, as explored in our previous blog post; however, we fully understand that the process can be complex and confusing. Therefore, this article aims to simplify the entire process and will provide a step by step guidance for an IMG who wants to relocate. However, it is fundamental to note that the process order will differ dependent on your personal circumstance, so get in touch with one of our Specialist Recruitment Consultants at [email protected] and they will be able to advise you on the best pathway to take.

Generally, below are the following steps that an IMG will have to take in order to come and work in the UK:

  1. English Language Qualification - If you are relocating from a country where English is not the native language, the UK’s General Medical Council require you to sit an English Language test. Typically Doctors take IELTS, however recently the GMC announced they would also accept the OET examination.

    You will also need to evidence your English language skills to the Home Office when you apply for your Tier 2 visa. From 1st October 2019, the Home Office will now accept a valid OET, IELTS Academic, IELTS Academic UKVI and UKNARIC certificate.

  2. Postgraduate Qualification – This qualification must be recognised by the GMC. To find out if you have an approved GMC postgraduate qualification contact us at [email protected], as again there are various routes to take depending on your situation. If your qualification is not recognised you will then be required to take the Professional and Linguistics Advisory Board UK (PLAB) Part 1 and 2 exams. This exam will test your English knowledge in a medical context. But for European Doctors if you qualified in a European institution then your postgraduate qualification will automatically be recognised by the GMC and you will not be required to take PLAB.

  3. Job Search – For many Doctors once they have received their English language and postgraduate qualification the job search begins. Once you are at this stage get in touch with us as we will be able to pair you with a Specialist Recruitment Consultant who will be able to provide you with exclusive roles and then organise interviews for you.

  4. GMC Registration Process – Once you have an English language and post graduate qualification you will be eligible to register with the GMC for a license to practice. At this stage visit the GMC’s website and locate all the required documentation they require, then you can begin your application process and upon submitting you will be required to pay a fee.

  5. Job Offer – After you have been offered a position you can apply for a Visa to work in the UK and organise an ID check with the GMC.

  6. Relocation – When an ID check date has been confirmed, you can apply for your Tier 2 visa, book flights, organise accommodation and schools if you have children – all of which we can assist you on.

English Language Qualification


From our experience, we believe the first step that should be taken is to ensure that you have English language testing which is approved by the GMC. The most popular language exam IMG’s tend to take is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The exam covers the four key language skills in general English: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Doctors must achieve an overall score of 7.5 (with a score no less than 7.0 in each section of the test). Further information on IELTS can be found on their website at:


On the 8th February 2018 the GMC announced that they would also accept the Occupational English Test (OET) as an alternative test to prove your English language skills.

OET recognise that limited language proficiency is an obstacle to effective communication which affects the quality of care. Thus, OET is designed to replicate the critical tasks of the healthcare workplace setting and the test measures a Doctor’s abilities through the skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking. The score required is four B’s and the scores must be achieved at the same exam sitting.

Currently we are seeing many Doctors who are now attempting OET as they have struggled to reach the required scores within IELTS; however it is too early for us to give a definitive answer as to the pass rate for OET in comparison to IELTS. Nevertheless, we will be collating this information as we go along and we will then be able to advise which test is better once we have the data.

It is also important to note that the OET exam is significantly more expensive than IELTS; it is limited in the number of global test centres and the frequency of exams available.

Further information on the OET exam can be found here:

Recognised Postgraduate Qualifications

The next stage of the process is to ensure that you hold a GMC approved postgraduate qualification. If you hold one of the following qualifications and it has been obtained in the last three years, then it is important to note that you will not be required to sit the PLAB exams, but you will need to have an approved IELTS score.

However, if your postgraduate qualification is on the list but it was obtained more than three years ago, then you will be required to submit additional evidence to the GMC, which demonstrates that the level of practice you have delivered has continued to be in line with the associated qualification. As previously mentioned, if you are unsure as to whether your qualification is recognised then do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

A list of GMC approved postgraduate qualifications can be found here:


If you do not have a recognised GMC postgraduate qualification then you will have to sit the PLAB exam. PLAB is an English language test that is focused on practicing English in a medical setting.

The test assesses your ability, as a doctor, to work safely as a clinician in a UK NHS hospital. This certificate is broken into 2 exams:

  • PLAB Part 1 is a 3 hour long exam with a paper containing 180 single best answer (SBA) questions
  • PLAB Part 2 is a 18-station objective structured clinical exam (OSCE)

Before sitting the PLAB exams you must already have successfully completed your IELTS exam, but please do not assume that because you have passed the IELTS, you will pass the PLAB. This test is harder and will more than likely require some study - there are a number of independent companies that can assist you in preparation for the PLAB exams, as well as study resources which can be purchased online. Please speak to your Recruitment Consultant for more information.

Bespoke Job Searches

Although you will not be able to begin employment until you have received your licence to practice from the GMC, once you have completed your IELTS and PLAB exams (if applicable) we will then be in a position to start the job search and begin to arrange interviews for you with our clients. Many of our clients will be happy to interview and offer a position after a telephone and/or Skype interview – which means we are often able to secure an offer of employment without the need for a face to face interview and you needing to travel to the UK.

BDI offer a bespoke job search so you do not have to. Part of this process for us includes:

  • Speaking directly to Lead Consultants, Clinical Directors and Department Managers to ensure that your CV is reviewed directly by a clinician. This is because often direct applications are often disregarded by an administrator before reaching the potential employer.
  • Provide exclusive roles: we often have access to jobs which are not actively advertised.
  • Detailed understanding of your specialty: Our Specialist Recruitment Consultants are all trained to be knowledgeable in a wide range of niche specialties. For us it is important to know what your research interests and sub-specialties are to locate the perfect position for you to continue your professional development.
  • We will also negotiate your salary with our client to ensure you receive the best package possible.

General Medical Council (GMC)

Once you have your English Language Qualification and a hold a recognised postgraduate qualification you will be eligible to register to the GMC to receive a licence to practice which is required by anyone who wishes to practice medicine in the NHS.

The GMC are responsible for protecting NHS patients and to improve medical education and practice across the UK, namely by:

  • Deciding which doctors are qualified to work in the UK and oversee all UK medical education and training
  • Set the standards that doctors need to follow and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers
  • Take action to prevent a doctor from putting the safety of patients or the public’s confidence in doctors at risk

From experience registering with the GMC is the most time consuming and difficult aspect of an IMG relocating to the UK. Many Doctors will fall at this hurdle for many reasons which include; the length of registration time, fees payable and unsuitable documentation.

Our first and foremost piece of advice to you as an IMG, who wants to relocate to the UK, is to contact and engage in conversation with the GMC as early as possible. The reason for this is that only they will be able to clarify whether you hold the appropriate postgraduate qualification and the appropriate documents to continue an application with them. Contact details can be found on their website via the following link:

Cost of Registration

GMC registration will generally cost £425; however, this could fluctuate dependent on your circumstance. For instance, if you have held a registration in the past and want to reinstate it, the fee is £200. Furthermore, an annual retention fee of £425 is also required and this fee can be paid via a one-off payment, quarterly or monthly. It is important to note that further fees may be applicable and a full list can be found here:

European Doctors

From experience the GMC registration process is generally easier for European Doctor’s, this is because the only test you are required to take is the IELTS exam. If you qualified in a European institution you will automatically hold a recognised GMC postgraduate qualification and therefore able to apply for Specialist Registration and not required to sit the PLAB exam.

Furthermore, if you do not hold a Royal College postgraduate qualification then you will simply have to submit your current qualifications to the GMC as evidence of training. In addition, most European citizens will not require a Visa to work in the UK (current exclusions to this include Croatian Doctors who will require a ‘Purple Card’).

Visa Sponsorship

After you have accepted your offer of employment the final application to be made is for a Tier 2 Visa. This step is considered simple because the employing hospital will sponsor your application and occasionally pay for it too.

The Tier 2 Visa allows you to work in the UK and travel in and out of the country as you please. The Visa is supported for the duration of your employment (via extensions) and is valid whilst you work for the sponsoring organisation (i.e. if you move to work at another hospital then your new employer will need to take over sponsorship of the Visa).

Despite the government citing that it takes up to three months to get your Visa, in our experience it is usually obtained by about four weeks from the point of application.

With regards to close family members, they can also be granted Visa’s as part of your own application (but please bear in mind that the hospital will not carry the additional cost of this).

For full details on applying for a Visa visit:

Relocation Process

Now you have registered with the GMC, accepted a job offer and got your Visa, the next stage of the process is to arrange your travel and relocation to the UK!

Once you have booked your flights then we can help arrange your accommodation. In the UK, to lease or buy a property you must view the property in person and then sign for it. Therefore, when you first come to the UK it is likely that you will have to stay in temporary hospital accommodation until you find the perfect accommodation for yourself or your family – often medical staffing will be able to arrange this once you have booked your flights. Again, BDI will be happy to help with this process and we can organise viewings of houses or apartments for you to go and visit in your first couple of weeks being here.

Other points to consider once you have made the move are:

  • Setting up a UK bank account
  • Getting a UK mobile number
  • National Insurance number
  • Registering with a GP/Dentist
  • Registering for electricity/gas/tax

To summarise, the relocation process to the UK is a complex one and the requirement of each step will differ depending on your personal circumstance, this also means that the steps can be taken in various orders. In addition elements of the process can change from time-to-time but we will be able to keep you up to date on any developments. Therefore we advise that you get in contact with one of our team, at [email protected], and we will be able to advise you on the best pathway to take in order to help you move to the UK sooner than you thought.

If you are an international doctor who wants to relocate to the UK and work within the NHS send your CV to [email protected] – and we will be happy to help you. In addition, if you would like support form an online forum of other IMG’s join our Facebook Group: IMG Advisor.


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