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It's all very well to think and plan about coming to the UK to work as a doctor being an international medical graduate (IMG), but there is always the fear of the unknown lurking in the back of our mind. That's why we've devised the international medical graduate's checklist for what you can expect and how you can adjust to life in the UK!
The steps of being a doctor in the UK
Before thinking about anything else, you need to have GMC registration with a license to practice. After having that, you have to look for jobs in the NHS. After successfully landing a job, you will come to work as an IMG doctor in the UK.
During this whole process, you may need to come to the UK as a visitor on a standard visitor visa (for your PLAB 2 or GMC ID check) and finally as an employed doctor on a Tier 2 visa (health and care visa).
In this article, we have put together a checklist for both visits, helping you to take the initial steps of settling into the UK as an IMG doctor.
IMG Doctor's Checklist: Your visit to the UK
Whether you are coming for taking PLAB exams or attending a GMC ID check (only needed if you get GMC registered via the PG qualification pathway), this visit can potentially be the first UK visit for many. And that is why we think you need to aware of the following things.
1. Finding a place to stay for your UK visit
This is one of the most difficult steps, especially if you don't have any relatives or friends to stay with. You will need to show a place of accommodation when you apply for your standard visitor visa.
We have an extensive article on how a doctor can find an accommodation in the UK as an IMG where we have discussed:
- Where to look for accommodation?
- What do you need as a confirmation for your visa application?
- List of blacklisted accommodations in the UK by other IMG doctors.
We always choose Airbnb for any short UK stay. Sign up through this link to Airbnb to get up to £50 off.
2. Things you need to bring with you
We can list the following categories of things that you may want to think about.
- Important documents
- Stationery items (e.g. pen, notebooks, pencil etc)
- Food items (e.g. utensils, ingredients etc)
- PLAB 2 practical station practice items (like IV cannulas, cannula dressings, butterfly needle for drawing blood, vacutainers with holders, etc)
The most important document will be what they may ask for at the immigration to justify your visit. Please give this article a read - your first visit to the UK.
Stationery, food, and practical station items can be bought here at the stores or at the PLAB 2 academy, but if you want to, you can bring them with you. Stores like Wilko, B&M, Poundland are good for buying pens, notebooks etc and supermarkets like Lidl, ASDA, Tesco, Sainsbury's are good for buying anything food-related products. You can find a more detailed discussion in this article- Daily life on your first visit to the UK (Part 2).
As for money, you can bring cash from home (converted to GBP notes) and go by spending almost everywhere. You can also bring credit card which can make international transactions to use it in the UK. Read more here on GovUK site to know about bringing cash in the UK.
As for keeping warm and dressing smart, you need not bring over luggage filled with clothes. There more than enough budget-friendly shops you can peruse to find what you need. If you're unsure where to start, check out our article on how to survive winter in the UK.
3. Understanding Public Transport in the UK
The availability of public transport throughout the UK makes it really easy to go from one place to another. The entire UK is well connected with train and bus. You can use apps like Trainline or Omio to check and book train and bus ticket on the go and even have tickets on the phone.
For general directions, we find Google Maps and Citymapper to be very useful apps. If you stay in London, understanding the Tube is paramount for travelling. Further details about your very first journey from the airport to your destination are all explained here - your first visit to the UK as an IMG (Part 1).
4. What and where will you eat?
When I went to the UK, I stayed in a spare room in a house and I had access to their kitchen. As I knew this before coming to the UK, I did not bring many utensils. But, still, I brought a plate, a mug, a spoon and a fork with me.
So, where you will live will vastly decide what you will eat. I always suggest if there is a provision for cooking, please learn how to cook. Cooking will save you a lot of money than eating every meal outside.
To save a few more quid, you can bring regular spices from back home, but if you need anything, all of them are readily available in the stores.
5. Books and stationery items
The PLAB 2 exam is mainly based on communication and interpersonal skills with a touch of clinical knowledge. Whichever PLAB 2 academy you join, they will provide you with notes, and thus taking heavy books from your home is not necessary.
You can easily access NICE guidelines and patient.info online to gather more knowledge on a topic in question. Most of the guidelines for patient's knowledge is already there on the NHS website written without medical jargon which helps you to explain things to a patient.
And as mentioned already pens. notebooks, pencils can be easily found in stores like Wilko, B&M, Poundland, etc.
6. Mobile network and access to internet
In my opinion, a lot of IMG doctors make this one common mistake - they buy a SIM with a monthly contract in the UK. Since I came to the UK, I have always been using pay as you go. There are a few reasons behind it:
- There is free WiFi almost everywhere - shopping malls, libraries, buses, supermarkets, hospitals etc.
- I rarely make any calls within the UK so buying 3000 or unlimited minutes does not make any sense for me.
- Most of my messages are sent via IM apps like Messenger or WhatsApp, so again having 3000 or unlimited text messages seems like a waste.
The only con you may find is that there may be a time where there is no free WiFi- but even then, pay as you go allows you to use mobile data.
The first £10 that I topped-up as pay as you go kept me running for almost 3 months. Make sure the SIM you buy can make international calls at a cheap rate to your country if you cannot utilize free online methods such as WhatsApp, Viber, IMO, etc.
We use GIFGAFF with no contract (it runs on O2 network) and from experience, it comes with a very good network coverage. ORDER YOUR SIM here to get £5 credit.
IMG Doctor's Checklist: Coming on Tier 2 (work) Visa
If you are travelling with your family, there are so many things you have to make sure are alright. Hopefully our checklist below will help.
1. Arranging your accommodation in the UK
Once you've got a job in hand, the next logical thing would be to find yourself a suitable place to live. If you're lucky, you'll be able to stay in the hospital accommodation. If you don't find the hospital accommodation to be suitable, or prefer to rent a place separately, check out our guidance on renting a property in the UK.
If you're unable to find anything you are happy with by the time your job starts, you will need to look into short-stay options such as nearby hotels or AirBnB. This may prove to be an expensive choice in the long run, so try and find a place as soon as you can.
2. Opening a Bank Account
With all that income you'll be expecting at the end of the month, it has to go somewhere, and that somewhere should ideally be a bank account! Try to set one up as quickly as possible, ideally with the help of your HR department. Having a bank account will make your transition to the UK that much easier as it will allow you to do a lot of things.
Try and find a bank which meets all of your needs and is also convenient to travel to and reach. If you are unsure how to go about opening a bank account or what all you'll need, we are certain our article discussing how to open a UK bank account will cover all the basics.
3. Settling into your First Home
You'll need to think about utilities as the priority when you move into your new place if it doesn't already come included. Utilities and bills of different kinds would the major portion of your expenditure. These include:
- Council Tax
- Gas & Electricity
- Internet & TV
For energy supplies and the internet, don't just settle with the supplier you currently have. You can compare different suppliers and switch to a different one or a different tariff which will save you more money.
Furnishing may also be things you may be concerned if your home does not already come with them or white goods, so check out our tips on your first home abroad.
4. Getting a driver's license
For an International Medical Graduate (IMG) starting to work as a doctor in the UK, a driving license is a ticket to the open roads. Your home country driving license is valid for a year from when you enter the UK, but after that, you have to have a UK driving license.
For some countries, you can convert your international license. The more detailed process of applying for a UK driving license can be found here - how to apply for a UK driving license.
5. Be Smart about your Money
A few paychecks in and you may find yourself with a tidy sum of cash. Now what to do with this money? If you are someone who doesn't have dependents to think about or cash to send home, you may quickly be able to put away a good chunk of change if you're smart about it. Budgeting and knowing how to save early on will keep you from a world of trouble in the long run.
Not only that, but start thinking about your credit score from day one. Credit scores play a big role in your later progression of life in the UK as, without a good score, you will be very limited in obtaining loans, credit cards, and decent mortgages (among other things).
Getting Ready for your First Day on the Job
There will be a significant amount of stress related to your first day that you may feel is unlike anything you've ever experienced. This may be due to a gap in your work experience or just the general fact that you've never worked in the UK before, and you're worried about what may be expected of you. In the first instance, you may find these speciality-specific posts helpful:
- Working in Acute Medicine
- Working in Geriatric Medicine in the NHS
- Working in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the NHS
- Working in Hematology/Oncology in the NHS
- Working in Stroke Medicine in the NHS
- Working in Accidents and Emergency (A&E) in the UK
- Working in Obstetrics & Gynaecology (OB/GYN) in the NHS
We've also compiled some tips and advice that can help you settle into your first day.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find a suitable school for my child(ren)?
There is a wonderful comparison system on the gov.uk website that will help you locate suitable schools near your home along with their Ofsted ratings.
What if I want to bring my family?
The UK will allow you to bring your dependents with you on a Tier 2 dependent visa.
Now what is a dependent? A ‘dependent’ is any of the following:
-your husband, wife, or partner
-your child under 18
-your child over 18 if they’re currently in the UK as a dependent
Can I bring my parents/spouse with me on a visit visa for PLAB 2?
Technically, anyone can visit with you. What you'll need to explain is their reason to visit. Their application has to be separate and explain the total circumstances as a whole to convince the entry clearance officer to grant a visit visa.
Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below.