Immigration Rule for Overseas Doctors

Coming into effect since April 2006, is a new immigration rule for overseas doctors.

They cease to be qualified for the award of the traditional permit free training (PFT) visa. The permit free training visa was a visa category that allowed overseas trained doctors to come to the UK and get postgraduate medical training in any training jobs in the NHS. While in training, they also provide valuable service for which they are paid.

On the 7th of March 2006, the UK Home Office issued a new rule to which all NHS Trust in the Country must comply. All doctors trained outside the United kingdom or indeed the European Union (EU), no longer qualify for permit free.

They must apply for a work permit for any position they want to fill in the NHS.

Before they are granted such post, the employing NHS Trust must satisfy the Home Office that they are no suitably qualified Medical Doctor trained in the UK or EU, or better still of EU or UK citizenship to fill such post.

According to a circular from the Department of Health to NHS Trusts on the new immigration rule for overseas doctors ,

“The changes, which will come into effect on 3 April, aim to amend the current specific category within "the immigration rule for overseas doctors" and Dentists. In future, the only doctors and dentists who will be covered by the existing ("permit free") arrangements are those who have completed their medical degree in the UK and have been appointed to a 2 year Foundation Programme.

The Home Office has also announced its longer term policy on managing migration, based on a points based system for people coming to the UK to work, study and train. The Home Office aims to introduce the new system in stages to replace the current arrangements and simplify the system for employers and migrants”.

It continues:

“What does this new immigration rule for overseas doctors mean for future recruitment?

You need to ensure that any offers of appointment you make are line with the new rules. When you advertise your post, applicants are likely to be British Citizens or fall into the following categories;

* EEA nationals

* Doctors and dentists with existing leave to remain under the current immigration rules for Postgraduate Doctors and Dentists

* Doctors and dentists who require a work permit

* Doctors and dentists who have leave to remain under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme

* Doctors and dentists who are in the UK by virtue of another immigration category e.g. those with leave as a dependent - each specific case would need to be checked

EEA nationals have the automatic right to work in the UK and should therefore be considered in the same way as UK applicants for posts.

Doctors and dentists who have existing leave to remain as a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist will be allowed to stay and train in the UK until that leave expires. Therefore, if the post on offer will be completed within the period of the doctor's/dentist's existing leave, the employer (and the doctor/dentist) will not need to seek permission from the Home Office for the doctor/dentist to take up the post. However, from 3 April doctors and dentists will only be eligible for leave as a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist for their Foundation Programme, and then only if they have studied in the UK and meet all the other requirements. If you have offered a post to a doctor or dentist who currently has leave as a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist, but their leave will expire before the end of the post, then they will need to apply for a different category of leave to complete the post. It is likely that the work permit system would be the most appropriate category - see the information on work permits below.

The majority of candidates for posts will require a work permit. This means that you need to apply to Work Permits (UK) for a work permit before you can employ the candidate. When you make an application for a Work Permit you will have to demonstrate to Work Permits (UK) that there are no suitable EEA nationals who can take up the post. In practice, this should involve very few adjustments to your recruitment processes. However, once your closing date has passed, you will need to review how many applicants are EEA nationals and how many would require a work permit. Depending on how many posts you are filling, and how many applicants fall into each category, you will then need to decide whether to assess the EEA candidates first or whether to assess all of the applicants at the same time. The important thing is that, before making any offers of employment, you make sure that the suitable EEA nationals are considered in advance of those who require a work permit”.

What this new immigration rule for overseas doctors means for a an international medical graduate looking to work in the UK is that if you do not have a UK or EU citizenship or right of abode, you may not even be short listed for a job.

The new immigration rule for overseas doctors also means that some doctors already in the Uk may need to go back home to apply for a work permit if their current visa expires, for the Department of Health Memo continues:

“Not all doctors and dentists will be able to change the basis of their stay (switch) within the UK. Those in the UK as a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist can switch into leave as a work permit holder, but those with leave as a Visitor or as the dependant of another migrant cannot switch into leave as a work permit holder and will need to leave the UK and make the appropriate application for entry clearance from abroad”.

A few who currently are on the HSMP visa may enjoy some protection. This is therefore a call on all those who have not yet applied for the HSMP visa to apply now. The rules are rapidly changing. Read what the letter says as it continues still:

Some doctors and dentists may have been accepted onto the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). Doctors and dentists who have leave under HSMP can take up any training or employment posts you offer, without the need for you or they to ask the Home Office for permission”.

But what about an overseas doctor wanting to do clinical attachment? There is a word from the Department of Health.

Are clinical attachments affected by this new immigration rule for overseas doctors?

It says:

"Following discussions with the Department of Health, the Home Office has also taken this opportunity to limit the amount of leave that can be granted specifically to undertake clinical attachments and dental observer posts to 6 weeks at a time or 6 months in total”

So the die has been cast. This new immigration rule for overseas doctors may be here today, but what will happen tomorrow no one knows.

See if you qualify to apply for the HSMP HSMP here. This may be the only way to evade, to some extent, the hardship that would be brought about by this new immigration rule for overseas doctors in the UK.

Useful Links

UK Home Office Website

About Work Permit and Immigration Rule for Overseas Doctors

Immigration Rule for Overseas Doctors and BMJ


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