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Frequently asked questions about licensing

1. Do I need a licence to practise?

You must have a licence in order to carry out certain privileges and duties in the UK. While we try to offer as much guidance as possible in many case we are unable to offer you definitive advice as the law frequently changes. In these instances, or if you are unsure for any reason whether you need a licence for the work you are doing, you should always seek advice from:

Doctors who want to keep their link with us, but don't need a licence to practise as they're not doing work that requires one, can give up their licence but keep their registration. Please see our guidance on giving up your licence or registration.

You must always be clear whether you are licensed, hold registration only or neither. It is a criminal offence in the UK for a doctor to give the impression that they hold registration or a licence if they don't.

2. What is the difference between registration with and without a licence to practise?

Doctors can be registered with a licence to practise or registered without a licence to practise.

Registration with a licence to practise:

  • enables doctors to legally practise any activities in the UK which are restricted by law to those holding a licence (such as signing death certificates and writing prescriptions for prescription only medicines)
  • applies only to UK medical practice and has no legal standing outside of the UK
  • means a doctor has to participate in revalidation.

Registration without a licence:

  • allows doctors to show to employers, overseas regulators and others that they remain in good standing with us
  • is an acknowledgement that the doctor’s primary medical qualification allowed them to gain entry to the medical register in the UK.

3. What does registration without a licence allow me to do?

Being registered without a licence may suit you if you’re not practising medicine in the UK but want to keep your GMC registration.

Registration without a licence allows you to show to employers, overseas regulators and others that you remain in good standing with us. It is your responsibility to be familiar with Good medical practice and to follow the guidance it contains.

You can, of course, carry out activities not legally dependent on holding a licence. For example, you can continue to sign passport photographs and use the title ‘Doctor'.

You must always be clear whether you are licensed, hold registration only or neither. It is a criminal offence in the UK for a doctor to give the impression that they hold registration or a licence if they don't.

The lack of a licence doesn’t stop you from helping in emergencies – sometimes referred to as ‘good samaritan’ acts. Any concerned citizen is able to perform such acts, with or without registration or a licence to practise.

If you’re concerned about potential liabilities from helping in an emergency if you don’t hold a licence, you should speak to your medical defence organisation or insurance and indemnity provider for advice.

4. How do I give up my licence?

It’s relatively straight forward to give up your licence. You just need to complete an online application. We have guidance on giving up your licence to help you make your application.

5. Can I get my my licence back if I’ve given it up?

If you give up your licence, you can apply to restore it at any time. You’ll need to make an application no more than three months before you want it back. We’ll ask you for:

  • proof of identity (a copy of your current passport - and we may also ask you to attend an identity check at our offices)
  • certificate(s) of good standing from other medical regulators you have been registered with
  • statements from your recent employer(s) about your employment and work for them.

If you gave up both your registration and your licence to practise, you’ll need to restore both.

Read about how to apply for a licence

Read about how to apply for restoration to the register

6. My licence was withdrawn by the GMC. Can I get it back?

Yes. You will need to apply to restore your licence. However, before we can grant your application, you will need to provide us with the evidence we asked for, before your licence was withdrawn. For example, if we asked you to undertake an annual appraisal, you will need to show us that you have done this.

7. I work overseas: do I need a licence?

No, doctors who work wholly outside the UK (except in crown dependencies and Gibraltar) do not need a licence to practise. This is because the licence gives doctors legal rights and privileges in the UK (such as writing prescriptions) that do not apply in any other country in the world.

You will need a licence if you come to practise in the UK, even for a short period.

If you work overseas and have a licence, you need to take part in revalidation. For further information, please read our revalidation frequently asked questions for overseas regulators and overseas organisations.

8. I am an international medical graduate and have not been registered with the GMC before. Can I apply for registration without a licence?

No. If you have not been registered before, you have to apply for registration with a licence. You can’t apply for registration without a licence. This applies to all doctors who are registering with us for the first time.

9. How much does it cost to hold a licence?

There is an annual fee for registration with a licence to practise.

Please see our fees page for our current fees.

10. Do I have to pay a fee if I don’t have a licence?

Yes. Doctors who are registered without a licence pay a reduced annual fee. 

Please see our fees page for our current fees.   

11. What effect could GMC fitness to practise actions have on my licence?

We will automatically withdraw your licence if a fitness to practise panel suspends or erases you from the medical register.

Where a doctor’s registration is subject to conditions or undertakings which restrict their practice they will still be entitled to hold a licence but must continue to adhere to any conditions or undertakings imposed on their registration. If they do not, their licence and registration will be at risk.