Recruitment of overseas doctors and dentists

This page describes foundation programme training, speciality training, other medical and dental posts, and the Medical Training Initiative programme.

16 May 2024

Doctors and dentists from overseas will either be entering:

Foundation programme training

NHS England Workforce Training and Education (formally Health Education England) is the approved sponsor for overseas foundation programme trainees under the student visa category of the points-based system.

Employers should ensure that all non-UK graduates of a medical school entering foundation programme training have the appropriate student visa and are also advised to copy, store and record the visa details.

While students undertaking the foundation programme are in full-time employment during the course of the training, for student visa purposes, the foundation programme itself is the course of study. This means that a trainee doctor on the foundation programme can also choose to take further employment of up to 20 hours per week during term-time.

Any queries relating to student visa sponsorship for foundation programme trainees should be directed to NHS England Workforce Training and Education.

Speciality training

Non-UK individuals who have successfully completed their foundation programme under the student visa category are entitled to apply for a skilled worker Health and Care Visa, where they meet the criteria for that route. Doctors from overseas can also directly apply to specialty training via the skilled worker Health and Care Visa route.

NHS England Workforce Training and Education is responsible for the sponsorship of all medical and dental trainees for their skilled worker Health and Care Visa application in England. This single sponsor system means trainees will not need to apply for new sponsorship if they change employers/location in England during their training.

Guidance on the eligibility of individuals applying for entry to specialty training programmes is available on the NHS England Workforce Training and Education website.

Evidence of immigration status should normally consist of a biometric residence card, date stamped passport, and accompanying letter from the Home Office.

Please visit the GOV.UK website for more information.

Medical Training Initiative

The Medical Training Initiative (MTI) scheme provides an entry route for overseas doctors wishing to train in the NHS before returning to their own country. The scheme enables suitably qualified overseas postgraduate medical specialists to undertake a fixed period of training in the UK.

MTI can cover virtually any medical post, as long as it is designed to deliver training and education that will benefit the overseas-based appointee, and that they intend to return to their home country at the end. Find out more on our dedicated MTI page.

Other medical and dental posts

All other doctors and dentists requiring limited leave to remain must meet the requirements of a Skilled Worker Visa.

Any doctor or dentist wanting to work in the UK must hold registration with a licence to practice with the respective regulator, either the General Medical Council or General Dental Council.

Doctors will need to pass both parts of the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test which will demonstrate they have the right knowledge and skills to practice medicine in the UK. Dentists will need to pass the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE).

In April 2024, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published the Immigration Salary List (ISL) which replaced the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The ISL has a reduced number of roles listed and is now using the new version of SOC Codes 2020. A full list of roles is available on the GOV.UK website. New salary thresholds have also been implemented for the skilled worker visa. More information on these changes are available on our impacts of the changes to the UK's immigration policy webpage. 

A guidance document is also available which sets out minimum standards and detailed guidance for employers to provide an effective induction for international medical graduates (IMGs) entering the NHS.