Going abroad

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GMC guidance for doctors taking time out

Check the GMC website for specific information on how to register and get a licence

The GMC does not require you to retain your registration or licence to practise when you are not engaged in medical practice in the UK, such as while you are taking time out to work overseas.

If you choose to remain registered in the UK while you are abroad, you will need ensure that you work within the guidance and standards of the GMC.

Regardless of whether you retain your registration in the UK, you must join the foreign register in the country where you intend to practice before starting any clinical work. You will need to comply with the local rules and guidelines of that country’s regulator.

Note that in some countries registration is not organised on a national basis as it is in the UK, and it may be carried out at the regional level with requirements varying from region to region.

What are the options?

There are three options available to you as a registered doctor with a licence while working overseas:

  • Maintain your registration and license to practise
  • Maintain your registration but relinquish your license to practise
  • Voluntary erasure – relinquish your registration and license to practise
  • Registration

    Maintaining your registration (with or without a licence)

    To maintain GMC registration during time spent working overseas, you must ensure that you pay your annual retention fee and keep the GMC informed of your up to date contact details, such as a registered address. Failure to do so can result in your name being erased from the register.

    It is important that you can receive letters at your registered address while you are abroad, in case the GMC needs to send you official correspondence by letter (for example, in relation to an investigation).

    If you are erased from the register, you will need to apply to have your registration restored before you can practise in the UK again. This process can take up to three months.

    We recommend that you pay your annual retention fee by direct debit being unintentionally erased from the register while you are away.

    Restoring your registration

    If you need to restore your registration, you can begin the process up to three months in advance. It is important to make an early application so that your return to work in the UK is not delayed.

    You must make your application online via the GMC website. You will need to submit copies of the relevant supporting documentary evidence. Check the GMC website for current evidence requirements and other information on the process you need to follow.

    You will need to attend a GMC office, in either London or Manchester, for an identity check before the restoration process can be completed.

  • Licence to practice

    Relinquishing your licence to practise

    If you decide to work or volunteer abroad, you may wish to consider giving up your licence for the period you are out of UK practice.

    The main advantages of giving up your licence to practice but maintaining your registration are:

    • A reduced annual retention rate is charged by the GMC for holding registration without a licence
    • You keep a professional connection with the GMC
    • You won’t be involved in revalidation (until you have a licence to practise again)

    UK employers' policies on this issue vary, so always check your contract with your employer before giving up you license to practise.

    If you are a trainee, giving up your licence to practise may not be permitted, for example if you are undertaking an OOP Experience or Training. We strongly advise that you consult your employer and training organisation before making any decisions about whether to remain on the UK register.

    You also need to check whether the medical association or organisation in the country where you will be working requires you to be licenced in your home country.

     

    Maintaining your license to practise

    If you choose to maintain a licence to practise in the UK while practising abroad, you will need to follow normal procedures for revalidation. This includes collecting supporting information and having an annual appraisal that covers your full scope of practice.

    You must ensure that you keep the GMC updated about your connection with a designated body or suitable person for the purposes of revalidation, including if you no longer have a prescribed connection. You can update these details using GMC online.

    See the section on revalidation (below) for further information.

     

    Restoring your licence to practise

    If you have given up your licence to practise but kept your registration, you will need to restore your licence before you can practise again in the UK.

    You will also need to ensure that you have the right type of registration for the work that you are returning to in the UK. If you need to change the type of registration you hold, the GMC website sets out information on how to apply for registration with a licence to practise.

    If you don’t need to change your registration and just want to restore your licence, you can do so up to three months before you need your licence. It is important to make an early application so that you are able to start practising as soon as you return to the UK.

    You must make your application online via the GMC website. Check the GMC website for current evidence requirements and more information on the process you need to follow.

    The GMC will ask for:

    • Proof of identity (copy of current passport)
    • Certificate(s) of good standing from other medical regulators you have been registered with
    • Statements from your recent employer(s) about your employment and work for them

    You may also need to attend a GMC office, in either London or Manchester, for an identity check.

    You should not assume that your licence has been restored or your registration type changed until you receive written confirmation from the GMC.

  • Voluntary erasure

    Giving up your registration and licence to practise

    You can apply to have your name erased from the register (voluntary erasure) while you are practising abroad. This means that you will no longer be registered with the GMC or hold a licence to practise.

    If you continue to hold a training post or a contract as a medical practitioner in the UK during your time abroad, it is very important that you discuss any decision around giving up your registration with your employer and training organisation in advance.

    The main advantages of voluntary erasure are:

    • You will not have to pay the annual retention fee during a period when you do not need to be registered (you will only be charged the annual retention fee when you restore your registration).
    • Any unused portion of your annual retention fee will be refunded and the processing fee for removing your name from the register is minimal.
    • You will not have to pay an additional restoration fee if you apply to have your name restored to the register later.

    If you want to give up your registration, you will need to make an application via the GMC website. You can do this up to three months before the date when you want your registration to end.

    You also need to ensure that you submit copies of supporting documentary evidence. Check the GMC website for information on the current evidence required.

    You should not assume that your name has been removed from the register until you have received written confirmation from the GMC.

    Restoring your registration and license to practice after voluntary erasure can be done in the same way as set out the in the previous sections.

  • Revalidation

    All doctors who have full registration and a licence to practise are required to regularly demonstrate that they are up to date and fit to practise through the GMC’s revalidation process.

    If you continue to hold a licence to practise while abroad, you will need to participate in revalidation. Information on revalidation for licensed doctors can be found on the GMC website.

    In some cases, your connection to your designated body will continue during your time overseas. For example, this will normally be the case if you are a trainee undertaking a period OOP.

    However, you will need to discuss with your Responsible Officer whether they are willing to accept evidence from outside of the UK when making a recommendation to the GMC. Alternatively, it is possible to defer a revalidation recommendation. This is a routine, administrative decision which does not have any impact on your licence to practise.

    Your Responsible Officer has the option to defer the submission of your revalidation recommendation if your revalidation submission date falls while you are outside of the UK. You should discuss this with your Responsible Officer before leaving the UK.

    If you keep your registration and licence to practise but do not continue to have a prescribed connection to a designated UK body or suitable person, you may wish to review the information on the GMC website for doctors who do not have a connection.

    If you decide to keep your licence to practise, you must ensure that you keep the GMC updated about the details of your prescribed connection, including if you do not have one. You can update your connection details and your contact details using GMC Online.