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The UK welcomes healthcare professionals trained overseas to work in health and social care

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

The UK government is recruiting from far and wide. However, they want to make sure that the international recruitment process is understood and that users, are well informed about their working rights and standards, and have the information to make informed decisions.

In the "code of practice for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel" the UK government sets an ethical approach to ensure safe international recruitment of health and social care staff.

Health & Social Care:

In the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), healthcare is mainly provided by the National Health Service (NHS), a collection of public bodies that arrange free healthcare for all UK permanent residents. The largest healthcare provider in the UK is the NHS but private care is also available at a fee. The UK has a social care system that provides support and personal care to adults and children in need or at risk. This care is sometimes funded privately by individuals or funded by local authorities (social care). Social care services are mainly delivered by For-profit independent sector home and residential care providers.

Why is the UK recruiting health and social care professionals internationally?

Internationally trained staff have always played a vital role in the UK health and social care workforce, therefore, ethical international recruitment remains a key part of the health & social care workforce. The UK recruits international health and social care personnel via two routes.

  • directly by an employer - the employer advertises their vacancy on job boards and manage the recruitment process directly

  • via a recruitment agency or recruitment organisation - the employing organisation will contract with another organisation to identify, select, and facilitate the recruitment process.

  • To avoid scams, you must check the agency recruiting you is on the ethical recruiters list. The list contains agencies that have signed up to act in line with the code of practice. Seek advice at every stage of your recruitment and after you’ve started your job.

Ethical International Recruitment

Ethical international recruitment remains a key part of the UK's plan to help grow the health and social care workforce. The World Health organisation (WHO) has drawn the World Health Organization Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List 2020' of countries that face the most pressing health workforce challenges. The code of practice separates these countries in 3 different colours: Red, Amber and Green.

The Red list has 47 countries. The UK does not actively recruit from countries on this list. Active international recruitment is when an organisation promotes employment offers to individuals in a country with the aim of recruiting them to a health or social care role in the UK.

NHS Employers hold an ethical recruiters list of recruiting organisations in the UK and overseas that agree to act in accordance with the code of practice. You can use the list to find agencies you might want to work with, or check if the agency you’re already talking to is signed up to the code. If they are not, you should consider changing to an agency that is on the list.

Below are the UK recruitment rules for red, amber and green countries:

  • red list countries - the UK does not permit active recruitment from these countries

  • amber list countries - the UK permits active recruitment where a government-to-government agreement has been put in place to allow international recruitment based on the terms of the agreement

  • green countries - active recruitment is permitted

Note: Although the UK health or care employers and recruitment agencies must not actively recruit from red list countries, or from amber list countries outside of the government-to-government agreement. the code of practice and WHO guidance is mindful of an individual’s right to migrate. Individuals in red and amber list countries can make direct applications for live, advertised vacancies in the UK if they do so of their own accord without the help of a third party such as a recruitment agency.

Agency fees

It’s illegal for UK both based recruitment agencies to directly charge the candidate recruitment fees for their services which may be referred to as ‘job finding fee’, ‘job services fee’ or ‘application processing fee’. Choosing an agency on the ethical recruiters list.

UK and overseas agencies can charge for services that do not involve finding you a job, such as fees to help you with your visa application, book your flight tickets and accommodation or to purchase uniform or undertake additional training. Nonetheless, prior to agreeing to any fees, you must seek clarification from the agency what the charge is and what it’s for, including your right to cancel the services and the length of notice required. Withdrawal must not be conditional (for instance, they won’t find you a job, if you don't pay). Where payment is required for a non work-finding service, payment should be made with methods which can be traced such as in a bank, ensuring you keep a record of any money paid.

Scams to look out for

  • contract scam - you sign a contract with an excessive and unreasonable repayment clause, money you will need to pay back if you leave your job within a certain time

  • fees scam - paying a high fee to get a health and social care job in the UK

  • job scam - turning up to work in the UK, to find the job is not what you signed up for

  • visa scam - having a student visa and being encouraged to get a full-time health or social care job in the UK to avoid the rigorous checks needed to work legally in the UK (student visa limits working to 20 hours a week) to bypass the rigorous checks needed to work legally in the UK

  • visa scam - someone pretending to be a UK Immigration officer contacting you because you have not paid your full visa costs or your is ,visa cancelled, and you need to pay money or your (official organisation do not ring or email you asking for money or your bank details)

  • fraudulent document scam - someone says that for a fee they can get you 100% pass rate on your language exam, change your score or give you with a fake qualification certificate

  • identity scam - don't fall prey to identity by submitting private information such as age, birth date or bank account numbers to an agency or employer.

Prior to applying for a job with an independent provider (not NHS), check that the company is registered on the Companies House website, check for typical salaries for similar roles in the UK

Check your contract,


  • You can only get a working visa through sponsorship from an employer with a licence approved to hire overseas employees.

  • You must check the register of licensed sponsors to ensure your employing organisation has the right licence.

  • Scrutinise the employer’s website, ensuring you check for:

  • whether the organisation's Companies House registration number profile is included on their website otherwise confirm company registration from the Companies House website

  • look for the company's physical location by searching for the address on the website which should show a listed physical address

  • check whether the company's given telephone number exists by calling it. Note who answers it.

  • check for a business email address, for example,

  • whether the website is clear and detailed about the work the company does.

Organisations to support you.

Working in a professional regulated role in the UK, such as dentist, doctor, social worker or nurse, requires you to join a relevant UK professional register. These are professional regulatory bodies that provide advice and guidance on what you need to do at each stage of the regulatory process and during your employment. They will also investigate any concerns about your fitness to practice. Contact details for the UK professional regulatory bodies can be found in the link at the end of this note. Diaspora groups and associations of international health or care workers sharing the same culture or nationality can link you up with other international recruits from your home country. where you can get support with your continuing professional development and enhance your skills. For further reading and information, please visit link below:

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