Recruitment of overseas allied health professionals

How overseas allied health professionals (AHPs) can enter the UK for work.

16 May 2024

Requirements for international applications

Allied health professionals (AHPs) who have trained and qualified overseas will need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before they can practice under a protected title in the UK. Applications for HCPC registration can now be completed online. In the application, candidates will need to demonstrate that they meet the standards of proficiency for their profession and then each application is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Assessment normally takes around 60 working days and a fee currently of £639.65 paid by the applicant.

Making a job offer and completing a Certificate of Sponsorship

Once registration with HCPC is obtained, HCPC will issue the candidate with a registration number. This registration number will be needed when employers apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Once a CoS is issued, the candidate can apply for the Health and Care Worker visa. Employers can email for further support related to the Health and Care Worker visa.

NHS Employers has helpful resources on the sponsorship licence system, how to apply for a CoS and the process of obtaining a Health and Care Worker visa.

The immigration policy changes announced in December 2023 include renaming the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to the Immigration Salary List (ISL). The MAC conducted a rapid review of the ISL, and recommended that a number of roles be removed from the ISL, as their occupation-specific thresholds are in all cases above the £23,200 general threshold that applies to all pay scale occupations. The ISL was published on 4 April 2024 with a reduction of roles now eligible. 

Language assessment requirements

Applicants must provide certification of their proficiency in the English language in order to gain HCPC registration. They must have achieved level 7.0 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with no element below 6.5, or certification comparable to this. Speech and language therapists need to have attained a level 8.0 in IELTS with no element below 7.5, or a comparable certification.

HCPC also accepts Test of English as for Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet based Test (IBT) undertaken in a candidate’s home country. All professions must have achieved a minimum score of 100/120, except speech and language therapists who must achieve a minimum score of 118/120.

If applicants propose to rely upon a non-IELTS test score, they are strongly advised to ensure the test is comparable and meets HCPC standards of proficiency. Failure to do so may delay the processing of your application.

HCPC have concluded the consultation into their English language proficiency requirements. NHS Employers submitted a response on behalf of NHS trusts. We will keep employers updated on the results of this consultation, expected Spring 2025. 

Considerations for employers

It is particularly important to adhere to a values-based recruitment process when recruiting international AHPs. These candidates will not have prior experience of working in the NHS and so will not be able to demonstrate experience of this during the recruitment process. Values-based recruitment will allow international applicants a fair opportunity to demonstrate their own range of skills and experience.

The Code of Practice for ethical international recruitment applies to all health and social care professions, including AHPs.  Employing organisations and recruitment agencies should not actively recruit from any of the countries on the World Health Organisation (WHO) Support and Safeguard List, 2023 and adhere to its guiding principles and best practice benchmarks. If you are working with a recruitment agency, be sure they are on ethical recruiters list as adhering to the Code.  

Return to practice

Formally Health Education England, now NHS England, runs a Return to Practice programme to support AHPs who have been out of their profession for two or more years, and those who did not register with the HCPC within five years of qualification. The programme is also available for overseas qualified clinicians living in England who already hold HCPC registration. 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

There is no requirement for AHPs to attend formal training for a specified length of time. However, continuing professional development is still important for this group of professionals and they will need to keep their skills up to date in order to practice safely and effectively. HCPC advises that employers are not responsible for AHPs’ CPD, however HCPC's CPD standards are a responsibility that registrants must meet. There is information for what employers need to know on the HCPC website. Evidence of CPD and its impact on practice is an important element of the bi-annual HCPC re-registration process.

Top tips for applicants

The HCPC has a case study written by a HCPC-registered dietitian who shares some top tips for applying via their international route.

HCPC standards and guidance

As part of their application to join the HCPC register, applicants will sign to say that will comply with HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics, standards of proficiency, and that they have a professional indemnity arrangement in place.  The HCPC has compiled some of the questions and answers registrants commonly ask about professional indemnity.


Below are some useful resources that employers can use to support the international recruitment of AHPs.