The Savvy IMG

UK internship (Foundation Programme) open to all IMGs for 2020

There's been a huge change in the eligibility criteria for the UK Foundation Programme that is truly groundbreaking for new international medical graduates! 

For the first time ever, IMGs who applied for UK internship (FY1) this year will be considered on equal footing with UK graduates! In other words, no priority will be given to UK medical graduates, IMG British citizens, IMG EU citizens, or IMGs with right to work in the UK.

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UK foundation programme 2020 internship now open to international medical graduates

What is FY1?

FY1 stands for Foundation Year 1. It is the first year of the 2-year UK Foundation Programme and is considered the UK equivalent of internship. 

IMGs can only apply for an official FY1 post if they have not already completed internship overseas, or if their internship does not meet the GMC criteria.

This means that only those with provisional GMC registration can apply.

Related: Will your internship be accepted for full GMC registration?, The 4 types of GMC registration

Wasn’t it open before?

In the past, the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) prioritised applicants who had Right to Work in the UK AKA RTW. This included:

  • UK medical graduates
  • IMGs who are British citizens
  • IMGs who are EU citizens
  • IMG’s married to a British or EU citizen
  • IMG’s with permanent residence status in the UK AKA Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Anyone who did not fall under one of these categories was considered to have no RTW. Those without RTW would be automatically rejected or placed on the reserve list even if they had a high application score. 

So what changed?

The UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL) was updated in October 2019. As a result of this change, all medical jobs were placed on the SOL. This meant that any doctor from overseas, would be considered equally amongst UK doctors when applying for medical jobs.

This change was quickly reflected in the rules for application to specialty training, and opened doors for IMGs to apply for highly competitive specialties such as Surgery or Radiology. 

Related: 9 ways the new Shortage Occupation List affects IMGs dreaming of UK specialty training

However, the UKFPO was slow to publish how the SOL change would be incorporated into FY1 applications. They kept quiet on the matter for a long time.

Until now.

No priority for UK graduates

In this official UKFPO document, it clearly states that all applicants will be considered by their score alone.

It also clearly states that due to these changes with immigration law, they will no longer prioritise UK graduates.

Source: UK FP 2020 Oversubscription Applicant Guidance

There are obviously dire implications for UK graduates who now face the prospect of being unemployed after graduation should the rules remain the same in future years. Through email correspondence, the UKFPO have acknowledged this possibility but seem to be very much indifferent.

So what does this mean?

It means that IMGs who applied for August 2020 will now be given the same priority as UK graduates. They will have an equal chance of getting a place in UK internship.

Will the rules change again next year?

It’s possible that the rules will be altered in a way that favours UK graduates in future years. No one can really say for sure, all we know is that these are the rules as they currently stand. 

Related: 8 ways the UK has made it easier for IMGs in the past 2 years

Should you apply for FY1?

That’s really up to you and your background. 

If you have already completed internship according to the GMC criteria, then you can’t apply for FY1 anyway.

If you haven’t completed internship before, then you can apply as long as you’re aware of the risk that the rules can change in the future. It’s a risk, but what’s life without some risk, eh?

There will also be a gap of up to a year or more between graduating and starting FY1 due to the timing of applications. You’ll have to decide whether this gap is worth it or not. To be fair, this one-year gap is really just a blip in an otherwise long medical career.


Just keep in mind that you need provisional GMC registration to be eligible for FY1, and the only job you can apply for with provisional registration is FY1. You’ll be in a sticky situation if you have provisional registration, no FY1 job, and no backup plan!

For some IMGs, this doesn’t make sense, but for those who have no other options for internship, this can represent a really fantastic opportunity.

Related: The 4 types of GMC registration, What jobs can I apply for with provisional GMC registration?

Is PLAB required?

This new rule with the Foundation Programme does not change anything about the GMC registration process. You still need to apply for GMC registration and fulfil all the requirements for that.

Related: Requirements for registration with the GMC

So yes, you still need to pass PLAB for FY1 unless you’re an EU citizen. Take note that this magical exemption awarded to EU citizens may change with Brexit.

Related: What you need to know about PLAB

How to apply?

If you’re aiming to apply for the UK Foundation Programme 2021, check out this article:


Pursuing FY1 in the UK is not for everybody, it makes sense for most IMGs to complete internship overseas before coming to the UK. But for those who feel that this is the right path for them, things have just become a lot easier.

Do well on your application, and you now stand a good chance of getting a place in the UK Foundation Programme.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Thanks for all the info
    Does this mean there would be no examination prior to foundation?
    Id be a graduate from Otago University in New Zeland

    1. Hi Gab, you still need to sit PLAB to get GMC registration, that’s a separate process from applying to UK internship.

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Meet the Team

Hi, we’re Drs Nick & Kimberly Tan, the two IMGs behind The Savvy IMG. We write comprehensive guides, create courses, and provide one-to-one guidance to help other overseas qualified doctors on their journey to the UK.
We have scoured the official guidance to put these posts together, but we can make mistakes! If you spot anything that is incorrect, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
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