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Six steps to UK medical practice for IMGs

Post date: 22/02/2023 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 24/02/2023

If you’re a medical student, graduate or doctor looking to work in the UK, you’ll first need to meet the criteria required to register with the General Medical Council (GMC). 


Doctors from around the world play a huge role in the NHS and make a vital contribution in delivering exceptional patient care.

Regardless of whether you’re coming from inside the European Economic Area (EEA) or outside it, if you’re a medical student, graduate or doctor looking to work in the UK, you’ll first need to meet the criteria required to register with the General Medical Council (GMC).

Here we take a closer look at the six step journey you’ll have to follow before you can practice in the UK.

1. Take an English language test

Excellent communication is crucial to the provision of great healthcare. That’s why it’s important to be able to demonstrate that your English language skills meet the necessary standard. This applies to any international doctor, regardless of your country of origin, and you can do this by passing either of the following tests:

The General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK provides an online guide which explains how it will assess your knowledge of English and what evidence you need to provide them with.

2. Prove you have the necessary knowledge and skills

This step only applies to you if you’re arriving in the UK from outside of the EEA. If you are from inside the EEA or Switzerland, thanks to the EU, your qualification is seen as being  enough proof of your ability.

There are three main routes to proving that you have sufficient knowledge and skills to practice safely in the UK:

  1. Professional and Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB)

    This is a two-part exam that will assess your ability as a doctor to work safely as an SHO in the NHS. PLAB will be replaced by the UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA) in 2024.

  2. Royal College post-graduate qualification

    Many doctors choose a Royal College qualification as a pathway to registration and more senior roles when they have already chosen a specialism. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) oversees the specialisms of medicine in the UK and Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) is an example of a qualification you can obtain which provides evidence that you have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to apply for full registration with a licence to practise. Here is a full list of acceptable post-graduate qualifications.  

  3. Equivalent qualifications
    There are some overseas qualifications that the GMC accept as being equivalent to Royal College qualifications. See if yours is recognised by the GMC.

Less common routes to GMC registration include:

1. Obtaining a Certificate of Sponsorship. The GMC lists a number of sponsorship schemes for IMGs and minimum criteria for applying.

2. The Medical Training Initiative, a scheme which provides junior doctors who qualified overseas with the opportunity to work and train in the UK.

3. Register with the GMC

Having passed your English language test and demonstrated your knowledge and skills, you can now register with the GMC. Once registered you will receive your licence to practice in the UK and work in the NHS.

Read more (link to

4. Find a job

Once you’ve ticked all the boxes needed to work in the UK, it’s time to find a job. The NHS has a dedicated website which features all the current roles available across every NHS trust. Visit:


Some other websites you may wish to consult include:


5. Secure your visa

As an IMG, you’ll need a Skilled Worker visa to work in the UK. Previously referred to as a Tier 2 visa, this is issued through the UK Home Office once you have an offer of a job.

The process is long and can take time, but your NHS trust will support you at every stage. They’ll hold a Skilled Worker Sponsorship License which they’ll use to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship in your name. Once you have this you can complete the visa application process online.

Your Skilled Worker visa will allow you to work in the UK for up to five years before you need to extend it.

Read more about the visa application process

6. Plan for your move to the UK

So, you have your visa, you’ve registered with the GMC, and you’ve secured that all important first job in the NHS. Now it’s time to make the exciting move to the UK.

This is a big event in anyone’s life, and there’s a lot to consider and plan for. The checklist of things to do is a long one, but here are some of the most important points to consider:

  • Find a place to live

  • Set up all your utilities and bills for your new home

  • Open a UK bank account

  • Get connected with a mobile phone and SIM card that will work in the UK

  • Work out how you’ll get around. A driving license from your home country will be valid in the UK for a year. After that you’ll need to apply for a UK license

  • If you have children, register them with a local school

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