Guide to licensing in the UK

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Getting a license to practice medicine in the UK can seem straightforward enough if you completed all of your medical training in the UK. Similarly, the General Medical Council recognizes European qualifications. An entry onto the GP or Specialist Register is fairly easy if you trained within the EU, providing you are also a British, Swiss or European national. But what if you fall outside of those boxes? You are an International Medical Graduate, or IMG. 

“I’ve been working on my application for a licence to practice in the UK for over 6 months and I’m still waiting for a decision by the GMC. I’ve been through a lot of frustrations and anxiety as well. For one, you get told a different thing every time you ring at the GMC office. I was already surfing through a sea of unknown when I started the whole process and was getting even more confused each time I rang at the GMC. There is sort of a pathway to follow to get a license in the UK, but even now, when I go on the GMC website, I have a hard time navigating and find holes in the way they explain the different routes."

This article does not intend to be a substitute for any information you could find on the GMC website. It aims to help you navigate through the difficulties of getting a license in the UK if you are an IMG.  Many options are available. But the process can be complicated for those who are not prepared.

What do I need?

1. Acceptable Primary Medical Qualification (PMQ)

This qualification must have been awarded by an institution listed on the Avicenna Directory for Medicine. Most of the PMQ awarded by the school on the directory are recognized by the GMC but some are still not so it is advisable to verify on the GMC website that your PMQ is valid. On the other hand, some PMQ that are not listed can still be accepted.

2. Proof of English Language Capability

IETLS overall score of 7 or more with minimum score of 7 in all four areas tested (speaking, writing, reading and listening) or provide with alternative evidence of English Capability

Under European Law, you are exempt of providing the latter evidence if you are a EU or Swiss citizens or have European Community rights. 

“I come from a country where one of the native languages is English. In order to get a licence in the UK, I had to pass the IETLS. People from the EU can come freely from the EU to work, without having neither their language nor their skills tested.”

3. Fitness to practise declaration

4. Detailed registration and licensing history

5. Certificate of Good Standing from all licensing bodies you were registered with.

6. Evidence of knowledge and skills: four different pathways:

  1. A pass in the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test part 1 and 2.
  2. An acceptable postgraduate qualification (PGQ). A list of acceptable postgraduate program can be found on the GMC website.
  3. Sponsorship by an approved sponsor. To be eligible, you must satisfy your sponsor’s requirements. Also, you must have been actively engaged in medical practice for three out of the last five years including the most recent 12 months.
  4. Eligibility for entry onto the Specialist Register or the GP Register. You must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility to the GMC.

7. Experience

If applying for a full registration with license to practise, you must prove that you have gained sufficient clinical experience during your training, the equivalent of foundation year 1 in the UK. If you cannot prove or do not hold sufficient experience, you can apply for a provisional registration with a license to practise once you have passed the PLAB. You then have to complete a 12 months Foundation Program within 3 years of having passed the PLAB part 2 to be granted with a full registration and a license to practice.   

Then what?

If you were granted a full registration and a licence to practise through the PLAB route, the sponsorship route or if you had an acceptable postgraduate qualification (APQ), you will then need to work for 12 months in an approved practice settings (APS). Once the 12 months period if completed, you can notify the GMC and enter on the List of Registered Medical Practitioners (LRMP). You can then search for work depending on your qualifications and whether you are sponsored or not.

If you were granted a Certificate of Eligibility for GP or Specialist Registration (CEGPR/CESR), you do not need to work for 12 months in an APS and are eligible to enter the Register. You must apply for a full registration with a licence to practise to the GMC and confirm you want to be placed on the Register. You can then apply to be on the performers’ list at the PCT you will work under. The PCT are responsible for assessing your English language fluency and competency. They will do so via induction programs through the local deanery. The assessments vary throughout the country but talks are ongoing about implementing a standardized scheme for all doctors new to the practice in the UK to prepare them adequately.

'We believe that an induction programme for all doctors new to practise in the UK will provide them with a basic grounding in how our systems work and what they need to do to meet the standards we set.'

Professor Sir Peter Rubin, Chair of the GMC

Obtaining a licence to practise medicine in the UK can be a long process. But, everything comes in time to those who can wait. With determination and patience, anything can be achieved. Recent statistics report that more than a third of registered doctors in the UK qualified outside of the UK: 10% in of the European countries and 27% in the rest of the world. These numbers are a proof that IMGs are indispensable in the UK as an active part of the healthcare community.  So, if you are considering a medical career in the UK, it is there, just for you!

“I qualified as a GP in Canada. I am very proud of my training and consider that the medical standards in Canada are outstanding. Recently, the College of Family Physicians of Canada has decided to recognize the MRCGP as an acceptable qualification in Canada. Unfortunately, the GMC does not yet recognize the Certificates of the College of Family Physicians of Canada as a valid qualification in the UK.  This means I have to go through the hurdles of proving my qualifications are at the same standards as those in the UK. Why is it only working one way? Medical practice in Canada and in the UK is very similar and it would benefit both countries to come to a mutual mobility agreement.”

If you have any questions about the blog or to offer to contribute please contact Melissa -



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