This site is intended for health professionals only

RCGP letter signed by 4,000 GPs demands solution to ‘nonsensical’ IMG visa rules  

RCGP letter signed by 4,000 GPs demands solution to ‘nonsensical’ IMG visa rules  

An urgent solution is needed to ensure all GP trainees from overseas can continue working in general practice after completing their training, the RCGP has said.  

In an open letter to the home secretary, signed by 4,367 GPs and GP trainees, the RCGP called for a reform of ‘nonsensical’ visa rules, which it said were a ‘barrier’ to GP trainees from overseas ‘at a time when general practice is facing intense workload and workforce pressures’. 

The College previously wrote to the Home Office in May but the response at the time put the onus on GP practices to become Tier 2 sponsors, which the RCGP said had ‘significant financial and bureaucratic implications for practices’.  

Now it has called for reforms allowing all GPs to have their visa sponsored directly by the NHS or for them to be offered a similar scheme to the graduate visa, allowing them to stay in the UK following completion of their training course. 

Pulse first revealed in April that up to 1,000 newly-qualified GPs could face removal from the country when their visa expires next year.

And in June, the RCGP told MPs that recently qualified GPs were receiving ‘deportation’ letters soon after completing their medical training

What is the problem with IMG GP visas?

Overseas doctors or International Medical Graduates (IMGs) must work under the skilled worker visa scheme for at least five years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This timeframe covers most specialist medical training. 

However, GPs usually gain their certificate of completion of training (CCT) after three years, leaving a two-year gap during which they must secure sponsorship if they want to stay in the country when their visas run out. 

NHS England had expected to be allowed to sponsor doctors during the two-year period but could not reach an agreement with the Home Office.  

The RCGP said trainees from overseas were reporting difficulties finding employment in practices, with some ‘feeling forced to take roles elsewhere in the NHS and others considering leaving the NHS, and in some cases the UK, altogether’.  

Over 40% of all trainees are IMGs and a recent RCGP survey found that around 30% of respondents said they found the visa system so difficult they were considering giving up on their plans to work as a GP in the UK. 

In the College’s latest letter to new home secretary Suella Braverman, RCGP chair Martin Marshall said: ‘The RCGP has been working with the NHS bodies across the UK to support IMGs and to help practices register as sponsors.

‘While this has helped, we are still hearing that some IMGs are struggling and therefore we need a national solution to ensure all trainees are secure in their immigration status during the difficult transition between training and becoming a fully-fledged GP.’

He added that general practice ‘cannot afford to lose this expertise and willingness to work in the NHS’ due to ‘red tape’.

He said: ‘At a time when general practice is experiencing the most severe workload pressures it has ever known, it is nonsensical that the NHS is going to the expense of training hundreds of GPs each year who then face potential removal by the Home Office because of an entirely avoidable visa issue.

‘These bureaucratic immigration rules are not fit for purpose and without a resolution, we could potentially lose thousands of desperately needed newly qualified GPs from the workforce in the future.’

In July, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee called for a default visa extension for six months after IMGs’ expected GP training completion date, to give them time to find an appropriate employer.  

But the Government has said that highlighting GP visa concerns amounted to ‘needless scaremongering’.  

Pulse also revealed in June that only 124 GPs recruited via NHS England’s international GP recruitment programme were still practising in England, out of a target of 2,000, while around one in six GP positions was vacant.  



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

RAMAN PRABU 19 October, 2022 1:51 pm

I think the RCGP have got it wrong
To register as a Tier 2 sponsor is very simple did it in an hour with help from NHS England and we have been trying to recruit GP’s but no applicants for 2 years!
So if any IMG needs a job please contact Kirkby Health centre in Nottinghamshire