What Visa/s Do I Need to Work as a Vet in the UK?

Holly Anne Hills MRCVS

Your veterinary degree is a passport to the rest of the world, as there is a whole wealth of opportunities out there waiting for you. Sign up with The Vet Service today and learn more about your options. The UK has a highly respected veterinary industry with high clinical standards and a variety of opportunities available in anything from primary care to referral, to exotics and wildlife. And did we mention that the UK is a beautiful country to live in and explore on your days off?!

However, having a veterinary degree and experience working in the profession isn’t always enough. In order to work in the UK as a vet you’ll need to register with the RCVS (the governing body for the profession in the UK) as well as obtain a valid visa that allows you to work. That may all sound complicated but getting to the UK and working as a vet is easy enough if you know what visa you need and how to apply.

Before you take the leap in your new adventure check out The Pros and Cons – Working Abroad as a Vet Internationally and What it is like as a Vet Abroad, which can be found under the education hub on our website.

Skilled Worker Visas

Since the UK left the EU, the government has made changes to the way overseas workers can apply for work in the UK.

The UK government considers vets to be ‘skilled workers’ – so this means EU citizens can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa (this has replaced the old Tier 2 General Work Visa). This means that EU and non-EU citizens are treated equally in an effort to attract skilled people who can contribute to the UK’s economy.

Before you apply, you will need to have an existing job offer for work in the UK, and you’ll need to provide proof of this with your application.

Most large companies and corporates will assist with sponsorship for vets coming to the UK from overseas to help with visa costs.

The following criteria must be met in order to be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa –

  • You must work for a UK company, that is approved by the Home Office
  • You must provide a certificate of sponsorship from your new employer
  • Your job must be listed on the list of eligible occupations (Veterinary Practitioners, Veterinary Surgeons, Veterinary Practice Managers, and Veterinary Nurses are all eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa)
  • You must be paid a minimum salary of £25,600 per year unless the ‘going rate’ for your job is higher. You should be very mindful of this as the average salary for a vet in the UK is usually higher than £25,600 so you’ll need to ensure you meet the salary requirements for your visa. You can get more detailed information on this on the UK government website, where the average annual salary for veterinary surgeons is documented at £32,500 per year
  • You’ll need to be able to speak an approved level of the English language

The Points-Based Immigration System:

 Post-Brexit, the UK introduced a points-based immigration system for EU citizens which came into effect on the 1st of January 2021. You need to hit certain criteria to reach the minimum 70 points to qualify for a visa to work in the UK. But don’t worry, for a qualified vet it is generally easy to get the points you need.

  • A job offer with an approved sponsor will earn you 20 points
  • Speaking English at the required standard will get you another 20 points
  • Veterinary roles are considered a shortage occupation, so that earns you another 20 points
  • A salary over £25,600 will also earn you 20 points, and with UK vet salaries falling higher than this, as a vet you’ll be certain to obtain the full 20 points available

How Long Can You Stay?

Your Skilled Worker Visa can last for up to 5 years, after that you’ll need to apply to extend it. You’ll also need to reapply if you change jobs or employers while you’re working in the UK.

After 5 years, you may be eligible to settle permanently in the UK (known as indefinite leave to remain). This will give you the right to live, work, or study here for as long as you wish.

 How Long Does It Take to Obtain a Visa?

You can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa up to 3 months before you are due to start working in the UK, and this date will be stated on your sponsorship certificate. Once you have applied, supplied all your documents, and made the necessary payments you’ll generally get a decision on your application within 3 weeks for outside the UK, or 8 weeks if you’re inside the UK.

Getting Registered with the RCVS

To practice as a vet in the UK you must be registered with the RCVS. Depending on where you studied, your degree may or may not be recognised – you can check that here https://www.rcvs.org.uk/registration/applications-veterinary-surgeons/

If your degree is not recognised, you will need to sit and pass the Statutory membership Exam to be able to register with the RCVS. You’ll need to submit a declaration of intention to sit the exam, alongside supporting documents, and then you will be able to apply to sit the exam itself. Exam guidance is available as well as resources to support you.

If English is not your first language, or your degree was not taught in English, you’ll also need to demonstrate your English language skills. You can either take the International Language Testing System (IELTS) or the veterinary version of the Occupational English Test (OET).

Further information and details are available on the RCVS website.

Summary

Since leaving the EU, the UK has made changes to the way overseas workers apply for visas. Whether you are an EU or Non-EU citizen, you’ll need to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa and register with the RCVS in order to work as a vet in the UK. You’ll need to ensure you meet the necessary criteria and score over 70 points on the points-based immigration system.

You can find further detailed information on Skilled Worker Visas and how to apply, as well as other useful information on visas and immigration on the UK government website –

https://www.gov.uk/skilled-worker-visa

If you want to see what roles are available in the UK check out our Vet Jobs in the UK

Want to find an opportunity suited to you? Register with TheVetService.com and we will help you find your next step in your veterinary career. There is a huge variety of positions internationally, including Vet Jobs in the USA, Vet Jobs in AustraliaVet Jobs in New ZealandVet Jobs in Canada, and further international vet jobs.

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