Switch from Tier 5 to Health and Care Visa

8 Minutes

As an international medical graduate, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different Visas that grant you access to living in the UK. There are a couple of different types, with two of the most commonly used ones being the health and care visa and the Tier 5 (now called temporary work) Visa. While they both grant access to living in the UK for a medical role, that doesn’t mean they are exactly the same.

If you have travelled to the UK on a Temporary Work/Tier 5 Visa, you may wonder if you have the option to switch to a different visa for IMGs – in particular, the Health and Care Visa, which allows you to live in the UK for up to five years.

While it is possible to switch from the Tier 5/Temporary Work Visa to the Health and Care Visa, it’s important to note that they both serve very different purposes: the Temporary Work Visa is meant for a set period of time, while the Health and Care Visa is for IMGs starting an NHS role that may have the option to extend further.

What is a Tier 5 Visa?

The Tier 5 Visa is made for internationals looking to work in the UK temporarily – for up to two years. It’s now called the Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange Visa. As an IMG, you will likely use this type of Visa if you are travelling to the UK to do the MTI scheme.

The MTI Scheme

MTI stands for ‘Medical Training Initiative’ and is a scheme developed in the UK to improve healthcare in developing countries. Under the MTI scheme, you would move to the UK to train in the NHS for up to two years, picking up skills on knowledge from the various experiences. The scheme is not about staying in the UK after training. On the contrary, the scheme’s purpose is so that the trainee returns to their home country with all their newfound knowledge and training, able to improve the healthcare system there.

To be a part of the MTI scheme, you need your primary medical qualification and GMC registration. You must also apply to the Royal College of your chosen speciality – each has different requirements. A lot of the process for moving to the UK on the MTI scheme looks similar to that of a regular IMG; you apply, interview, attend an ID check, and go to work under a visa.

The Health and Care Visa

The Health and Care Visa is for IMGs wanting to live and work in the UK on a longer basis – often with the goal of permanent residence. This Visa allows you to live in the UK for up to five years (which you can then use to apply for indefinite leave to remain).

While it’s not a visa that grants permanent residence, it’s the Visa you would choose if you’re an IMG planning on living and working in the UK for a long time, particularly if you have an NHS role lined up in your chosen speciality.

Why Switch to a Health and Care Visa?

An IMG who uses a Temporary Work Visa usually wants to return to their home country once it runs out after two years. However, that might not always be the case. In some cases, the IMG might prefer to stay working in the UK on a more permanent basis. That might be because an NHS trust has offered them a great position. In this situation, they cannot stay on the Temporary Work Visa; instead, they must switch to the Health and Care Visa.

How to Make the Switch

If you want to switch from the Temporary Work/Tier 5 Visa after your two years are up, then you’ll need to submit an application for the Health and Care Visa while you are still in the UK. During this process, you cannot leave the UK, Channel Islands, Ireland, or the Isle of Man.

To be eligible for the Health and Care Visa, you will need the following:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Proof of English knowledge
  • Passport
  • TB Certificate (if necessary)
  • Police Clearance Certificate/s

You can make the application online. You should hear back within three weeks but you can pay for faster confirmation.

Keep in mind that if you have any dependants with you, they will also need to switch visas, and they will need your unique application number to do so.

Should You Make the Switch?

If you have decided that working in the UK for the NHS is something that you want to do long-term, switching to the Health and Care Visa makes sense. However, the Temporary Work Visa is for just that – temporary work. The MTI scheme is specifically designed for IMGs that want to return to their home countries with all the skills and knowledge they’ve picked up from the NHS. So ideally, you would not make the switch, instead going back to your home country to be an excellent doctor there.

Of course, things don’t always go according to plan, so if you’ve changed your mind along the way, you can always switch visas.

However, if you have yet to apply for a visa, make sure you choose the right one. Pick the Temporary Work Visa and the MTI scheme if you plan on returning to your home country, and choose the Health and Care Visa with a more traditional role if you want to live in the UK for the longer term. Keep in mind that time living in the UK under the Temporary Work Visa will not count towards indefinite leave to remain.

In Summary

Switching from Tier 5/Temporary Work Visa is relatively straightforward if you have an NHS role lined up. However, remember that the MTI scheme is designed for temporary work for a reason – specifically to attract overseas medical professionals who can go back and improve their countries’ healthcare systems.

In the following article, we will discuss indefinite leave to remain, which provides you with a much more permanent type of residence in the UK.

We are always inundated with excellent opportunities across the NHS for both IMGs and UK based doctors so if you’re considering your options then get in touch and tell us how we can help you.