Visa reforms threaten training prospects
14 November 2012
The BMA wants urgent help for overseas graduates of UK medical schools who could face problems completing specialty training due to a visa rule change.
This follows the closure earlier this year of the tier-1 (post-study work) visa route for these graduates and the associated exemptions that allowed them to compete fairly with their fellow UK graduates for ST (specialty training) programmes.
One exemption was from the RLMT (resident labour market test), which says doctors born overseas can only apply for posts if there are no suitable UK or EEA (European Economic Area) candidates.
The exemption from the RLMT lasted for a number of years to enable those doctors who did not gain ST posts immediately, or who decided to change career pathways, to continue their training in the UK.
Under the replacement tier-2 visa, the rules mean that these graduates can only be exempt from the RLMT if they are continuing in the same specialty with the same employer or sponsor.
The full impact of the rule change will be felt from 2013, but some doctors who are already on tier-2 visas due to personal circumstances have started encountering problems.
The BMA is claiming that UK-trained overseas graduates who did not go straight into core training or ST from the foundation programme based their career decisions on incomplete information.
It has called for an exemption to the RLMT for those who graduated from UK universities and are on tier-2 visas, but this has been rejected by the UKBA (UK Border Agency).
BMA junior doctors committee chair Ben Molyneux said: ‘UK-trained graduates who have acted in good faith are being disadvantaged by inflexible UKBA changes that have been poorly advertised.
‘This represents a huge loss of skill and a waste of taxpayers’ money to partially train a doctor and then move the goalposts so they cannot complete training.’
He added: ‘We have lobbied the Department of Health and the UKBA to exempt doctors in this situation until [individuals] currently in core training have passed into higher specialty training, but this has fallen on unwilling ears.’
The BMA has lobbied MPs and peers on the issue, and continues to call for greater clarity.