Written by Kamila Buczek Reading time: 8 mins
If you are considering pursuing the veterinary profession in the UK, it is essential to understand the specific requirements and steps involved. This blog post serves as a comprehensive guide, providing valuable insights and resources to help you achieve your goal of becoming a vet or RVN in the UK.
The first thing you will need is to be registered with RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons). You cannot practice veterinary medicine in the UK without the RCVS certification. It includes your full name, address, qualification information and the registration number and is available to the general public through the website. Don’t leave it until the last moment to register, though – the application process can take from 4-6 weeks. Make sure you have got plenty of time and submit all the documents required at once.
If you qualified as a vet abroad, your qualification might be accepted by RCVS. You can check the list of accredited universities here: Applications - Veterinary surgeons - Professionals (rcvs.org.uk) - note the date of EAEVE approval/accreditation. Countries with accredited universities include Australia, Canada, Grenada, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and USA, and multiple European countries.
Did you find your university on the list? Great, that means that you won’t have to pass any extra exams! Refer to the link above as the exact registration requirements depend on the country.
Is your university not on the list? In that case, you will need to sit and pass the Statutory Membership Examination in order to be accepted onto the Register. At the moment, there is only one exam held per year. The first part, a written component, takes place in March and you can even do it remotely. The practical part (Objective Structured Clinical Examination – OSCE) is held at the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine in July.
The entry fee for the exam is £2500 – so make sure that you study a lot and you are ready for both parts! You can find detailed guidance on what is required and how to approach the exam here: Statutory Membership Exam - Professionals (rcvs.org.uk). Even if you don’t pass it, there is an option to resit the exam!
Skilled Worker Visa
If you acquired your RCVS certification, you might also need a visa in order to work in the UK.
The UK government has introduced a new points-based immigration system in January 2021. Under this system, the EU and non-EU citizens are treated equally, aiming to attract those who can contribute to the growth of the economy. If you want to work in the UK, you will need to score at least 70 points under the Skilled Worker Visa.
To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, you must:
Have a confirmed job offer from a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office – most larger companies will be approved
Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
Do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations – the good news is, both vets and vet nurses are on the UK Government Shortage Occupation List (20 points for you already if you are qualified!)
Be paid a minimum salary - You must be offered a salary that meets or exceeds the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers, which is currently set at £25,600 per year. However, there are exceptions for certain occupations with lower salary requirements.
Show that you have enough funds to support yourself upon arrival in the UK.
Knowledge of English
You must be able to speak, read, write and understand English. You’ll usually need to prove your knowledge of English when you apply.
You can prove your knowledge of English by:
Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
Having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18
Having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English - if you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) for confirmation that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD
If you’re a vet, you may need to prove that you passed an English Language assessment with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
How much it costs
When you apply for a Skilled Worker visa, you’ll need to have enough money to:
Pay the application fee - the standard fee ranges from £625 to £1,423 depending on your circumstances
Pay the healthcare surcharge - this is usually £624 per year
Support yourself when you arrive in the UK - you’ll usually need to have at least £1,270 available (unless you’re exempt)
You’ll pay a lower application fee if your job is on the shortage occupation list (Vets are).
You’ll be told how much you need to pay when you apply.
If you’re applying from outside the UK, the standard fee depends on whether you’ll be in the UK for:
up to 3 years - £625 per person
more than 3 years - £1,235 per person
If you’re applying from inside the UK to extend, switch or update your visa, the standard fee depends on whether you’ll be in the UK for:
up to 3 years - £719 per person
more than 3 years - £1,423 per person
If your job is on the shortage occupation list (vets are!)
You and your family will pay a lower application fee if your job is on the shortage occupation list.
The fee for each person applying is:
£479 if you’re staying for up to 3 years
£943 if you’re staying for more than 3 years
The fee is the same whether you’re applying from inside or outside the UK.
You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge for each year of your stay - this is usually £624 per year. Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.
Money to support yourself
You must have at least £1,270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK.
You will need to have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa.
If your employer can support you instead
Your certificate of sponsorship must confirm this. Your employer will need to complete the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section on your certificate. This is under ‘Additional data’.
Sponsorship and Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
Employer Sponsorship: Your prospective employer must hold a valid sponsor license issued by the Home Office. They will need to assign you a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to proceed with your visa application.
CoS Application: The employer will apply for a CoS on your behalf, providing details about the job role, salary, and other relevant information.
CoS Reference Number: Once the CoS is assigned to you, you will receive a unique reference number that you will need for your visa application.
1. Online Application: You will need to complete an online application form on the UK government's official website.
2. Supporting Documents: Prepare and submit the required supporting documents, including your passport, CoS reference number, proof of English language proficiency, and evidence of maintenance funds.
3. Biometric Information: Schedule an appointment at a visa application center to provide your biometric information (photograph and fingerprints).
4. Healthcare Surcharge: Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of your application process, which grants you access to the National Health Service (NHS) during your stay in the UK.
5. Visa Fee: Pay the visa application fee, which varies depending on the length of your visa and whether you are applying from inside or outside the UK.
6. Decision and Collection: After submitting your application, you will receive a decision on your visa within a specified timeframe. If approved, you can collect your visa from the designated location or have it delivered to you.
Dependents: If you have dependents (spouse/partner and children) who wish to join you in the UK, they can apply for dependent visas under your application.
Switching Employers: If you are already in the UK on a different visa category, you may be able to switch to a skilled worker visa without leaving the country.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR): Skilled workers can apply for ILR after completing five years in the UK under this visa category.
Tier 2 General Visa Transition: The skilled worker visa has replaced the previous Tier 2 General Visa category as part of the new points-based immigration system introduced in December 2020/January 2021.
We hope that this guide will shed some light on the application process. Remember that immigration policies and requirements may change over time, so it is essential to refer to the most up-to-date information provided by RCVS and the UK government or consult with an immigration lawyer for personalized advice. You can find an advisor here: Find an immigration adviser: Search for an adviser - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).