Working as a nurse in the UK presents great career opportunities and, due to a domestic shortage, the National Health Service (NHS) is reliant on overseas medical professionals. Recruitment drives are frequently held in other countries to attract talented individuals, while others might apply of their own volition. by

The application process to become a nurse in the UK is long and involved, requiring a lot of paperwork. Plus the requirements are different for those that trained within the European Economic Area (due to EU employment regulations) and those that trained outside the EEA.

To help you navigate through the process, the following advice is essential for anyone seeking a nursing position in the UK:

Shortage occupation list

It's a well known fact that the UK nursing community comprises many nationalities, however, this has sometimes had a negative affect on home nations, leaving them short of talent themselves. To ensure more 'ethical recruitment', the British government's Department of Health has drawn up a list of developing countries from which applicants should not be hired. These include Albania, Kenya, Turkey and four Indian states.

In a similar vein, certain nursing positions have been taken off the UK Shortage Occupation List, which details the country's most urgently needed professions. This means that domestic applicants will be preferred over overseas nurses for some roles. It is worth checking beforehand.

Registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

To work as a nurse in the UK, all applicants must register with the NMC, which is the body that officially regulates nursing and midwifery professionals. 

Eligible candidates will have been practising for at least one year or for a minimum of 450 hours over the last three years. The NMC will send out an application pack and requests the following information: work experience, references, details of training, diplomas and a document from the registration or licensing authority. There is an application fee of £140.

The application will then be assessed, a process which could take up to six months. The decision will either be registration, rejection or the requirement to undertake a period of Supervised Practice. To find a placement, it is best to contact hospitals directly.

Bear in mind that registration with the NMC does not offer the right to work in the UK - a visa will still be necessary for non-EEA nationals.

Overseas Nursing Programme / Adaptation to Midwifery Programme

Those accepted onto the NMC register that have been trained outside the EEA will be required to take a nursing or midwifery course to adapt their existing skills to allow them to practice in UK. Individuals will need to enrol on a course before they arrive in the UK; course providers can be found via the NMC website.

While completing the course, applicants may be able to find work in the UK as Healthcare Assistants or as an Auxiliary Trained Abroad worker. Once the course is finished, they may gain their NMC registration.

Proficiency in English is essential

Applicants will be asked to take English tests via the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), to demonstrate that they can understand and communicate confidently when on British shores. The tests cover listening, reading, writing and speaking. A minimum overall score of 7.0 is required for NMC registration.


Applicants will be expected to satisfy British immigration criteria in order to gain the requisite permission to reside and work in the UK. Typically, most nurses will apply under the Tier 2 Skilled Workers category - details are available from the UK Border Agency.

Those that have secured sponsorship via the National Health Service or another employer will usually have their visa application processed in the UK on their behalf. Employment essentially depends on the granting of a visa.

Apply well in advance

As you can probably discern, applying to work as a nurse in the UK is time-consuming and complicated. Consequently, it is important to send your application off well in advance of the date you actually would like to arrive in the UK. Ensure you have your diplomas, birth certificate, training log and references to hand, to expedite the process.