The United Kingdom offers excellent opportunities for nurses, midwives and doctors from overseas who wish to live and work in the country.
With its world-class healthcare system and high demand for skilled healthcare professionals, the UK provides a rewarding career path as well as a high quality of life. In 2024, the process of moving to the UK as a nurse, midwife or doctor remains straightforward, though there are some key steps that need to be followed.
To be eligible to work as a nurse, midwife or doctor in the UK, you must:
- Have the appropriate professional qualifications and work experience in your home country
- Have valid registration and a license to practice from the relevant regulatory body
- Meet the English language requirements (IELTS 7.0 or equivalent)
- Have a job offer from an approved UK employer who can sponsor your visa
Additionally, you must pass mandatory competency exams conducted by the relevant UK regulatory body to demonstrate your skills and qualifications meet UK standards. Doctors need to pass the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test. Nurses and midwives need to pass the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Test of Competence which includes a computer-based test and practical assessment.
Health and Care Worker Visa
The main visa route for nurses, midwives and doctors is the Health and Care Worker Visa. This offers a streamlined path to work in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) or private healthcare sector. The key features of the Health and Care Visa are:
- Initial validity period of up to 5 years
- Can switch to other long-term UK visas from within the country
- Dependants can accompany the main visa holder
- No immigration health surcharge to access NHS services
- Priority and faster processing
To apply for the Health and Care Visa, you need a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your future UK employer. This confirms they are an approved sponsor, have carried out required checks, and are offering you a genuine full-time skilled job.
There are excellent resources to search for nurse, midwife and doctor jobs in the UK’s National Health Service:
- NHS Jobs – Central portal for NHS roles across England
- NHS Scotland – Jobs portal for NHS Scotland
- Health Jobs Wales – Lists jobs available in NHS Wales
- NHS Northern Ireland – Search for jobs in Health and Social Care Northern Ireland
Recruitment agencies can also help connect overseas candidates to suitable job vacancies and assist with relocation:
- MMA Recruitment – Specialists in international nurse recruitment
- Medacs Healthcare – Places healthcare professionals in public and private sectors
When searching for jobs, check that the employer is an approved visa sponsor. Key employers known to sponsor foreign nurses, doctors and midwives include NHS Hospital Trusts, General Practitioner clinics, private hospitals, and care homes.
Registration and Right to Work Checks
To legally work as a nurse, midwife or doctor in the UK, you must register with the appropriate regulatory body:
- Nurses & Midwives: Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
- Doctors: General Medical Council (GMC)
These regulators maintain professional standards and require you to demonstrate English language competency and pass credentialing exams before issuing registration. As a visa sponsor, your UK employer will also conduct right to work checks and verify your registration with the regulator before you start employment.
Costs and Financial Planning
When budgeting your move to the UK, factor in the following key costs:Visa application fees
- Health and Care Worker Visa: £232 per person
- Immigration Health Surcharge: Exempted
- Dependants: £232 per person
- NMC registration fee: £140
- NMC test fees: £190 for CBT, £794 for OSCE
- GMC registration fee: £420 – £470
- Flights: £500 – £1000
- Accommodation deposits: £300 – £500
- NHS surcharge reimbursement insurance: £100 per year
Having sufficient funds to cover your initial expenses is essential. Many NHS employers also offer relocation assistance packages to help offset costs.
Accommodation and Bringing Family
Most overseas nurses, midwives and doctors relocating to the UK arrive ahead of their family to find suitable accommodation. Sharing rental accommodation with other professionals initially can help reduce costs. Popular locations to live with convenient transport links to major hospitals include Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Greater London.
Once settled, you can apply for your dependants to join you under the Health and Care worker visa route. Dependants include your spouse/partner and children under 18 years. The UK offers excellent education, healthcare and quality of life for families.
The UK remains an attractive destination for overseas healthcare professionals in 2024. Following the step-by-step guidance, meeting the visa criteria, passing the mandatory exams, securing NHS sponsorship, and registering with the appropriate regulatory body will pave the way for a rewarding career and life in the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to write an English exam?
Yes, to work as a nurse, midwife or doctor you need to prove English language proficiency by passing an approved test such as IELTS, with an overall score of at least 7.0. This is required for professional registration.
How much are the NMC exam fees?
The NMC CBT costs £190 and the OSCE practical exam costs £794. Additional fees include £140 for NMC registration and applying for your license.
How long is the Health and Care Worker visa valid for?
The initial Health and Care Worker visa allows you to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years. It can be extended if you continue meeting the eligibility criteria.
Can I bring my family members with me?
Yes, the Health and Care Worker visa allows nurses, doctors and midwives to bring their partner/spouse and children under 18 years old to the UK as dependants.
Do I have to work for the NHS?
No, you can work for approved private healthcare providers with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship. However, the NHS provides stability and is the largest employer.