This is a guide for RCN members considering working overseas. It gives advice on country research, language, qualification and registration requirements, attending interviews and what to consider before accepting a job.
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Check with the International Council for Nurses (ICN) and any relevant nurses' association for information on the minimum requirements and regulatory framework in the country where you intend to work.
Obtain background information on nursing and health care in overseas countries. Learn about the culture, religious beliefs and laws of the country that you are travelling to. This will help prepare you for differences of culture and legislation, minimising the risk of you running into difficulties during your stay.
If you're interested in working within the European Union or European Economic Area, go to www.europa.eu where you'll find information on living and working in the EU.
Carry out a 'working overseas' literature search of the RCN's Library of eBooks and eJournals.Back to contents
One obstacle to employment as a qualified nurse or midwife overseas may be language. Prospects of employment are generally poor if you do not have a good command of the language of the country you wish to visit.
Some 'British' and 'American' hospitals in Europe welcome applications for employment from UK-trained nurses and midwives. However, the working language of these hospitals is generally the language of the country in which they are located (except in the case of British Military hospitals which have their own nursing staff).Back to contents
The UK nursing qualification which is generally transferable in every other country is the 'Registered Nurse: Adult'. Not all countries have equivalents to the UK qualifications in mental health, learning disability, children’s nursing, health visiting and the enrolled nurse. If there is no equivalent to your nursing qualification in the country you would like to visit then you will not be able to work there as a qualified nurse. Please check the full qualification requirements for your chosen country with that country's regulatory body (see useful information below).
There is no formal mechanism for recognising UK post-registration qualifications such as, for example, intensive care nursing but employers may take them into account.
Overseas employers and recruitment companies will be specific about the experience and qualifications required for a particular job.
Registered general/adult branch nurses and midwives moving between EU/EEA countries will be able to register their qualifications according to the Directives covering the mutual recognition of general nursing and midwifery qualifications. Nurses on other parts of the NMC register such as child health, learning disability and mental health may be able to take advantage of the 'General systems provisions' of EU Directive 2005/36/EC to obtain recognition of their UK nursing qualifications in another EU/EEA country. Not all EU/EEA countries have the same variety of nursing qualifications as the UK and some countries have qualifications that have no equivalent in the UK. Further information can be obtained from the NMC or the registering authority of your chosen country. Please note although Switzerland is not a member of the EU or EEA it does have mutual recognition of nursing qualifications.
It is in your own best interests to gain at least six months to one year's experience in the UK after registration before taking up employment abroad. It will be an opportunity to consolidate your pre-registration education, access preceptorship and make the transition from being a student to being a registered accountable practitioner. A prospective overseas employer will be able to request a reference relating to your ability as a qualified nurse. It will also be easier for you to provide references to overseas employers if you already have experience.
Many non-EU countries/employers have specific requirements around post-registration experience. For example, employers in the Middle East usually require at least two years’ post-registration experience. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) require three-five years' post-registration experience.Back to contents
Most countries have their own nurse registration or licensing authorities and you will most likely be required to obtain registration in the host country before you are take up employment.
Registration as a nurse in another EU country is through the relevant EU directive. Full details, including a list of registering bodies, can be found on the NMC website. Nurse registration authorities in other countries may require transcripts of your training and proof ('verification') of current NMC registration. Please contact the registering body directly for more information about the registration process.
Nurse registration processes vary enormously from country to country and can be lengthy and time consuming. The process may involve passing an examination or assessment, i.e. submitting an application including records of your nursing education and qualifications. For example, you will have to pass the English language proficiency test to register to work in Australia.
You may find that your nursing education does not fully meet the requirements of the nurse registration authority in the country where you wish to work. Making up this shortfall requires negotiation by the individual nurse with a UK university. It can be very difficult to arrange and universities may charge a fee for providing such a course. You would also need to use annual leave or negotiate unpaid leave for this period.
The NMC will provide verification of registration direct to nurse registration authorities for a fee. If the verification requires translation you will be responsible for arranging this. Once the document has been translated by a professional it has to be posted to the registration authority with the original document. Please fill in the relevant form on the NMC wesbite. You will then be sent the appropriate application pack.
In addition to your verification of registration you may also need a transcript of your training. Please contact your original school of training for this.
Please note: If you wish to stay on the register whilst practising abroad, see 'professional registration' section of this guide.Back to contents
You can find vacancies through advertisements in nursing journals such as Nursing Standard and Nursing Times. These vacancies are placed by overseas employers or their recruiting agencies. Some countries regularly run recruitment events in the UK. To subscribe to the Nursing Standard log on to www.nursing-standard.co.uk. You could also try to seek work through the Government's Universal Jobmatch scheme.
Overseas employers or recruitment agents often have detailed procedures for processing your application, interviewing you and making arrangements for you to take up your post. It is still your responsibility to:
If you decide to send speculative letters enquiring about overseas employment you will need to prepare a detailed curriculum vitae (CV) that can easily be understood by someone unfamiliar with UK nursing qualifications, scope of practice and abbreviations. Our careers service can only offer personalised feedback on CVs if you are planning on working in the UK.
Your covering letter will need to make it clear whether you need the employer to obtain a work permit on your behalf.
An interview for employment abroad may be very different to interviews for employment in your own country. A thorough interviewer will look for evidence that you have the personal qualities needed to cope with and successfully complete a contract in a foreign country, perhaps working in a foreign language. If the interview is successful, an informal job offer may be made to you. Responsible employers and recruiters will give you time to consider before making a definite commitment. The employment contract checklist in this guide will help you to evaluate job offers and contracts of employment.
Take at least 24 hours to reflect on the offer before you accept it - take your time to research the country, check your contract and ensure that you are happy with the details.
As taxation is a complicated matter you should seek professional advice about your obligations at home and abroad. Contact Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for further information.
Please note: if you are not paying UK tax whilst abroad you cannot claim tax relief on your RCN subscription during this time.Back to contents
You should always check visa requirements when planning to undertake work abroad. This is a complicated issue which varies from country to country. Further information can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Work permits are usually obtained by the employer from the immigration authorities of the host country. Where work permits are a requirement, you will be unable to take up paid employment in that country if you cannot find an employer who is able to obtain a work permit for you.Back to contents
The RCN is not a trade union outside of the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and we do not have representatives in other countries. Although we may be able to provide general advice to help you deal with an employment problem we are unable to offer formal advice or representation for matters arising in your host country. Please note UK law is applicable in the UK only and you will be bound by the laws of your chosen country.
We strongly recommend that you join a trade union or professional association as soon as you arrive in your chosen country just in case you require employment relations or legal advice. Employees of the UK armed forces are not permitted to join a trade union but may join a professional association such as the RCN.
Contact details of national nurses' associations which are members of the International Council (ICN) can be obtained from the ICN website.
If you choose not to become a member of a trade union or professional association and you subsequently need legal or employment relations support you should contact the national nurses' association of that country. They may be able to help or recommend an organisation that can. Please be aware that not all organisations will be able to provide advice and support if you were not in membership at the time of the incident for which you require support.
The RCN is able to offer support to members working for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) working within military establishments in Europe. SSAFA recognises the RCN as a trade union. If you require employment advice, please contact us.
If you wish to maintain your RCN membership you will continue to have access to number of member benefits, for example:
The best method of paying your RCN subscription while abroad is via direct debit from your UK bank account. You can also make an annual payment by credit card.Back to contents
Please see our Indemnity scheme terms and conditions for more information. If you are involved in an incident that you think might lead to a patient or colleague making a claim against you, you must contact us on 0345 772 6100. You must never admit responsibility for an incident or submit a written statement about it until we have agreed for you to do so.Back to contents
In 2016 the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) introduced Revalidation - the process that all UK nurses and midwives must go through every three years in order to renew their registration and continue practising legally in the UK. Revalidation applies to all nurses and midwives, regardless of the role or sector in which they are operating and across all fields of practice.
If you are a nurse or midwife practising overseas and want to maintain your UK registration, you will have to comply with the revalidation process every three years and continue to pay your annual retention fee to the NMC. Your revalidation application is due on the first day of the month in which your registration expires e.g. if your renewal date is 30 September 2017, your revalidation application date will be 1 September 2017.
In order to revalidate, you must demonstrate that you have met the following requirements:
If you are working overseas (or have worked overseas for part of your three year renewal period) as a nurse or midwife you can meet the practice hours on the basis of your registration with the NMC. The NMC advises that you should always register with the appropriate regulator in the country in which you are practising.
If you work wholly overseas you can seek confirmation from your line manager where you undertake your work. If you do not have a line manager, you will need to decide who is best placed to provide your confirmation. The NMC advises that wherever possible your confirmer is a nurse or midwife regulated where you practise, or another regulated healthcare professional. The NMC online confirmation tool provides further guidance about who can act as your confirmer.
If you are asked to provide ‘verification’ information to support your revalidation application, in relation to practice hours you need to provide information about whether you are registered with the appropriate regulating body.
It is important that the NMC has an up to date address for you and you should register with NMC online to ensure that you know your revalidation date and that the NMC can send you relevant information.Back to contents
Nurses in the NHS pension scheme who leave the scheme may have their pension benefits frozen. If you are moving to a new non-NHS employer, whether in the UK or abroad, you should seek independent advice as to whether you are able to transfer your membership into your new employer’s scheme.
Contact the relevant NHS pension agency for further details about the options available as follows:
England and Wales: NHS Business Services Authority www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk
Northern Ireland: Health and Social Care Northern Ireland www.hscni.net
Scotland: Scottish Public Pensions Agency www.sppa.gov.uk
For further information, or if you have a non-NHS pension please go to:
Lighthouse Financial Advice is able to provide free financial advice to members planning employment abroad. This is particularly useful if you have financial commitments in the UK such as a mortgage, pension, savings plan etc. Their contact details can found on the RCN Xtra website
It is a good idea to make a will particularly if you have dependants and financial commitments. The legal situation is very complicated if a person dies overseas without having made a will. You could take advantage of the RCN’s free legal advice scheme. For further information please see our application for free legal assistance page.Back to contents
Your nursing career is a long-term investment. We recommend that you plan your return to practice in the UK before you leave. You will need to consider how to present your overseas experience in a positive light to UK employers and to demonstrate that you are broadly in touch with general developments in nursing and health care in the UK. The RCN has a number of resources which may help you when you return to the UK. These include:
Add any qualifications you have obtained overseas both to your CV and your personal professional portfolio. If you have completed education equivalent to a qualification for another part of the register (for example, as a midwife) you may apply to the NMC to have the qualification registered. Your application may be assessed through the 'overseas' route and compared to the UK course and you might be required to undertake supplementary training in the UK. When you return to the UK and are planning further study, you may be able to obtain credit for this study through schemes such as Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) and Assessment of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). General information concerning APL/APEL is available from UCAS.
The NMC is not involved with recognition of academic qualifications such as first or higher degrees. You can check the comparability of degrees obtained overseas with an organisation called NARIC.
**Please note: the Careers service can only check CVs for members working within the UK and are unable to provide advice about working overseas.
This checklist may help you evaluate the contents of any contract of employment before committing yourself.
You may be asked to sign a document which covers the period between accepting the job offer in the UK and taking up employment in the host country. It may commit the employer or recruiter to providing a language or examination revision course, facilitating your application to take an examination, or even paying for you to fly abroad to take the examination. In addition, it usually includes details of any financial penalty you would incur if you withdrew your application.
Think carefully before you commit yourself, as it may be expensive to change your mind later. Be clear about the kind of post you would be willing to accept and the length of time you are willing to wait for a placement. Please ensure that all of this information is contained within the pre-employment agreement.
The job description should be detailed enough to give you a good idea of what the job involves.
Your nursing education and experience to date should have provided you with the necessary knowledge to undertake the role. If not, will this be covered in any orientation/induction programme?
This is a crucial part of any overseas post and should include information about the new workplace, the whole health care system and nursing practices within the country.
You should ask for written confirmation of the following:
You can contact these organisations directly for advice:
A full list of the EU member states registration authorities can be found on the NMC website.
United Arab Emirates
United States of America
ZambiaBack to contents
Page last updated - 25/01/2018