Preparation for overseas doctors and nurses before working in the UK

Recruitment from overseas has become increasingly popular with helping the UK to fill empty staffing positions as well as cutting down costs. Organisations value workers from overseas because they possess high knowledge and an intricate skill set that they have developed from their home country to which they can bring over to UK organisations.

When applying to work in the UK you will have to prepare different documents and to get yourself ready for when you arrive. Below is some information to guide you with the preparation you need before working in the UK.

So, what is the recruitment process like?

All international healthcare staff wishing to start a career in the UK will go through some or all of the following:

  • Take the IELTS UKVI Academic and achieve a pass level of 7 OR take the OET and pass with grade B
  • Have a Skype/Zoom/Teams interview with the organisation
  • Receive an offer letter from the organisation after a successful interview
  • Start your registration with the NMC and arrange to take the Computer Based Test
  • Send the required documents to the NMC and receive a decision letter
  • Receive your Certificate of Sponsorship and apply for your tier 2 visa
  • Have a flight booked for travel to the UK
  • Arrive in the UK and begin working in the NHS as a Band 4 nurse or other healthcare organisation
  • Take the OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination)



Apply for a visa

You will need to apply for a visa or work permit to work in the UK. Anyone from outside of the UK will need approval from the UK Visas and Immigration to work in the UK. This allows you to stay and work in the UK and do an eligible job with the NHS or any other healthcare organisation.

For example, when applying to work with the NHS, the Trust can offer sponsorship to obtain a Tier 2 visa. After passing the CBT, you will be issued with a Certificate of Sponsorship, which you will need to apply for your visa. Depending on which Trust you are joining, they may cover the cost of the visa for you in full or in part. Overseas nurses are required to dedicate themselves to their position within the NHS Trust for at least three years, which is also the visa duration.



Language assessments

Organisations are accountable to make sure everyone employed and providing healthcare services has the required level of English language, allowing them to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues. English language tests can be a complicated obstacle for overseas recruits during the registration process.  Some organisations will make it a requirement for overseas candidates to pass their English tests. Other organisations choose not to make it a requirement and will offer language support to prepare the individual for the test.


To be eligible for enrolment as an overseas nurse in the UK, you will need a three-year Nursing degree, plus one year’s experience working as a nurse. You also need to pass the IELTS or OET English language exams to apply for NMC registration as an overseas nurse. Following the English language tests, you will need to take and pass part 1 of the Computer Based Test.

What is the OSCE test?

OSCE stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination it’s based on UK pre-registration standards. The OSCE practical test, which involves acting out scenarios that nurses are likely to experience during care. You’ll book the OSCE when you arrive in the UK.  There will be a training interval over a few weeks before you sit the OSCE. The NHS Trust will pay for you to sit the test 2-3 times, depending on who you join.

OSCE preparation

To guarantee candidates have sufficient time to get ready for the OSCE, they get offered up to 12 weeks from the start date on their certificate of sponsorship to complete the exam. In the time running up to the exam, candidates get full support and the chance to practice and prepare for the OSCE.

Accommodation when you arrive in the UK

With the NHS, you will have 2-3 months free accommodation with the Trust. This is for the individual solely. In some cases, a Trust may offer to provide accommodation for families, but this will depend on the individual Trust. If you would like to move to somewhere new, you will need to find your own accommodation.

Medical care

When you become a UK resident, you will become entitled to free medical care from the NHS. This also includes access to a GP, non-emergency hospital treatment and other services. You may need to pay for some service, like vaccinations, dental and optical treatment, and prescription medicines.

Fees the hospital will cover

Different hospitals will have contrasting benefits packages, however many hospitals will cover the following expenses:

  • IELTS or OET test
  • NMC application
  • Computer-Based Test (CBT)
  • 2 OSCE exams
  • Initial flight ticket
  • Visa application and health surcharge


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