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Non-EEA international doctors

Definition of ‘international doctor’

An international doctor is one who, regardless of where they obtained their primary medical qualification, does not have the right of indefinite residence, is not settled in the UK (as determined by immigration and nationality law) or who does not benefit from European Community rights. This definition includes doctors who have received a primary medical qualification from a UK university and completed their foundation training but who do not have settled status or right of indefinite residence.

Settled status: indefinite leave to remain in the UK in prescribed circumstances

Some international doctors may be entitled to settled status in the UK, for example those who are married to a British citizen or who have at least one grandparent born in the UK.

Registering with the General Medical Council (GMC)

All doctors need to register with the General Medical Council (GMC) before undertaking direct patient care. International doctors can join the UK Specialist Register by applying for a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) , which proves that a doctor has undertaken training equivalent to that undertaken by a UK Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) holder.

Joining the UK training programme

Entry into training posts is through online application and subsequent competitive interview.

Health Education South West (Severn) coordinates national recruitment into Ophthalmic Specialist Training (OST) on behalf of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

For more information, visit the UK’s specialty training and recruitment website.

The GMC website provides advice for international medical graduates about their options, as well as information about the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test .


International doctors require a visa to work in the UK. There are 3 types of visa relevant to working as a doctor:

  • Tier 1: successful application to tier 1 allows doctors to seek work in the UK in any non-training grade
  • Tier 2: for doctors who have been offered a post in the UK for which the employing authority was unable to find a suitable UK or EEA doctor to fill the post; this may be either a training or a non-training post
  • Tier 5: for selected international doctors to come to the UK to train for up to two years, following which they must return to their home country; the training will not lead to a CCT

For more information about visa applications, please visit the UK Border Agency website.

Dual Sponsorship Scheme

 The Dual Sponsorship Scheme is run by the College to provide an opportunity for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) to undertake targeted training in ophthalmology for a limited period of time. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists acts as a sponsoring body for such doctors to gain registration with the GMC to undertake targeted training in a suitable training post in the UK.

The Postgraduate Dean, College Tutor and Programme Director in the area in which the training will take place must give support for the training post to be used under the Dual Sponsorship Scheme.

Doctors applying for an offer of sponsorship must have been engaged in medical practice for three out of the last five years including the most recent twelve months.

It is the responsibility of the applicant and the relevant employing authority e.g. the hospital medical staffing department, to ensure that the applicant has obtained the relevant Work Permit/Visa if required. Visa applications are not the remit of the College.

The Dual Sponsorship Scheme comes under the Medical Training Initiative (MTI) , which is a category of the Home Office Training and Work Experience Scheme. The Government Authorised Exchange means that workers must be funded to the National Minimum Wage requirements for their skill and training level. This funding can come from the employing UK trust, a foreign employer or UK/foreign government grants and scholarships. An IMG must be able to provide evidence of an external source of funding for their post and cannot fund it through their own means.

The Academy of Royal Colleges has the role of promoting the MTI and acting as the national sponsor of the scheme for the requirements of the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).

IMG Tier 5 Support Scheme

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists administers an IMG Tier 5 Support Scheme in place for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who wish to undertake clinical training for a maximum of 24 months in the UK and then return to their home country on completion of their training.

This scheme has been designed for doctors who require support for a Tier 5 visa only. The scheme is for IMGs who have already obtained registration with the GMC or have recently had their registration reinstated.

To apply for the scheme the IMG should complete all sections of the IMG Tier 5 Support Scheme application form.

If the application is approved a letter of support is sent to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

To apply for the Tier 5 Visa the UK employing hospital (Trust) will need to ensure that a completed Medical Training Initiative (MTI) form is submitted to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges who will process the Tier 5 Visa.  It is recommended that the MTI form is sent to the Academy only after support has been given by the Royal College.