Training in the UK and your visa

What visa you need to complete the foundation programme and apply for specialty training in the UK as an international doctor.

Location: UK
Audience: International doctors Medical students
Updated: Thursday 8 July 2021

The foundation programme

After spending four to six years at medical school, you will then enter into a two year foundation programme.

You can read more about the foundation programme and applying.

  • As an international graduate of a UK medical school, you will need to apply for a new tier 4 visa.
  • HEE (Health Education England) will now sponsor you to remain in the UK, instead of your university.
  • You can apply as soon as you receive your confirmation of acceptance for studies from the foundation programme.
  • Doctors from non-UK medical schools cannot apply for tier 4 sponsorship, and therefore can't readily apply to the foundation programme. Contact the Home Office for further information.
  • You might be able to bring family members to the UK, check GOV.UK for eligibility and more information.

Going on holiday before starting the foundation programme

If you plan to take a holiday outside of the UK before starting the programme in August, you must take the following documents with you that prove you have completed medical school in the UK and are returning to start the next stage of your training.

  • A copy of your tier 4 sponsorship letter from the foundation programme.
  • Confirmation letter of your place on the programme.
  • Confirmation from your medical school that you qualified as a doctor in the UK.

While there are shortages in some specialties in the UK, this is not the same for training posts. Competition for training posts is intense and is continuing to increase. The NHS is heading towards a system of self-sufficiency, meaning it will be less reliant on overseas medical staff.

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Applying for specialty training as an EEA doctor

If you are from the EEA (European economic area) you may enter speciality training programmes in the UK on the same basis as UK doctors.

You must meet entry requirements however, and it is important to check with the appropriate royal college whether any recognition can be given for training already undertaken abroad.

On completion of speciality training in the UK, you will be granted a certificate of completion of training which makes you eligible for entry to the UK specialist register. The certificate provides recognition as specialists in all other member states of the EEA.

GP training

EEA doctors are free to train as GPs on the same basis as UK doctors and your qualifications will be recognised in other EEA countries.


Applying for specialty training on a skilled worker visa

If you completed the foundation programme previously and you are already on a skilled worker (previously tier 2) visa, you may be able to apply for specialty training in round 1 if you meet certain criteria.

However if you are a non-EEA (non-European) national who graduated overseas and need a skilled worker visa to work in the UK, you will be subject to the resident labour market test and will not be eligible to apply in round 1 recruitment.

You may apply for specialty training in round one, if:

  • you wish to start specialty training with the same employer you currently work for
  • you are returning to specialty training after leaving, using the same national training number
  • you are applying for GP recruitment, if there are not enough suitable UK or European national candidates
  • you are the PBS dependent of someone with a PBS visa in the UK, and you do not have a restriction on your visa which says no employment as a doctor in training.


International students of non-UK medical schools

If you are on a tier 4 visa, you can apply for specialty training if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • you are currently on a tier 4 visa and you are to be awarded a UK masters or bachelor degree
  • you have GMC registration
  • you were previously working in the UK on a tier 2 visa, then switched to a tier 4 visa to study.

You can apply to specialty training once you have passed your degree.


The medical training initiative

The MTI (medical training initiative) allows international medical graduates (not from the EEA) to get training and experience in the UK for up to two years before returning to their home countries.

It does not allow formal approved training posts (such as speciality and foundation training posts), but rather, approved posts by deaneries and a wide range of relevant medical royal colleges for education and training.

The MTI operates under tier 5 immigration rules.


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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 visa situation.

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