COVID-19: guidance for international doctors

We offer guidance for IMGs and international students about your visa, GMC registration, exam cancellations and how to help during the pandemic.

Location: UK
Audience: Medical students International doctors
Last reviewed: 8 March 2021
COVID virus illustration

If you are on a visa

Please note the following concessions for NHS workers:

  • doctors employed by the NHS or an independent healthcare provider, together with their family members, and whose visas are due to expire between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021 will have their visas automatically extended, free of charge, for one year

    - you will not get the free extension if your visa is due to expire after 31 March 2021 or if you are changing employer - you will need to extend your visa in the normal way
  • existing applications received for indefinite leave to remain will be processed
  • individuals who have applied to switch visas will be prioritised
  • the restriction lifted on the number of hours a doctors can work or volunteer each week
  • doctors can work in any NHS hospital during the coronavirus pandemic if their sponsor can maintain their sponsorship duties
  • dependants of NHS workers who sadly die on the frontline due to coronavirus will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain without having to pay a fee.

If you are a BMA member, and want to talk through your immigration concerns please contact the BMA immigration advice service on 0300 123 1233, where a dedicated team will be able to assist you.

The BMA international and immigration department are continuing to work closely with the UK Home Office to ensure further concessions are secured so you are able to work without concern about your, and your family’s immigration status.

Implications for EEA/Swiss nationals

As the UK has now left the European Union, nationals of the European Economic Area and Switzerland and their family members currently living in the UK have until the end of June 2021 to register under the EU settlement scheme for pre-settled and settled status.

You can continue to apply via the specially designed app, and applications can be also made from abroad.

The EU settlement resolution centre has closed its phone service, and instead enquiries should be directed via the Governmental portal.

The Home Office has set up a special coronavirus immigration help centre:

Phone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, free)
Email: [email protected]


Exemption to the health surcharge

From 21 May 2020, health and care workers are exempt from paying the health surcharge. This means that doctors and their dependents will no longer have to pay the charge.

Those who have paid the surcharge on or after the 31 March 2020 will be eligible for a reimbursement which they can do online.


If your GMC registration exams have been cancelled

PLAB tests

The GMC have restarted PLAB 2 tests. Demand for PLAB 2 is high, however, places are becoming available. You can access information for PLAB candidates on the GMC website.

English language tests

If you are due to take your English language test please continue to check for further updates on test centres, group bookings, and dates via:

If you have completed your English language test, but are concerned about the validity of your English language evidence as you are unable to sit PLAB 2 in the time allocated, please refer to the GMC website for details of who to contact.


The health and care visa

From 4 August, doctors can apply for the health and care worker visa under the highly skilled route, if they have a job offer from:

  • the NHS
  • an organisation providing medical services to the NHS
  • an organisation providing adult social care.

Applicants benefit from a 50% reduction on the cost of a visa and can expect a decision on their application within three weeks.

You must apply online and how you apply depends on whether you’re:

If you want to change your job or employer, you must apply to update your visa

world illustration
BMA immigration advice service


If you have an immigration query, we can refer you to our dedicated immigration advice service, where you can get free, basic advice on your initial enquiry. 

Call - 0300 123 1233​

Call us