Back in May 2019, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that all doctors be added to the UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL). We all thought this would take a couple of years to become a reality, but as of October 6, 2019, this will be official!
Any occupation on the SOL is considered automatically exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). If you’ve been following this website, you know that RLMT was a huge barrier that IMGs needed to be overcome in order to be eligible for training posts in competitive specialties such as Surgery or Radiology, and formed the basis of the IMG-friendly specialties.
But now that barrier has been knocked down, so all IMGs are eligible to apply for training jobs in any round, at any level, in any specialty including core training and higher specialty training.
The only exception is Public Health. If you are applying for a training job in Public Health, RLMT rules still apply. It is a competitive specialty so you must be exempt from RLMT in order to be considered for a job. Read more about RLMT here.
The Medical Specialty Recruitment Applicant Handbook 2020 reflects these changes on Page 11 and Page 50 which I’ve copied below:
From 6 October 2019, all medical practitioners have been added to the Shortage Occupation List in the UK. This means that all medical practitioners are exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and can apply for any specialty in any recruitment round, subject to eligibility. Page 11
All medical practitioners are now on the Shortage Occupation List and are therefore exempt from the RLMT….Applicants exempt from the RLMT will be considered for posts alongside UK/EU/EEA nationals and other settled workers. Page 50
What does this really mean and how will this affect you as an IMG applying for UK specialty training?
After careful analysis of the situation, here’s what we think. Of course, we’re not fortune-tellers so what actually happens can be quite different!
1. Competition will go up
Now that anyone can apply, it’s inevitable that many will! This change opens the doors for hundreds, even thousands, of highly qualified IMGs who want to apply for specialty training in the UK.
The recruitment offices are likely to be inundated with applications over the next couple of years but will not have the capacity to review every application or interview every applicant. They will naturally need to introduce ways of cutting down the number of applicants which leads me to number 2.
2. Expect a new shortlisting process
Some specialties already have a shortlisting process in place, while others don’t. Due to the increased number of applicants as a result of these changes, we may see the introduction of new and stricter shortlisting criteria.
We can’t say for sure what the criteria will consist of, but judging from the current shorlisting processes, it can include any of the following:
- A higher cut off score in the Multi-Specialty Recruitment Assessment (MSRA)
- A higher portfolio score requirement at the time of application
- A combination of the above
- Something completely new
We’ll have to wait and see how things unfold.
If you need to prepare for the MSRA, Kimberly recommends the E-medica SRA Crammer course which helped her score well and get her Ophthalmology job in London. Use the code Savvyimg for £20 off the MSRA Crammer Course.
3. There may no longer be a Round 2 for ST1/CT1
Round 2 (aka Round 1 re-advert) for ST1/CT1 only exists in some specialties because the specialty is unable to find enough suitable applicants from Round 1 and therefore not all training posts are filled.
Highly competitive specialties manage to fill all their training jobs in Round 1, therefore they don’t have a Round 2.
This year, there may be more applicants in Round 1 than previous years so it’s possible that all training jobs are filled in Round 1. This would mean that there may not be a Round 2 this year for specialties that usually have it such as Paediatrics, and Internal Medicine.
If you were planning on applying in Round 2, I would say apply in Round 1 now because there may not be a Round 2! Prepare your portfolio, keep improving it even after you’ve submitted your score, do your best at interview, and you can still get a job.
If you don’t get a place in Round 1, and there is a Round 2, then you can reapply with your better portfolio score, and with your interview experience. Both will increase your chances of succeeding on your second application!
4. ST3/ST4 applications are also open to all
If you have already completed some training back home and have your core competencies signed, you will now be able to apply for higher specialty training at ST3 or ST4 level and be considered equally amongst UK graduates. Those competitive specialties like Cardiology, Dermatology, Plastic surgery, and Ophthalmology are now within reach!
5. Your portfolio is more important than ever
Now that your immigration status isn’t holding you back, there really is no excuse. If you don’t get into training with these new rules, it means that your application was not good enough. So don’t waste this chance to show your worth!
Check out our top 8 tips on improving your application to UK specialty training.
If you need extra guidance in doing this, check out the IMG Masterclass where we go into more detail and guide you through it step by step.
The general rule is: analyse the person specifications for the specialty you want to apply for, research the scoring criteria, and develop your portfolio accordingly.
6. Preparation for the interview is paramount
If you make it past shortlisting, then the only thing between you and your dream is the interview. A strong portfolio and regular practice will give you the confidence to do well and achieve success.
Interview season for those applying in Round 1 will be from the end of December to February. Make sure you’re ready!
The Medical Interviews (Amazon link) book is a staple for UK doctors preparing for interviews so definitely get your copy now!
7. Visa fees will be reduced
The cost of a Tier 2 work visa on the shortage occupation is almost 25% less compared to occupations that are not on the SOL. It’s not a huge amount but if you have a family to bring over to the UK, every little helps!
8. The rules can change
The Shortage Occupation List is regularly reviewed so any changes are not permanent. This is the time to work hard and work smart, not rest back thinking you’re solved. The current rules represent a window of opportunity that you should take advantage of while you can!
Also, local graduates who previously had little to worry about when it came to IMGs taking up training posts, may now find that they have no job security for specialty training. Objectively speaking, this is a genuine concern for local graduates and there may be some changes to the rules if these concerns are raised.
9. Have a back up plan
If you’re not quite ready to apply for training this year, it’s important to have a backup plan to remain eligible for Round 1 as the rules can still change. Review this article about how you can be exempt from RLMT and eligible in Round 1.
It’s also worth noting that RLMT may be abolished altogether in 2021, but we don’t yet know what immigration rules will replace it. Again, we’ll have to wait and see and develop a strategy accordingly.
These are exciting times for IMGs who dream of pursuing specialty training in the UK!
The changes with the SOL opens doors, but also brings new challenges of increased competition. There is also the chance that local graduates and UK/EU settled workers will block the equal treatment of IMG applicants in future years in order to retain their job security.
Everything mentioned above is our analysis and speculation. We hope this gives you some ideas about how to plan for the future but we can’t know how things will turn out for sure, so it’s important that you are aware of what’s happening and remain flexible with your strategy.
Remain vigilant to any changes, stay committed to your vocation, keep working on your application (portfolio & interview skills +/- MSRA), and have a backup plan.
Ready to achieve your dream specialty?
We are working on comprehensive guides for all major specialties! From GMC registration, to how to become a UK Consultant.
Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in the article above. This means that at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a booking or purchase by clicking on the link. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves or have proven success amongst IMGs.