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Introduction to UK immigration for doctors

Immigration law is complex and changes frequently which means that whatever your status, you need to keep up to date.

That's where we can help.

We stay on top of the changes in immigration law which will specifically affect you and your working life as a doctor. 

If you are on a visa, the immigration rules affect how you can progress through your training and which jobs you can apply for.

If you are not on a visa but are settled in the UK, the immigration rules affect whether you  can bring your family to join you.

However for the very latest updates, always check with the UK Visas and Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency).

Guide to UK immigration

  • Resource for overseas doctors thinking of moving to the UK

    This resource is for doctors who have qualified and hold a nationality outside of the UK and who are thinking about working in the UK.

    It includes useful information on what a doctor would need to think about before they make the move. The different sections will provide information on what it is like to work as a doctor in the UK, the career options open to international doctors, and where to look for jobs, as well as important information on how to get a visa and register with the General Medical Council.

    To access the resource, please take 2 minutes to register with the BMJ for free.

    Find out more

  • Making a visa application

    • Make sure you have all you need to make your application. Check that you are using the most up to date application form and associated guidance.
    • If you are applying for Tier 2 check that all the details on your Certificate of Sponsorship are correct before making your visa application.
    • If you are applying on or after 6 April 2017, and you are not already in the UK, make sure you send your criminal records certificate in with your application. Find out more about getting a criminal records certificate from abroad.
    • If you are applying on or after 6 April 2017, your employer may need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge. This charge should not be passed onto you. If your employer asks you to pay it, you should seek advice.
    • You will need to pay the health surcharge if you are applying for a visa or renewing your visa and you will need to pay this at the time of application. Find out more about the surcharge
    • Make sure you have the correct maintenance funds in your bank account and the correct evidence to prove this. The Home Office will refuse an application even if you are just 1p short.
    • Are you applying for Tier 2? Make sure you understand the Genuineness test.

     

    Further information

    If you are a BMA member we can provide detailed advice on your visa and how it relates to your work or studies. However we are unable to assist directly with your application. Email us to find out how we can help you or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233 .

    If you need direct assistance with your visa application, take advantage of discounted rates with BMA Law with your BMA membership - find out more

  • Studying in the UK

    If you are from outside the UK or the EU and you wish to come to the UK to study medicine, you will need a Tier 4 visa which is a student visa. In order to be eligible to apply for a Tier 4 visa, you need to:

    • Have a visa letter from a licensed sponsor confirming you have an unconditional offer of a place on a course of study and
    • Provide evidence that you have enough money to cover your course fees and living costs for up to one year.

    Credibility testing

    A Tier 4 student applying from outside the UK, may be asked to undertake an interview, either in person, or on the telephone. UK Visas and Immigration (formerly the UKBA) will use this interview to establish whether you are a genuine student.

    The interview will also test whether you can speak English to the required standard and whether your visa application may be refused under the General Grounds for Refusal.

    Reasons why you might be refused a visa under General Grounds for refusal include the UKVI suspects fraudulent use of documents or use of forged documents, your criminal history or if you have been refused a visa in the past.

    If as a result of the interview UK Visas and Immigration is not satisfied, the application will be refused.

    Find out more about the process

    If you are applying for a Tier 4 visa and you are asked to undertake an interview but do not attend without giving a reasonable explanation, your application will be refused, and you will lose your application fee.

    The UK Visas and Immigration website has more detailed as well as general information on the subject.

    Check GOV.UK

     

    Can I take a holiday at the end of my course before starting the Foundation Programme?

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

    You need to take these documents out of the UK with you, so you can show them to immigration officers when you come back to the UK. Otherwise, you may not be treated as someone returning to the UK on a Tier 4 visa, and may be told you need to get another visa, such as a Tier 2 visa, to get back into the UK.

    You should ensure you have the following documents with you before going on holiday:

    • The student visa stamp in your passport or your Biometric Residence Permit
    • A copy of your Tier 4 sponsorship letter ('visa letter') from the UK Foundation Programme Office
    • Confirmation from your Foundation School or employer that you have been offered a place on the Foundation Programme
    • Confirmation from your medical school that you qualified as a doctor in the UK.

    Top tip:

     If you are coming to the end of your medical course and are applying for the Foundation programme, you will need to check what this means for your visa.

     

    Advice for graduates of UK medical schools on a tier 4 visa about training in the Isle of Man or the Channel Isles

    If you are a graduate of a UK medical school, and you start your foundation training on or after 6 April 2017 in the Isle of Man or in Jersey or Guernsey, the two years of foundation training will count as time spent in the UK, so it will not affect your ability to apply for core or specialty training once you’ve finished foundation training, and you will not be subject to the resident labour market test when you apply.

    If you are a UK medical graduate who started your foundation training in the Isle of Man or Channel Islands before 6 April 2017, this change will not apply to you. So those two years on Foundation training will not count as time spent in the UK with the result that when you apply for core or specialty training, you will be subject to the resident labour market test and therefore not be eligible to apply for jobs in Round 1. You may also be required to leave the Isle of Man or Channel Islands and return to your home country to make an application to the UK Home Office, in order to be able to return to the UK to continue your training on a Tier 2 visa.

     

    How did we achieve this change?

    The BMA worked with HEE to lobby the Home Office to achieve this change and we are delighted it has been introduced.

    If you are a BMA member, and require further explanation you are entitled to access our Immigration advice service which provides free, basic immigration advice in connection with your employment and/or study in the UK.

    Contact one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233. Alternatively you can email us

     

    Postgraduate study

     

    What happens if I want to leave my job to study in the UK, for example, a Masters degree?

    Your Tier 2 visa, which is your permission to stay in the UK, is attached to your job. If you leave your job with your current employer to study, even if you are staying in the UK, your employer has to tell the Home Office that you have left the job. Your Tier 2 visa will then be stopped by the Home Office.

    In order to study in the UK, you will need a Tier 4 visa.

    You should apply for this before you leave your job to make sure you have no gap between your Tier 2 visa ending and your Tier 4 visa starting, so that your stay in the UK is always lawful.

    However you need to be aware that you will get caught by the Tier 2 cooling off period

    This means that if you have been on a Tier 2 visa and you stay in the UK, but move onto a different type of visa, if you then want a new Tier 2 to work, you will have to wait 12 months from the date your last Tier 2 visa ended before you can apply for a new one.

    After 12 months have passed, you will have to find a new training job in the UK, get a certificate of sponsorship for that job by your new employer and then apply for a new Tier 2 visa.

    You may wish to consider remaining in your Tier 2 job and studying part time while you are working. If you are on a Tier 2 (General) visa, there is no limit on how many hours you can study per week as long as the studying does not interfere with the work for which your Tier 2 visa has been granted.

    If you are considering leaving your job to study, get advice as soon as possible.

  • Training in the UK

    Foundation programme

     

    Can I start the Foundation programme on my Tier 4 medical student visa?

    If you are an international graduate of a UK medical school, and you want to start Foundation training, you will need to apply for your new Tier 4 visa to cover your time on the Foundation Programme.

    Top tip:

    This application needs to be made in advance of beginning the Foundation programme, even if you have time remaining on your visa.

    UK Visas and Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency) has confirmed to the UKFPO that doctors who have applied for extensions to their current Tier 4 leave to remain, may start their Foundation Programme before their new leave is granted, unless their original Tier 4 visa was granted between 1 October 2009 and 22 July 2010.

    If your visa was granted between those dates, you will be able to start the Foundation Programme only once you have received your new Tier 4 visa.

    Those granted under the rules between 1 October 2009 and 22 July 2010 are restricted to studying only with their current Sponsor. Therefore you must wait until your new leave is granted before starting the Foundation Programme.

    Those with leave granted at other times may start the Foundation Programme with the following conditions:

    • You must still have leave to remain
    • You must have submitted an application to the UK Visas and Immigration (formerly the UKBA) for your new visa

    Your new Tier 4 visa will enable you to complete the two-year Foundation Programme.

    The reason a new Tier 4 visa is needed is because a change of sponsor is required and slightly different Tier 4 rules apply to postgraduate doctors.

    At present, the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) provides sponsorship for doctors on the Foundation Programme. The UKFPO will issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) at the end of your course. You will only be able to make your Tier 4 application once a CAS has been issued to you. The UKFPO will provide all the necessary information for you to make your application.

     

    Advice for Tier 4 visa non-UK or non-EEA nationals who are not graduates of a UK medical school

    Top tip:

    You need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa for the Foundation Programme as your sponsor will change from being your university, to the UK Foundation programme. You can do this as soon as you receive your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).

    Check the UKFPO website

    Read more about study visas on Gov.UK

    Read Home Office policy guidance on Tier 4 visas

     

    I am at a medical school outside the UK and want to do Foundation training in the UK

    Doctors from non-UK medical schools are not eligible to apply for Tier 4 sponsorship so cannot undertake the Foundation Programme in the UK on a Tier 4 visa and cannot be sponsored by UK Foundation programme Office.

    Non-UK/-non-EU doctors should visit or contact the Home Office for information on other types of visas. In very rare cases, some doctors have been sponsored by the employer on a Tier 2 visa, although this is very rare.

     

    Top tip:

    If you are considering coming to the UK, take advantage of immigration advice with our special £99 service for international medical graduates

     

    I am already in the Foundation programme what happens next?

    If you are coming to the end of your Foundation Programme, your Tier 4 visa will expire at the end of Foundation Year 2.

    At this point, you will be able to switch to Tier 2 (General) which is the visa for skilled workers in the UK however you will only be able to do this if you are in the UK before your student visa (your Tier 4 visa) expires.

    The normal Tier 2 requirements will apply, except for the Resident Labour Market Test. In order to switch into Tier 2 (General) you will need an offer of employment from a UK sponsor, but you will be eligible to apply for jobs on an equal basis with UK and EEA applicants.

     

    Applying for specialty training

     

    How do I apply for specialty or core training at the end of Foundation Year 2?

    If you are in Foundation year 2 and wish to apply for specialty training, the following rules apply:

    • Graduates of a UK medical school can apply for a job with a UK Visas and Immigration licensed Tier 2 sponsor – there is a list of licensed sponsors on the UKVI website
    • Graduates of a UK medical school can only switch to Tier 2 if they are already in the UK and they apply for a Tier 2 visa while still in the UK and before their student visa (Tier 4 visa) expires
    • You need to have an offer of a skilled job from a licensed sponsor and be paid at least £36,100 if your visa is applied for on or after 6 April 2017 and you are on a junior doctor contract (£30,302 from 6 April 2017 if you’re not on a junior doctor contract and £30,002 for any application before this date)
    • Graduates of a UK medical school must meet the normal criteria for Tier 2 but the Resident Labour Market Test requirement will be waived
    • Graduates of a UK medical school switching as set out above will not be subject to the limit on Tier 2 migrants
    • If you are a graduate of a UK medical school and switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 (general) you will be able to sponsor new dependants on the same terms as other Tier 2 migrants, once you have switched into Tier 2
    • You will be required to show maintenance funds of £945 in the bank for 90 days before applying in order to switch into Tier 2
    • You will need to show an additional £630 in the bank for 90 days before applying for each dependant.
    • If you are applying on or after 6 April 2017, you will need to include your criminal records certificate in with your visa application. Find out more about getting a criminal records certificate from abroad
    • You will need to pay the health surcharge when making your Tier 2 application

    Read the current Gov.UK guidance for Tier 2 (general) visas

     

    Related questions

    What is the Resident Labour Market Test?

    What are the relevant points criteria?

    What is a Certificate of sponsorship and how do I get one?

    Where do I find out more about Tier 2 visas?

    Can I bring members of my family?

     

    Applying for specialty training posts

     

    Applying if you are on a visa

    There are two rounds of application for specialty training in the UK: Round 1 and Round 2.

    It is important to note that competition for this training is fierce and many of the training posts will be allocated in Round 1.

    If you are on a visa, the decision about your eligibility to apply for training in Round 1 or Round 2, depends on your immigration status and the type of visa you have.

    Can you apply for specialty training on a Tier 1 visa or if you are the dependent of someone  on a Tier 1 visa?

    To be eligible to apply for specialty training (including GP) you will need to be able to work without restriction in the UK.

    If you are on a Tier 1 Dependent visa with a restriction on your visa which says you must not work as a doctor or dentist in training, you will have to change your visa status to Tier 2.

    You will have to leave the UK to do this and will have to apply for specialty training from outside the UK.

    This means you will not be able to apply in Round 1 unless the job is exempt from the resident labour market test.

    Tier 1 visas have been phased out.

    Read more about Tier 1 visas

     

    Can you apply for specialty training if you are on a Tier 2 visa or are the dependent of someone who is?

    There are special rules for graduates of UK medical schools on the Foundation Programme who are applying for specialty training – see below.

    If you are already on a Tier 2 visa, you may be able to apply for specialty training in Round 1 if:

    • the post you are applying for is on the shortage occupation list. Currently, only certain training posts in Scotland are on the list. Check the list and look for code 2211 medical practitioners; or
    • you are already on a Tier 2 visa and applying to continue training with the same sponsor. So if you are applying for specialty training but are already working for that employer or sponsor you can apply in Round 1; or
    • you are continuing your training with the same national training number. Your national training number is the number you are given when you start specialty training, so this would only be relevant if you have started specialty training and are applying to return to it after an out of programme experience; or
    • you are applying for GP recruitment, when applications from those subject to the resident labour market test may be accepted in Round 1 if there are not enough suitable UK or EEA national (settled status) candidates for the posts.

    Other non-UK or non-EEA nationals, who need a Tier 2 visa to work in the UK, are subject to the Resident Labour Market Test, and will not be eligible to apply in Round 1. However, they will be eligible to apply in Round 1 re-adverts and in Round 2. Round 1 re-adverts are purely a re-advert for ST1/CT1 and won’t include ST3. Round 2 is for ST3 and above only and does not include ST1/CT1 recruitment. Therefore, everyone is eligible to apply in Round 1 re-adverts and Round 2, whether subject to the resident labour market test or not.

    Further information is in the specialty recruitment guidance under the heading Right to work in the UK.

    Special rules for graduates of UK medical schools on the Foundation Programme

    If you are the dependent of someone on a Tier 2 visa, and you do not have a restriction on your visa which says no employment as a doctor or dentist in training, then you can apply for specialty training, but there are certain rules which apply and you should get advice.

    If you are the dependent of someone on a Tier 2 visa and you do have a restriction on your visa which says no employment as a doctor or dentist in training, you will have to change your visa status to Tier 2 to apply for specialty training.

    You will have to leave the UK to do this and will have to apply for specialty training from outside the UK. You will not be able to apply in Round 1 unless the job is exempt from the resident labour market test.

     

    Can you apply for specialty training if you are on a Tier 4 visa or the dependent of someone who is?

     

    Advice for Tier 4 visa graduates of UK medical or dental schools on the Foundation programme

    If you are a non-UK or non-EEA national, you are on the Foundation Programme and hold a Tier 4 visa,  you can apply for specialty training in Round 1, provided you have had continuous immigration status in the UK since you graduated.

    However you will need to switch in the UK from Tier 4 to Tier 2 status to apply for the specialty training.

     

    Key tip:

    All Tier visa holders on the Foundation Programme can apply for Specialty training and be exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test. This a one time exemption when you switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2.

    Advice for Tier 4 visa Non-UK or non-EEA nationals who are not graduates of a UK medical school

    You  can apply for specialty training if you meet all these criteria:

    • You are currently on a Tier 4 visa and you have passed and will be awarded a UK Masters or UK Bachelors degree
    • You have the correct registration from the GMC that allows you to practice legally as a doctor in the UK
    • You were previously on a Tier 2 visa before you switched to Tier 4 (for example, you were working but then stopped to do a Master’s degree) and it is 12 months since you were last on a Tier 2 visa.

    If you meet all these criteria, once you get confirmation you have passed your degree, you will be allowed to apply under Round 1, as you will be exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test.

     

    Advice for dependents of someone on a Tier 4 visa

    If you do not have a restriction on your visa which says you must not work as a doctor or dentist in training, then you can apply for specialty training, subject to certain conditions but you should get advice.

    If you are the dependant of someone on a Tier 4 visa and you have a restriction on your visa which says no employment as a Doctor or Dentist in Training you will need to switch to your own Tier 2 visa.

    You won't have to leave the UK to do this. However, you will not be eligible to apply in Round 1. Instead you will only be able to apply in Round 2 as you will need to satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test.

    Need more help?

    Read the NHS handbook on applying for specialty training

     

    Information on Tier 2 sponsorship

    Tier 2 sponsorship available in England

    Tier 2 sponsorship available in Scotland

     

    Applications for GP training

    General Practice will consider and assess applications from non-UK and non-EEA applicants who are subject to the RLMT in Round 1, although offers will not be made until after all UK and EEA candidates have been exhausted following a second round

     

    And don't forget...

    If you are a BMA member you can call first point of contact and talk to someone about your issue.

    Free phone 0300 123 1233

    To be eligible for a Tier 2 visa you will need to meet what are known as attributes.

    What are attributes?

    But maintenance rules often change so don't get caught out.

    Make sure to check the UK visas and Immigration regularly

    NHS Employers offers guidance for international medical graduates on working and training in the NHS

    Take a look

    Core and Specialty training

     

    Why do I need to pay the health surcharge if I am already in the UK?

    From 6 April 2015, all nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), coming to the UK for longer than six months to work, study or join family, will be required to pay a health surcharge as part of their visa application.

    The surcharge will also be payable by non-EEA nationals who are already in the UK and apply to extend their stay.

     

    Why do I have to pay the health surcharge for a minimum of three years when my training programme is only for two years?

    At the moment all applicants for Tier 2 (general) leave to remain, are required to pay a minimum of three years health surcharge on the UK Visa and Immigration Service (UKVI) online system. 

    This means that instead of paying £400 as before, using the online option will result in paying £600 however the UKVI  will refund any overpaid health surcharge fees once leave is granted. 

    Read the UKVI guidance on partial refunds

    See more information on the health surcharge

     

    Timing it right

    We are aware that each year there may be delays in visa processing, which can have a major impact on your training and employment opportunities. That's why it's important to make sure you know what you should be doing and when you should do it.

    Use our guidance to make sure you stay on track

  • Working in the UK

    Working in the UK on a Tier 2 visa

    What is a Tier 2 visa?

    A Tier 2 (General) visa allows UK employers to recruit workers from outside the UK and EEA (European Economic Area) to fill vacancies which they have been unable to fill with a UK or EEA worker.

    Non-UK or EEA doctors who wish to work in the UK will need a Tier 2 (General) visa to give them permission to work in the UK, unless they have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

     

    Who is eligible to apply?

    To be eligible for a Tier 2 (General) visa, you must meet the following criteria:

    • You must already have a job offer in the UK at an appropriate salary (see below)
    • The job offer can only be made if it meets the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), unless certain exemptions apply
    • You need to be sponsored before you can apply to work in the UK.  This means you need a certificate of sponsorship. A certificate of sponsorship (also referred to as a CoS) is a document from a licensed Tier 2 sponsor, which will either be your employer or deanery
    • You must meet the relevant points criteria

    How long can I stay in UK on Tier 2?

    If your Tier 2 (General) visa was issued on or after 6 April 2011, the maximum you can stay in the UK is six years in total.

    A Tier 2 (General) visa will be given for the same length of time as your certificate of sponsorship. The maximum length of stay for this type of visa is 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus one month -  whichever is shorter.

    Certificates of sponsorship can be given for up to five years. This may apply to doctors on run-through training contracts.

    Once your initial visa is coming to an end, you can apply for an extension of your visa for up to five more years provided you fulfil the criteria below:

    • You have the same job as when you were issued your previous visa
    • You are still working for the employer who assigned your certificate of sponsorship
    • You are still earning an appropriate salary – this depends on what grade you are on.
      • Specialty registrars at ST/CT1-2 - for visas applied for on or after 6 April 2017,  need to be earning £36,100 if  on a junior doctor contract, or £30,302 if not. For visas applied for before this date, they need to be earning £30,002
      • Specialty registrars at ST/CT 3 and above - for visas applied for on or after 6 April 2017,  they need to be earning £45,750 if they’re on a junior doctor contract, or £30,302 if not. For visas applied for before this date, they need to be earning £30,002
      • Specialty doctors - for visas applied for on or after 6 April 2017,  they need to be earning £37,547. For visas applied for before this date, they need to be earning £36,100
      • Salaried GPS - for visas applied for on or after 6 April 2017,  they need to be earning £55,965. For visas applied for before this date, they need to be earning £54,863
      • Consultants - for visas applied for on or after 6 April 2017,  they need to be earning £76,001. For visas applied for before this date, they need to be earning £75,249.
    • If you are working part-time, your salary must not fall below a certain level. For certificates of sponsorship granted on or after 6 April 2017, your salary must not fall below the threshold of £30,000 per year or you will lose your visa. This threshold does not apply if you are aged under 26 on 6 April 2017, when you will need to earn £20,800 to continue to qualify for a visa.
    • You must be in the UK to extend your visa
    • You must still meet the points criteria

     

    Key tip:
    After five years, unless you apply for indefinite leave to remain (settled status), you will have to leave the UK.
    If you are considering this option and you are a BMA member, email us or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233
    Check the points criteria

     

    Can I stay in the UK on a visa for more than six years?

    No. The rules prevent visa extensions beyond six years.

    If you wish to continue working in the UK at the end of your Tier 2 (General) visa, you will have to apply for settlement and will have to meet the minimum pay threshold (currently £35,000 before tax per year), and other criteria for settlement.

    If you do not wish to apply for settlement, or do not meet the settlement criteria then you will have to leave the UK at the end of your visa. You will have to wait 12 months before applying to return to the UK under Tier 2 (General) again.

    This is known as a cooling off period and applies in order to prevent repeat periods of leave under Tier 2.

    Key tip:

    Check the criteria for settlement

    Tier 2 Genuineness Test for visa applications

    A Genuineness Test has been introduced which applies to Tier 2 (General).

    Entry Clearance Officers and Home Office case workers are now able to refuse Tier 2 applications where they have realistic grounds to believe the vacancy and job offer is not genuine.

    The Home Office needs to be satisfied that you intend to work in the role that is on your Certificate of Sponsorship and that you hold the correct skills for the role. In order to assess this the Home Office may request additional evidence and information, and refuse your application if the evidence is not provided.

    Documentation requested by the Home Office needs to be received within 28 working days. The Home Office may also request you attend an interview, and refuse your application if you fail to comply with the request.

    When making an assessment of ‘genuineness’ the Home Office will consider your:

    • knowledge of the role
    • relevant experience relative to the skills required to do the role
    • knowledge of your Sponsor in the UK
    • explanation of how you were recruited
    • any other relevant information.
     
    Key tip:
    When you submit your visa application make sure you can answer the  genuineness questions. This will assist you if you are then contacted by the Home Office to provide evidence.

    If I leave the UK while on a Tier 2 visa, can I come back in?

    Not straight away. The government has introduced a 'cooling off' period which applies to any Tier 2 migrant who leaves the UK and applies for a new Tier 2 visa, regardless of when your previous leave was granted.

    It also applies if you switch out of Tier 2 to get a different visa - for example, study purposes - and then wish to re-apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa while you are still in the UK.

    This is particularly important to note if you wish to leave the UK to take an Out of Programme (OOP) experience, or if you wish to move back into Tier 4 to undertake further study.

    In that case you will need to wait for 12 months from either the date you left the UK, or the expiry of your previous Tier 2 visa, before you may apply for a new Tier 2 visa. This is called a cooling off period.

    Cooling off period

    If you do not apply for settlement at the end of your Tier 2 (General) visa, you must spend a period of 12 months outside the UK before you may reapply for another Tier 2 (General) visa to enter the UK. This is known as the ‘Tier 2 cooling-off’ period.

    The same rules apply if you switch out of Tier 2 whilst in the UK and later wish to reapply as a Tier 2 migrant. You will have to wait 12 months from the point you switch out of Tier 2 before making a new application. 

    If you wish to leave the UK in order to take an Out of Programme Experience or if you wish to move back onto Tier 4 to undertake any further study, you need to take this into account. You will need to wait for 12 months from the date your previous Tier 2 visa expired before you may apply for a new Tier 2 visa.

     

    When is the 12 months in the cooling off period calculated from?

    The 12 months is calculated from the time your Tier 2 sponsor notifies UK Visas and Immigration (formerly UKBA), that you have left the UK or from the time that you can provide evidence of having not been in the UK.

    Acceptable evidence may include:

    • travel tickets or boarding card stubs, but only if your sponsor, or previous sponsor also notified the UKVI at the time confirming that your employment in the UK had ended
    • exit or entry stamps in your passport which confirms that you were not in the UK
    • a letter from an overseas employer confirming the date you started for restarted work overseas, after returning from the UK
    • any other evidence that shows you were not in the UK.

    Read this Gov.uk guidance

    If you think the cooling off period applies to you but aren't sure or you have more questions, BMA members can email us or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.

    What happens if I leave the UK to go on holiday or an out of programme placement (OOP)?

    Your Tier 2 visa, which is your permission to stay in the UK, is attached to your job. 

    If you leave your job with your current employer to go on holiday or on an out of programme experience, your employer has to tell the Home Office that you have left the job.

    Then what happens?

    The Home Office will usually then write to you at your UK address informing you that they have curtailed (shortened) your permission to be in the UK. They will normally curtail your immigration permission to 60 days from the date they write to you, so that your permission to stay in the UK will expire after the 60 days.

    If you want to return to the UK after your holiday or OOP, you will get caught out by the Tier 2 cooling off period.

    This means that if you leave the UK and your Tier 2 visa therefore expires, you cannot return to the UK on a new Tier 2 visa unless 12 months have passed since your old Tier 2 visa ended.

    After 12 months have passed, you will have to find a new training job in the UK, get a certificate of sponsorship for that job from your new employer and then apply for a new Tier 2 visa.

    If you go on unpaid leave for one month or more, your employer has to tell the Home Office this, and the Home Office is likely to curtail your visa, so you will lose the right to stay in the UK. However this does not apply if you are absent from work because of sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave.

    What can I do to protect myself?

    Consider taking holiday once you start your training with your new employer. You could even ask for unpaid leave if your employer agrees, provided you don’t go on holiday for longer than a month.

    Alternatively, you could consider taking up a locum post, if for example, you are filling the gap between core training and specialty training, provided the locum post is with the same employer, and then take holiday once on the locum post.

    But if you are thinking of leaving the UK for more than a month for any reason, you should get advice as soon as possible.

    BMA members can email our immigration advice service

    What happens if I leave my job, or lose my job, or it finishes early?

    Your Tier 2 visa, which is your permission to stay in the UK, is attached to your job. If you leave your job or lose it, you lose your permission to stay in the UK under your visa.

    If you are in the UK and the Home Office curtails (shortens) your permission to be in the UK, they will write to you informing you of that decision.

    They will normally curtail your immigration permission to 60 days from the date they write to you, so that you will have to leave the UK once the 60 days expires unless you have managed to find a new job.

    You may be subject to the resident labour market test  when you apply for another job, so there may be limits on which jobs you are allowed to apply for. If you do not find a new employer you must leave the UK once your visa has expired or you will be deemed to be in the UK illegally. 

    Although the visa in your passport may say it is valid for a number of years, it is only valid while you are employed with the company that is sponsoring you.

    If your job ends early, you will lose the right to stay in the UK, even if your visa says it has longer to run. Your visa will end after any ‘wrap up’ period following the new date your job ends.

    Read our examples

    Imagine your job was due to end at the end of April 2015, but that date has been brought forward by your employer, which means your job is now due to end at the end of February 2015.
    Assuming your employer has given you 14 days after your job ended to arrange to find a new one or leave the UK, your visa will end 14 days after the end of February 2015. That means it will end on 14 March 2015.

    If you think you may lose your job or that it may end early, get advice as soon as possible - email us or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.

    Should I take a job in the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands?

    If you are on a Tier 2 visa, you should think carefully before accepting a job in the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, because if you wish to apply for settlement, (known as Indefinite leave to remain), time spent working in these areas may not count towards your time spent in the UK.

    Further questions

    What is the Resident Labour Market Test?
    What are the relevant points criteria?
    What is a certificate of sponsorship and how do I get one?
    Where do I find out more about Tier 2 visas?

     

    Working in the UK on a Tier 1 visa?

    Tier 1 visa extensions have been phased out

    The Home Office announced that as of 6 April 2015 if you were still on a Tier 1 General visa, you would no longer be able to extend it.
    If you wished to extend your leave on this visa, you had to apply from within the UK on or before 5 April 2015.

    If your application was successful, you would be granted a Tier 1 (General) extension for either three years, or for long enough to take you up to five years, at which point you can apply for settlement.

    Missed the April deadline and wondering what to do?

    As a BMA members you can eemail us with your immigration query or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.

    Check the latest Gov.uk guidance on Tier 1 visas

     

    European Economic Area passport holders

    If you are from the EEA certain rules about English language testing in order to register with the GMC, may apply to you.

    See more information on english language testing

    Read our guide for doctors new to the UK

    Specific arrangements for Croatia

    Unlike other EEA nationals, Croatian nationals may need to apply for a registration certificate to be allowed to work in the UK. In addition, the GMC will tell you exactly which documents you need to provide for registration.

    In general, you will need to have the following to complete the GMC application form:

    • Proof of identity as evidence of your nationality e.g. valid passport or identity card 
    • Your original primary medical qualification documentation 
    • Certificate of good standing - an original certificate issued by the medical authorities of the country in which you are currently working, or last worked, stating that you are legally entitled to practise and have not been suspended or disqualified or forbidden to practise as a doctor. This certificate must have been issued no more than three months before the date on which you present it to the GMC.

    Find further information at Gov.uk

  • Settling in the UK

    Being settled in the UK refers to Settlement or Indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which is an immigration status.

    Once you have this status, you are no longer subject to the immigration rules so if you are from outside the UK or the EEA, you will no longer require a visa to come into the UK, or to stay in the UK or to work in the UK.

    A person who has indefinite leave to remain can stay in the UK, without any time limit on his or her stay and can take up employment or study, without restriction.
    However having indefinite leave to remain is not the same as having British citizenship.

    To get British citizenship, you will need to either naturalise as British or register as British.
    Find out more about getting British citizenship

    How can I apply to settle in the UK?

    If you are on a Tier 2 visa, you will be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK if:

    • You meet the required salary threshold (see below) and
    • You have been lawfully and continuously resident in the UK for five years. Time spent on a student or visitor visa will not count towards your five years. You cannot have had more than 180 days' absence from the United Kingdom during each 12 months of the 5 year period. You may be able to prove this through stamps in your passport, or by e-mail or paper boarding passes or tickets showing dates leaving and returning to the UK. Trips away includes both holidays and business travel. You can count time spent in the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands towards your five years, and
    • You pass the test for knowledge of language and life in the UK, and
    • You do not have any unspent criminal convictions, and
    • your employer certifies that you are still needed for the job you are doing under your Tier 2 visa.

     

    Salary threshold for settlement if you are on Tier 2

    There is a salary threshold in place for anyone applying for settlement from Tier 2 who entered the UK on or after 6 April 2011. 

    The threshold is based on gross annual salary before tax, or the going rate in the relevant Home Office Code of Practice, whichever is higher.

    The current minimum salary for people applying for settlement is £35,000. However, if you are a Speciality doctor you need to be earning at least £37,176, if you are a Salaried General practitioner (GP) you need to be earning at least £54,863, and if you are a consultant you need to be earning at least £75,249.You need to be earning at least this amount on the date you make your application.

    The minimum salary threshold will increase from 6 April 2018, so if you apply on or after that date, you’ll have to be earning at least £35,500.  

    It will increase to £35,800 for applications on or after 6 April 2019 and again to £36,200 for applications on or after 6 April 2020.

    There are exceptions to this for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List, and those in designated “PhD-level” jobs.

    However, if you are in one of these excepted occupations, you will still have to be paid the appropriate rate for the job as set out in the relevant Code of Practice.
    Find further information about rates of pay for medical practitioners who are Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Code number 2211

    Key tip:
    Check whether the salary threshold applies to you or if a higher rate will be applied based on the Home Office Code of Practice for your job role.
    Check the code of practice 

    When you apply for settlement, your employer must confirm in writing that your pay meets the salary rules (see above). 

    You need to continue to show evidence that you are being paid at least this amount.

    Any additional earnings (e.g. from overtime or a second job), even where these are from permitted supplementary employment, cannot be incorporated. 
    Check Gov.UK for more information on settling in the UK

     

    Settlement if you have been in the UK for ten years

    You can apply to settle in the UK if you’ve been in the UK legally for 10 continuous years which is also known as long residence.
    Settling (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) means you can stay in the UK without any time restrictions.

    You are eligible to apply if:

    • You have been in the UK legally for ten years continuously. This can be in any immigration category, or a combination of different immigration categories, so you can include time spent on a Tier 4 (student) visa or as a visitor. When calculating your ten years, you must not have been outside the UK for more than 18 months (540 days) in total over the whole ten year period. During each of the ten years, you must not have been outside the UK for longer than 6 months (180 days) at any one time. You may be able to prove this through stamps in your passport, or by e-mail or paper boarding passes or tickets showing dates leaving and returning to the UK. Trips away includes both holidays and business travel.
    • Time spent in a prison, young offender’s institution or secure hospital, or time spent in the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands does not count towards your ten years, and
    • You have kept to the terms of your UK visa, and
    • If you’re aged 18 to 65 years old, you must pass the Life in the UK Test and prove you have sufficient English language skills
    • You do not have to be earning at a particular level
    • Any time spent in the UK under the European Economic Area (EEA) regulations does not count towards your ten years, so if, for example, you were at one point the spouse of an EU national in the UK, that time will not count. However, if you are still the spouse of an EU national then you should qualify for permanent residence after you’ve been in the UK for five years

    Find out more information about settling in the UK

     

    Tier 1 visas and applications for Settlement

    The Home Office has announced that if you have a Tier 1 General visa, you hadhave to apply for settlement on or before 5 April 2018. It is no longer possible to apply for a Tier 1 General visa but you can still apply for settlement through this route if you meet the requirements.
    Read Gov.uk guidance on Tier 1 visas

    There is more information about applying for settlement, including information about whether your family in the UK can apply at the same time as you, in the Home Office guidance which goes with the application form for settlement.
    Read the Home Office guidance on settlement

     

    Settlement following time spent in the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands

    The rules around settlement state that you may be eligible to apply for settlement after having been in the UK for five years, provided you meet certain conditions. If you meet those conditions, you may count time spent in the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands towards your five years.

    However if you do not meet the conditions, you can only apply for settlement after you have lawfully been in the UK for ten years, but in that instance, time spent in the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands will not count towards your ten years.

  • Your family

    Can you bring your family members and elderly dependents to join you?

    You may be able to bring family members who are not UK or EEA nationals to join you permanently in the UK if you are:

    • a British citizen, or
    • are settled in the UK, or
    • have asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK

    A family member is any of the following:

    • your husband, wife or partner
    • your child under 18
    • your child over 18 if they’re currently in the UK as a dependant

     

    Elderly dependents

    The immigration rules have changed for bringing elderly dependents to the UK.

    Up until 2012, it used to be the case that provided you could show that your elderly parent was financially dependant on you, they could come to the UK so you could look after them.

    The rules now state that adult and elderly dependents can come and settle in the UK only when it can be demonstrated that they need a level of care which can only be provided by a relative in the UK.

    If the care that your relative needs can be provided in their country of origin, by for example, your employing a nurse to look after them, they will not be allowed to come to the UK to settle.

    Read the guide on Gov.UK 

    BMA members who find themselves in this situation can get advice - email us with your query or call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233

     

    Can family members join medical students on a Tier 4 visa ?

    Only doctors on the Foundation Programme can bring dependents to the UK.

    If you are an undergraduate on a Tier 4 visa, you cannot bring dependents to the UK to join you.

    Find out more about visas and family members

     

    Can family members join Foundation programme trainees on a Tier 4 visa ?

    Doctors on the Foundation programme on a tier 4 visa are allowed to bring dependents to join them in the UK. This is because the Foundation programme is a course at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 7 which lasts for 12 months or more.

    Your dependents are:

    • Your husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner and
    • Your children aged under 18.

    You and your dependents will have to meet the rules about being able to support yourselves. You must show that your dependants can be supported while they’re in the UK. Each dependant must have a certain amount of money available to them - this is in addition to the money you must have to support yourself.

    The amount of money you need depends on:

    • the length of your course
    • where you are studying in the UK
    • whether you have finished a UK course or are currently studying.

    For example, if you are on the Foundation programme after having studied at a UK medical school, and you are on the Foundation programme outside London, you will have to show you have £1,640 in the bank (£820 multiplied by two) to meet your own living expenses, not including fees.

    In addition to this, your dependents will have to show they each have enough money to support themselves and will have to show they have £460 each in the bank for each month of your course, up to a maximum of 9 months (that is, a maximum figure of £4,140).

    You must have proof you have the money, and that it’s been in your bank account or your dependent’s bank account for at least 28 days before you or they apply.

    Find out more information at Gov.UK