A Psychiatrist's Route to the UK - EEA & non-EEA

  • April 13, 2021

There are several routes a psychiatrist can take to register with the GMC and practice psychiatry in the NHS. 

Psychiatrists looking to secure a job in the NHS must satisfy certain criteria before they can be fully registered with the GMC (General Medical Council) and receive a license to practice in the NHS. For psychiatry, these criteria depend on where you received your training, and the qualifications you hold.  

In this blog, we’re giving you a snapshot of the steps you need to take to start your journey to the UK, as an overseas psychiatrist. We’ll be covering the following: 

Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you're looking for.

Evidence of knowledge and skills for EEA Psychiatrists

For psychiatrists who trained in an EEA country (all countries inside the EU, also Lichtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland & Norway), there are several options potentially available to you. 

Depending on the country and year you completed your residency or basic medical training, the GMC may automatically recognise your qualifications and grant you either General Registration, or Specialist Registration in the UK. To find out if your country’s qualifications will allow you to register for either GMC registration, check the relevant GMC page here

Basic Medical Training: If you have met the requirements for basic medical training, you would not need to demonstrate your medical knowledge and skills to work as a doctor in the UK, and would therefore not need to complete a Royal College postgraduate qualification or PLAB to register with a license to practice. You would be granted full registration in this case, but not Specialist Registration. 

Specialist Training / Residency: Not all European Specialist qualifications are accepted by the GMC. If you have met the GMC’s criteria pertaining to your county, then you should be eligible for Specialist Registration in oncology. 

So as a psychiatrist, if you hold a Relevant European Specialist qualification, you would be put on the specialist register for psychiatry and can be appointed as a substantive psychiatrist in the NHS. 

Please note, the criteria that is outlined on your country’s GMC registration page must be met. If your training was undertaken prior to the dates mentioned by the GMC – your qualifications will not be accepted.  

For EEA psychiatrists, the main hurdle that you will face will be demonstrating that your English skills are of a high enough standard to practice safely as a doctor in the NHS. 

As a European psychiatrist, this is most likely the easiest route to becoming GMC-registered and being able to practice psychiatry in the UK. 

If you do not meet the GMC requirements for your training to be approved for general or specialist registration, other routes you may consider to GMC registration include PLAB, or (via the postgraduate route) the Royal College exams for psychiatry (MRCPsych). You can find out more about these alternative routes here

Evidence of knowledge and skills for non-EEA Psychiatrists 

If you qualified as a psychiatrist outside the EEA, then you will have to demonstrate that both your medical knowledge and skills AND English Language capabilities meet the level required to practice safely in the UK. 

Psychiatrists who've trained from outside the UK and EEA and must demonstrate to the GMC they have sufficient knowledge & skills to practice safely in the UK. For psychiatrists this can be done through three main routes: 

Professional & Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB)

The PLAB exam is a two-part exam that assesses a doctor’s ability to work safely as an SHO in the NHS, as such it does not demonstrate ability in psychiatry specifically. For this reason, PLAB tends to be a route for junior doctors who have not already chosen their field of specialisation in medicine. That said, for some senior doctors PLAB can be an attractive option, offering a quicker route to the UK, whilst still securing competitive salaries. If taking this option, psychiatrists can then take up training or a more senior post once they have established themselves in the NHS. Take a look through our comprehensive guides on PLAB. 

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Attaining a Royal College qualification is a preferred path for doctors who have already chosen their field of specialism i.e. psychiatry.  Psychiatrists taking this route will gain access to more senior, well-paid jobs in the NHS. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is the professional body that regulates the specialism of psychiatry in the UK, and Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) is the full qualification attainable by examination. For overseas doctors, attaining MRCPsych will satisfy the knowledge & skill criteria for GMC registration and facilitate application for more senior roles in UK psychiatry. Take a look at IMG Resources library for complete guides on MRCPsych to learn more. 

GMC-recognised or equivalent qualifications 

Some overseas qualifications and licensing exams are recognised by the GMC and accepted for registration purposes. This is to say these qualifications or licensing exams are considered as meeting the same standards as the Royal College qualifications. 

To find out if your qualification is accepted by the GMC, take a look at our blog: Overseas accepted postgraduate qualifications 

English Language Testing 

Both EEA and non-EEA oncologists, regardless of experience, and country of origin, must demonstrate that they have a sufficient grasp and competence of the English language. This can be done by passing either the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or the OET (OET – Occupational English Test). Detailed guides to these tests can be found below: 

IELTS – a guide for overseas doctors

OET – a guide for overseas doctors

Experience in English-speaking countries 

For doctors who have at least two years of their most recent experience in an English-speaking country, you can use a reference from your current employer or employers over these two or more years to demonstrate competence of the English language. This would exempt you from sitting an English language exam. 

Certificate of Good Standing 

All doctors registering with the GMC must provide a certificate of good standing from each medical regulatory authority they’ve been registered or licensed with in the last five years. 

The medical regulatory authority may send you a certificate of past good standing if you're not currently registered or licensed with them. You can find out which medical regulatory authority to contact via the GMC website here

If there's no medical regulatory authority in the country to issue a certificate, the GMC will give you further advice once your application has been assessed. 

Please note that each certificate is only valid for three months from the date it's signed and must be valid when we approve your application. 

GMC Registration 

Once you’ve completed your English language exam, you can now apply for full GMC registration with a license to practice. For registration, you must provide evidence of: 

English language capabilities - either your IELTS, OET or an approved reference from your current employer (if you have been working in an English-speaking country for the last two years). 


Certificate of good standing – the certificate from your medical regulatory authority which demonstrates good standing. 


(EEA psychiatrists) Skills and knowledge – as an EEA psychiatrist, this would either be your recognised EEA qualification. 

(Non-EEA psychiatrist) Skills and knowledge – as a non-EEA psychiatrist, this would either be PLAB, MRCPsych or a GMC-approved qualification. 

To understand the registration process more fully, read our article on GMC registration for overseas doctors here


If you or your family are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you may be able to apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a visa from the Home Office

A Health & Care visa (Tier 2 visa) is the document given to a skilled worker by the UK Home Office following a job offer from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 Sponsorship License. The list of valid Tier 2 Sponsors can be found here

Understand Tier 2 visas and Certificates of Sponsorship in depth by taking a look at our article: Tier 2 Visa application process & documents needed

Wondering whether you can relocate with your family? Take a look at our blog on the Tier 2 dependant visa below: Tier 2 Dependent visa - Can I bring my family with me to the UK? 

So, there you have it! Hopefully this helps to clarify any worries or doubts you may have on your route to the UK as a psychiatrist planning a career in the NHS. If you have any questions or would like to know more about the psychiatry job market, then get in touch with our team. 

For regular news and updates on the Royal College and all things psychiatry, follow IMG Connect on social media using the links below: 



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