UK Visa Options for Veterinarians

Veterinarians have numerous opportunities to practice their profession in the UK. The UK’s veterinary industry is renowned for its high clinical standards and offers diverse opportunities, encompassing primary care, referral services, and expertise in exotics and wildlife.

Working as a veterinarian in the UK requires securing a visa and enrolling in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the profession’s governing body in the country. Several visa options are available, including the Skilled Worker Visa (previously known as the Tier 2 General Visa), Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, Ancestry Visa, etc.

Working in the UK as a Veterinarian

To practice as a veterinarian in the UK, registration with the RCVS is mandatory because recognition of your degree might depend on the institution where it was obtained.

If your degree isn’t recognized, you’ll need to take and pass the Statutory Membership Exam to qualify for RCVS registration. Initially, you’ll have to submit a declaration of intent to take the exam along with supporting documents. Subsequently, you can apply to take the exam itself.

Additionally, if English isn’t your first language or your degree wasn’t taught in English, you’ll also need to demonstrate proficiency in the English language.

Available Visa Options for Vets

Here are several visa options available:

1. Skilled Worker Visa

The UK government classifies veterinarians as ‘skilled workers’, permitting a foreign veterinarian, including EU citizens, to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa when seeking employment in the country.

To be eligible for the visa, veterinarians typically need to have a job offer in the veterinary industry from a UK employer with a sponsor license. Furthermore, the employer must provide them with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which will make them eligible to apply for a visa.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for the Skilled Worker Visa, these criteria must be met:

  • Employment with a UK-based employer approved by the Home Office.
  • A ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer specifying details of the veterinary role offered in the UK.
  • Your occupation must fall within the eligible job categories recognized under the Skilled Worker Visa, including Veterinary Practitioners, Veterinary Surgeons, Veterinary Nurses, and Veterinary Practice Managers.
  • Your salary must meet the specified minimum requirements, depending on the nature of your job.

Salary requirements

Meeting the Skilled Worker Visa criteria usually requires a minimum annual salary of £26,200 unless your job’s prevailing ‘going rate’ is higher. If the typical annual remuneration for your role exceeds what you will earn, you might not fulfill the standard salary prerequisites.

This is significant, particularly as the ‘annual going rate’ for veterinary surgeons often surpasses the £26,200 benchmark. For instance, if the going rate for your position stands at £30,000, but your offered salary is £27,000, you wouldn’t meet the typical salary requirements.

There are instances where individuals can be paid below £26,200, or the ‘annual going rate’ for their job, but this hinges on specific factors like age, level of qualification, and whether the job falls into a shortage occupation category, which currently includes veterinary roles. 

2. Youth Mobility Skilled Visa

The UK Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) Visa enables young individuals from countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan to reside and work in the UK for a duration of up to two years.

This program facilitates a cultural exchange, offering participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in UK life while acquiring significant work experience. The YMS visa is available to veterinarians aged 18 to 30, or between 18 and 35 for individuals from countries with a bilateral agreement with the UK. Applicants must demonstrate savings of at least £2,530 to qualify for this visa.

3. Ancestry Visa

The UK Ancestral Visa is tailored for Commonwealth citizens whose grandparents were born in the United Kingdom or Islands. To qualify, you need to meet these criteria:

  • Commonwealth citizenship
  • Minimum age of 17
  • Grandparents born in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man (details in the note below)
  • Grandparents born in what’s now the Republic of Ireland before March 31, 1922 (details in the note below)
  • Capability and intent to work in the UK
  • Ability to financially support yourself and any dependents without public funds.

A work permit isn’t necessary. Upon obtaining the UK Ancestry visa, you’re allowed a five-year residency. After this period, you can apply for permanent residency, provided you still meet the United Kingdom ancestry criteria and have sustained continuous employment in the UK.

Application Process

The application process is online based. The method of application varies based on your situation:

  • If you’re outside the UK and intend to come to the UK.
  • If you’re in the UK and seeking an extension of your current visa.
  • If you’re inside the UK and switching from a different visa.

Should you aim to change your job or employer, applying to update your visa is necessary. Additionally, eligible partners and children can apply to accompany or remain with you in the UK as your ‘dependents’.