Moving to the UK as an International Nurse

Jun 23, 2023

Moving to the UK as an International Nurse

Ever considered relocating to the UK to work as a Nurse? There is a heap of reasons why it’s a great move.  

Whether it’s the chance to experience an exciting culture filled with diverse populations and locations, or the opportunity to extend your skills using evidence-based practices and state-of-the-art technology, the UK offers you a vibrant and fulfilling lifestyle. 

While it’s good to get a feel of what it’s like to live and work here, it’s also a smart move to fully understand the process you need to follow  particularly before you begin to consider the vast array of nursing jobs on offer. And we’re here to help! 

If you get stuck at any point or would prefer to have a chat with someone, feel free to connect with one of our specialist nursing recruiters here at WESolutions. We’re experts in supporting nurses through the process, and we’ll be with you every step of the way. 

The Process of Becoming a Nurse in the UK 

Here is an overview of the steps you need to follow to be able to practice as a UK Nurse:

1. Self-assess your eligibility

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) is the regulatory body overseeing the UK nursing profession. Naturally, the first step for all International Nurses is to ensure they meet the NMC’s eligibility requirements. You must:  

  1. Be a qualified nurse 
  2. Have completed a programme of education and training that meets the NMC’s requirements (i.e. your nursing qualification is equivalent to a foundation-level degree. This is a degree that’s beyond secondary/high school education, and is one level below a full undergraduate degree)
  3. Provide evidence of your English proficiency (note: there’s been a few positive changes to this requirement in 2023).  

The entire eligibility and registration process involves a number of fees. Some of these aren’t refundable so it’s a good idea to ensure you understand them upfront. The NMC also has a handy checklist covering all you need to consider before submitting your application.


2. Apply to the NMC

Once you’ve self-assessed your eligibility and gathered your supporting evidence, it’s time to apply to the NMC. Luckily, you can do this online 

We’ve also created a quick YouTube video that includes some common FAQs about this part of the NMC process that you might like to watch, such as how long the process takes and third-party verification. 


3. Complete your ‘Test of Competency (ToC)’

After the NMC has reviewed and approved your application, you’ll get an email inviting you to complete two compulsory tests to prove your practical skills and theoretical knowledge. These are: 

  1. CBT (Computer-Based Test) –  theory 
  2. OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) – practical  

You can book in for your CBT at any time. As this is an online test, it can be done in your home country in most cases.  

If you pass your CBT, you can then take the OSCE but this one must be taken in the UK.


4. Apply and obtain a visa

When coming from some countries, you won’t need a visa to travel to complete your OSCE or remain in the UK, but for others you will. If you do need one, it’s a good move to apply with plenty of time as processing as it can take several weeks. 

As there are several types of visas available, it’s helpful to speak to an immigration specialist or your recruiter. 


5. Complete your NMC registration

Once you’ve passed your exams, you can then finish off registration with the NMC. This involves providing additional health, character, language and professional indemnity declarations and information, as well as paying the registration fee. 


6. Undertake your ‘adaptation period’

Once you hear back from the NMC to confirm your registration, you’re almost there!  

To practice as a UK Nurse, you’ll need to undertake a period of supervised practice known as an adaptation period. This involves working as a Nurse in a clinical setting under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or other healthcare professional, and is around 20-24 weeks long. It’s all about helping you find your feet in the UK healthcare system, as well as honing your clinical skills. 

You can either start looking for nursing jobs before you start your adaptation period, or you can apply for an adaptation period through a specialist nursing recruitment agency that supports International Nurses wanting to work in the UK. 

If you find a job first, your employer will typically arrange your adaptation period for you. If you choose to apply for an adaptation period through an agency, like us here at WESolutions, we’ll work with you to find the most suitable placement. We’ll also connect with the NMC to create a personalised plan tailored to your needs and experience, so you have the right support and supervision throughout your adaptation period. 

Either way, it’s important to remember that you’ll need to complete your adaptation period before you can work as an independent UK Nurse.


7. The last step: Work as a UK Nurse!

After you’re done with your adaption period, you’re all set to work as a UK Nurse. You may be able to stay on in the same place as your adaption period. But if not, there are SO many amazing opportunities available  whether you’re interested in working in hospitals, clinics or community settings. 

At the risk of tooting our own horn, this is our area of expertise! We love helping International Nurses find just the right position for their career, and have a plethora of nursing jobs for you to consider.  

Please let us know if we can support you in any area of your coming-to-the-UK-Nursing- journey. We’d be happy to help.