Going abroad

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Before you go

Shot of passenger aircraft/airliner in sky

There are plenty of things to think about when considering working abroad - see the most common things to think about and research when making your plans.

  • Contracts and terms and conditions of service

    Always check your contract before signing and if you need industrial relations advice contact the BMA equivalent in your new country of employment. The BMA cannot advise on specific terms and conditions of employment overseas because your new contract will be governed by overseas employment law.

    Makre sure contracts are signed by both parties before departure from the UK. Also check the conditions of employment mentioned in the advertisement and at any interview are incorporated into the contract before it is signed.

    For more detailed information on what should be covered in your contract, please check the overseas contract section.

    Please note that the BMA cannot provide legal advice on overseas contracts nor offer industrial relations advice on matters which occur abroad.


  • Equivalency of grades

    Each country will have a unique medical system designed to meet its own medical needs. UK grades may not have an exact equivalent in another country. Make sure that you get as much information as you can about the duties and responsibilities of the position.

    If it is a training job check the training structure as a whole, before signing a contract. National medical associations can provide general information on career structure.


  • Financial matters

    Points that you need to consider include:

    • mortgages
    • tax (home and abroad)
    • insurance policies (property, life, medical, car, accident)
    • savings and investment policies, national insurance and banking arrangements
    • differences in the cost of living and how these might affect your financial planning


    It's essential to do your research and protect your pension benefit. 

    For the latest information in light of the NHS pension reforms during 2011-2013, contact the BMA Pensions department on 020 7383 6138 or [email protected]


  • GMC register and BMA membership

    Remember to notify the GMC and the BMA of your change of address. You must specifically ask the BMA Membership Department if you wish to receive BMJ Careers when abroad. Receiving it will help you to plan a seamless return to the UK. You can also access it online at www.careers.bmj.com

    The BMA has had cases where a doctor has resigned from the GMC register before going abroad and has had problems re-registering when they return. Resigning your registration may save you money but discuss the implications with the GMC before doing so.


  • Healthcare advice, immunisation and insurance

    • Always check with your GP to confirm what immunisations are required well before you travel
    • The Department of Health has a section on its website providing health advice for travellers
    • The Department of Health website also includes information about reciprocal healthcare agreements for UK individuals traveling to particular countries
    • You are strongly advised to take out private health insurance if this is not included in your terms and conditions of employment. Make sure that the policy is appropriate (eg long trip, dangerous sports) and that you read the small print
    • BMA Services offers a range of travel insurance policies, and can be contacted on 0845 010 1120 and at www.bmas.co.uk

    Pre-travel health advice

    Fit for Travel
    Travel health information website provided by NHS Scotland.

    Hospital for Tropical Diseases: Department of Travel Medicine and Travel Clinic
    Tel: 020 7388 9600
    Fax: 020 7383 4817 (for appointments)
    Travellers Healthline: provides detailed travel information by destination.
    For information about accessing country specific information and costs, visit www.thehtd.org/travelclinic

    National Travel Health Network and Centre

    Royal Free Travel Health Centre
    Tel: 020 7830 2885 (for appointments)

    Trailfinders Travel Clinic
    194 Kensington High Street, London, W8 7RG
    Tel: 020 7938 3999

    The Travel Doctor
    Details of various travel clinics around the UK.

    Medics Travel


  • Human rights and medical ethics

    It has been brought to the attention of the BMA that some doctors working abroad have been asked to take part in practices which violate international standards of human rights and ethical codes. These include certifying that prisoners are medically fit for torture or execution.

    If doctors are in any doubt about the legitimacy of the work they are asked to perform, they should contact the BMA Ethics Department at [email protected].

    They may also wish to refer to the BMA's handbook 'The Medical Profession and Human Rights' which is available for loan from the BMA Library.


  • Immigration

    All enquiries about immigration should be addressed to the appropriate High Commission or embassy in the UK. A directory of foreign embassies in the UK is available from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

    Most High Commissions and embassies have comprehensive information on their websites about immigration procedures and will be your best source of information, especially since telephone information lines can be premium rate numbers.

    Top tip - always check visa restrictions in advance

    Once you have entered a country on a visiting or restricted-work visa, you may find it difficult to switch your immigration status without leaving the country.


  • Medical indemnity

    Essential - check your medical indemnity and take out separate indemnity insurance or appropriate defence body cover.

    UK-based defence bodies can advise you about the overseas cover they offer. If they do not provide cover for medical practice in the country you are going to, they should be able to refer you to defence unions abroad that do. You can also seek advice on local defence bodies from your prospective employer.

    When selecting the country to work in you should consider the professional and legal risks of practising medicine in a particular country or region.

    For example, we are aware of countries where criminal proceedings have been brought against doctors, including in absentia, after the death of patients during or following routine treatment, and where there is no apparent evidence to suggest criminal liability on the part of the doctor.


  • Overseas job vacancies

    BMJ Careers often carries advertisements for both long- and short-term posts abroad. It includes hospitals, practices and academic institutes advertising either directly or through a UK- or overseas-based agency. The internet is also a good resource. Many agencies recruiting doctors for rural areas will sort out registration and immigration requirements for you. 

    Top tip - try using contacts at work. Many doctors have worked abroad for short periods and may be able to offer invaluable advice and contacts.


  • Registration

    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.

    Ease of registration will often depend on how much the country or region needs doctors. Most organisations recruiting doctors to areas of need will arrange registration for you. Check what the requirements are and what documentation you need before you go.

    Before you go you may need:

    • a job offer before you can register
    • a Certificate of Good Standing - this can be obtained from the General Medical Council (GMC) who will send it directly to the appropriate employer or health regulator

    The conditions for registration will often depend on your individual circumstances and the BMA will not always be able to give you a definitive answer.


  • Training overseas

    You cannot spend both Foundation years abroad. Most foundation schools do not sanction FY1 abroad but it is sometimes possible for foreign students to undertake FY1 in their home country.

    You need to start the process early as it is complicated and takes quite a long time to get approval from the GMC. Differences in academic year start dates between countries may cause particular problems.

    It may be possible to undertake your FY2 abroad in an English speaking country or hospital. In order to be fully signed up under the UK Foundation Training system, your FY2 programme must be prospectively approved by the Deanery or Foundation School. Find out about your local Foundation School procedures for applying to FY2 as early as possible, as the process can take several months.

    It is much more likely that you will obtain approval for training abroad in developed countries with medical training programmes similar to the UK. Doctors from European Economic Area (EEA) countries are entitled to registration in other EEA countries as long as they satisfy certain standard criteria.

    Experience in developing countries can be beneficial later in your medical training. Many overseas medical agencies, such as MSF and VSO, will only accept applications from doctors with at least two or three years of clinical experience.

    If you want to go overseas, think about the practicalities of making applications while you are out of the country.

    Gaining experience in developing countries can be beneficial later in your medical training, with many overseas medical agencies only accepting applications from doctors with at least two or three years of clinical experience.

    Read our guidance on Volunteering Abroad in developing countries


  • Further information

    BMJ Careers often publishes articles on working abroad.

    Medics Travel is a website that helps doctors, nurses and other health professionals work overseas.