General information about registration and licensing

This page gives general information about doctors' registration and licence to practise.


  1.   1. Why register and hold a licence?
  2.   2. Types of registration
  3.   3. How to register
  4.   4. Staying registered
  5.   5. Approved practice settings (APS)
  6.   6. English language testing
  7.   7. Locums
  8.   8. Timescale for processing applications
  9.   9. Registration fees
  10. 10. Employing a doctor

1. Why register and hold a licence?

Doctors who want to practise medicine in the UK need to hold registration with a licence to practise. Holding a licence allows them to, for example, prescribe prescription only medicines and treat patients. Doctors who hold a licence must also show us that they are up to date through regular checks on their practice, known as revalidation.

Doctors who are not practising medicine or who practise overseas can choose to hold registration without a licence, to show that they continue to be in good standing with us. This shows that they continue to adhere to the principles and standards of Good medical practice.       

Doctors must be clear whether they 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. If you think that a doctor is doing this, you should contact us immediately.

2. Types of registration

As well as a licence to practise, doctors must hold the right kind of registration for the posts or practice they undertake.

Employers have a duty to check that any doctor they employ is suitably registered for their post.

There are four main types of registration which allow doctors to work in different posts:

Anyone can check the type of registration that a doctor has, and whether they have a licence to practise, on the List of Registered Medical Practitioners.

Provisional registration

Provisional registration with a licence to practise only allows doctors to practise in approved Foundation Year 1 posts. Doctors are awarded a certificate of experience for successfully completing their Foundation Year 1. Most doctors complete this within 12 months.

The law doesn't allow provisionally registered doctors to undertake any kind of service post, whether locum (LAS), or permanent.

We typically grant provisional registration to:
  • UK medical graduates who have completed their medical degree at a UK University
  • International medical graduates who have an acceptable primary medical qualification and who have passed the PLAB test but who have not completed an internship
  • Nationals from the EEA, Switzerland and other countries with EC rights who qualified outside of the EEA and Switzerland, who are looking to complete their initial medical training. 
  • Doctors who qualified in an EEA member state if their internship is required this for compliance with The Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications (the Directive).

Doctors who are eligible for full registration cannot apply for provisional registration.

Full registration

Doctors need full registration with a licence to practise:

  • To move on to Foundation Year 2 in an approved training programme
  • To work unsupervised in medical practice in the NHS or UK private practice.

To get full registration, doctors must fall under one of the following categories:

Completed training in the UK

If a doctor has completed their internship in the UK, their Foundation School will contact us to let us know. The doctor is then free to apply for full registration.

An EC national or have EC rights

If a doctor is an EC national, or benefits from EC rights and:

International Medical Graduate (IMG)

If a doctor has an acceptable primary medical qualification from a country outside of the UK or the EEA, they need to prove that they have enough clinical experience to practise medicine in the UK. They can do this in one of four ways:

  1. 1. A pass in the PLAB test
  2. 2. Sponsorship by a GMC approved sponsor
  3. 3. An acceptable post graduate qualification
  4. 4. Eligibility for entry onto the Specialist or GP register

Specialist registration

Since 1 January 1997, all doctors taking up consultant posts in a medical or surgical specialty in the NHS (other than as locum consultants) have been legally required to be on our Specialist Register.

The only exceptions are doctors who held a consultant post (other than a locum consultant post) in oral and maxillo-facial surgery in the NHS immediately before 1 January 1997.

Only doctors with full registration can be on the Specialist Register.

See our information about the Specialist Register

GP registration

Since 1 April 2006, all doctors working in general practice in the health service in the UK (other than doctors in training such as GP Registrars) have been legally required to be on our GP Register.

Only doctors with full registration can be on the GP Register.

See our information about the GP Register

Temporary and occasional registration (also known as Visiting EEA registration)

This type of registration is reserved for visiting EEA or Swiss nationals (or those with an EC right) who are:

  • established in another EU member state, and
  • have declared their intention to provide medical services in the UK on a temporary and occasional basis.

These doctors are not subject to revalidation, but they must hold a licence to be able to practise in the UK.

3. How to register

To get registration with a licence to practise, doctors need to:

  • complete an application
  • pay a fee
  • provide the required evidence
  • attend an identity check.

The exact requirements are different for every type of registration application. Doctors can find detailed guidance on applications specific to them in our applications section.

4. Staying registered

To stay on the register, doctors need to abide by the principles and standards of Good medical practice, keep their contact details up to date and pay an annual fee.

In addition, to keep a licence to practise, doctors need to prove their skills and knowledge are up to date by revalidating, usually every five years. You can find more information on the revalidation process in our revalidation section.

5. Approved practice settings (APS) 

If the doctor’s current status includes a reference to APS, this means their practice in the UK is subject to the requirements of our approved practice settings (APS) scheme. You can find more information about APS on our APS page

6. English language testing

Department of Health and NHS Employers guidance on international medical recruitment makes it clear that doctors recruited to work in the UK must have the necessary knowledge of English to communicate effectively to ensure patient safety. Communicating includes speaking, reading, writing and listening.

Whether we ask applicants to give us evidence that they have the necessary knowledge of English depends on a number of things.

Please choose an option below to see more information about what it means for each group:

7. Locums

The Department of Health has issued guidance on the employment of locum doctors which you can find on their website.

8. Timescales for processing applications

If we cannot assess an application within five working days of the date we receive it, we will let the applicant know what further information we need.

In some cases, we might refer doctors' applications for advice. If a doctor's application is unsuccessful, we will give the reasons in writing, together with advice on the next steps they can take.

You can find out more information about how doctors should register in our before you apply guidance.

9. Registration fees

Doctors with full registration (or who hold provisional registration for more than two years) must pay an annual retention fee to maintain their registration. The fee is due on the anniversary of the date they were granted full registration.

The exact fee depends on whether a doctor holds a licence to practise or not. If a doctor does not pay their annual retention fee, we end their registration. If the doctor then wants to rejoin the register, they have to pay a restoration fee, as well as the registration fee. To avoid paying a restoration fee a doctor can apply to give up their registration (voluntary erasure) or just their licence to practise. Our guidance on giving up your registration contains more information.

Neither the due date of an annual retention fee nor the letter of confirmation provides evidence of a doctor's registration. 

For full details see our fees page.

10. Employing a doctor

We have a dedicated service to help employers and contracting authorities make pre-employment checks.

For more detailed information on the checks you need to make when employing a doctor, please see our employing a doctor page.

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