Doctor reading

Visitor entry routes into the UK sit alongside the points-based system and allow individuals to come to the UK for a short period of time to be involved in certain specified activities.  Under current immigration rules (in effect from 24 April 2015), visitors are covered by four categories, and the 'business visitor' route previously available is now consolidated within the new standard visitor category.

Who will use the standard visitor route?

The standard visitor route covers a range of purposes, and offers some flexibility for those visiting the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).  For example, people can now attend business meetings and undertake incidental study in the same visit, without having to apply for two separate visas.

Examples of individuals who may enter the UK through the standard visitor route include:

  • doctors taking the professional and linguistic assessment board (PLAB) test
  • nurses and midwives visiting in order to complete the OSCE test as part of the NMC overseas registration process (though please note, this scenario is now also accommodated under the tier 2 process)
  • individuals undertaking a clinical attachment or dental observer post
  • academics (including doctors) taking part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts.

What should employers and individuals be aware of?

  • Under the standard visitor entry route, the maximum length of stay that can be granted is six months.  There are exceptions to this, and extensions can be applied for.  Please see Home Office guidance for further details. 
  • The additional permitted activities specified by UKVI give some flexibility for standard visitors, but these activities must not amount to the applicant taking employment, work experience or a full course of study.
  • Academic visitors must not take part in work other than the academic activity for which they are being admitted and the post must be supernumerary.

Professional linguistic assessment board (PLAB) test and objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)

  • Overseas doctors, nurses and midwives completing these professional registration tests should provide confirmation of their test from the General Medical Council or Nursing and Midwifery Council.
  • An individual may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor in order to resit the PLAB test.
  • An individual who is successful in the PLAB test may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor to undertake a clinical attachment (provided they meet the wider requirements of the full immigration rules).  In these circumstances, the total period an individual can remain in the UK (including both the original grant and the extension of stay) must not exceed 18 months.

Do NHS trusts need to sponsor individuals in this category?

No.  The standard visitor route is not part of the points-based system and individuals who may be present at a trust are not employed.  Anyone entering the UK primarily for employment purposes must apply under the points-based system.  The four new visitor routes also contain a category for permitted paid engagements, though there are strict rules for the nature of work that can be undertaken by this route and individuals are advised to consult the full UKVI guidance before considering this route.

Trusts should be aware that the NHS Employers Employment Check Standards will need to be applied to doctors undertaking a clinical attachment or dental observership.

Where can I find out more?

Full details of the visitor visa routes can be found in the UKVI visitor guidance and immigration rules.

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