What happens after Brexit

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. As a doctor, you may have questions about what this means for you.

Location: UK International
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 13 January 2021
EU flag article illustration

The UK and EU have agreed a Brexit deal. The UK entered into a transition period which ended on 31 December 2020. This page sets out what this will mean for you. 



EEA (European Economic Area) doctors who moved to the UK before 31 December 2020

If you arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020, you and your family can apply under the EU settlement scheme and be granted pre-settled or settled status.

You have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the scheme.

EEA doctors moving to the UK after 1 January 2021

If you arrive in the UK after the 1 January 2021, you and your family will need to apply through the UK’s points-based immigration system. The skilled worker route was introduced on 1 December 2020 and replaces the tier 2 route.

The health and care worker visa

As a doctor working in healthcare, you will be eligible to apply for the health and care worker visa. If you are a doctor currently on a tier 2 visa, and you need to extend your visa, you can switch onto the health and care worker visa.

You can apply and pay for your visa online. It’s cheaper to apply for and you do not need to pay the immigration health surcharge.

Once you have submitted all of the required documentation, you will usually get a decision on your visa within three weeks.

BMA immigration advice service
BMA immigration advice service


Our dedicated immigration advice service can give you free, basic advice on your visa situation.

Call - 0300 123 1233​

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Immigration health surcharge

On 21 May 2020, the prime minister announced that health and care workers were to be exempt from paying the health surcharge. This means that doctors and their dependents will no longer have to pay the charge. This includes EEA national doctors who arrive in the UK to work after the 1 January 2021 and apply under the new immigration system.

Irish nationals moving to the UK

You can continue to live and work in the UK without requiring permission - your residence rights are not dependent on the UK's membership of the EU.

If you arrived before 31 December 2020, you may want to consider applying under the EU settlement scheme. Your non-Irish, non-British family members may also apply for settled status without you having to do so.

If you arrive after 31 December 2020, any non-Irish, non-British family members will need to apply through the new immigration system to stay in the UK.

Travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

If you are a UK or Irish national, you can continue to travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

If you are a frontier worker, in order to keep your status you will need to apply for a frontier worker permit, which will let you come to the UK while living elsewhere as described above. To be eligible you must demonstrate that:

  • you're from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • you live outside of the UK
  • you have worked in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • you have kept working in the UK at least once every 12 months since you started working here.

If you’re an Irish citizen, you do not need to apply for a frontier worker permit but you can choose to do so.

You cannot apply if you're a British citizen (this includes dual citizenship).

From 1 January 2021, non-British, non-Irish workers who wish to work in the UK while remaining resident outside the UK will need to apply through the UK’s points-based immigration system.


Employing EEA staff

Employer checks

You can continue to conduct right to work checks on EEA nationals using a passport or national identity card as evidence.

You can access employment law advice by contacting [email protected] or calling 0300 123 1233.

NHS Employers has published Preparing for the end of the EU transition: workforce guide for employers which summarises workforce priorities and suggests some of the actions employers can take to enhance organisation readiness.

Supporting your EEA employees

You can tell your employees about the settled status scheme. The Home Office has produced some guidance, a briefing pack and poster to raise awareness of the scheme.

You can also use the employer toolkit which includes more information about the scheme.

If your employees are BMA members, they can access our immigration advice service, which provides free, basic immigration advice.


Patients - access to healthcare

EU citizens in the UK can use reciprocal healthcare schemes until the end of the transition period. UK citizens will also be able to access healthcare in EU countries.

Access to these arrangements beyond the transition period are subject to ongoing negotiations.

If the UK does not keep access to these schemes following the transition period, UK citizens will only be able to access healthcare when visiting EU countries under the EHIC (European health insurance card) scheme providing their trip begins prior to the end of the transition period.

However, UK students studying in the EEA will be able to use an EHIC for the duration of their studies.

Holders of a UK-issued S1 certificate – typically UK pensioners living in an EU or EEA country – will also continue to be able to access care in their country of residence.

Primary care

Regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations, general practice remains free of charge to all patients.

You can continue to register and treat EU citizens visiting the UK. You do not need to see evidence of eligibility to register a patient.

Read our guidance to find out more about access to healthcare for overseas visitors and registering patients. 

Secondary care

Emergency care is provided for free throughout the UK. Access to non-emergency care will usually be subject to charges. There are different rules in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Provisions for Ireland

British citizens who live in Ireland and Irish citizens who live in the UK will continue to have the right to access healthcare there.

The UK and Irish governments have said they are committed to continuing to help people access healthcare after the UK leaves the EU.

UK citizens returning from the EU

Former UK residents who have emigrated and no longer reside in the UK are usually chargeable for non-emergency care on short visits to the UK.

For more information read the DHSC’s guidance on implementing the overseas charging regulations.

Across the UK

The websites of the national health authorities provide more detailed information:



For further information on the BMA’s position on Brexit, please conta
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