Working Abroad: Recognition of Professional Qualifications

If you want to work overseas and you plan to utilise the professional qualifications that you’ve already gained in the UK, you might need to contact UK NCP. This incredibly valuable service is essential for people who want to continue their professional career abroad. Here, Katherine Latta, the NCP Coordinator, explains how UK NCP can help you…

What is UK NCP?

UK NCP is the UK National Contact Point for Professional Qualifications. We provide advice and guidance on professional recognition in Europe. Professional recognition within Europe is governed by European Union Directives on professional qualifications, principally Directive 2005/36/EC.

I want to work in Europe. Do I need professional recognition?

You must obtain recognition of your professional qualifications if you wish to practice your profession in another European Economic Area (EEA) Member State where your profession is regulated. For example, if you are qualified as an architect in the UK and want to work as an architect in Spain, you will need to obtain recognition of your UK professional qualification in order to legally work as an architect in Spain.

How do I know if my profession is regulated?

Each EEA Member State has a National Contact Point for professional qualifications, which can let you know if your profession is regulated and provide the contact details for the appropriate regulator. We maintain a list of all the Contact Points and a list of all the professions that are regulated in the UK.

Will I be eligible for professional recognition?

To be eligible for professional recognition under the European legislation you must:

A) Be an EEA citizen (or have EEA rights through, for example, marriage to an EEA citizen);

B) Possess a qualification gained in the EEA, or possess a non-EEA qualification which an EEA country has previously recognised under its own national laws and for which you have three years of work experience in that country.

For example, you are an EEA citizen and you qualified as a physiotherapist in the US; you had your qualification recognised in Spain according to national laws on the recognition of non-EEA qualifications; and you have worked as a physiotherapist in Spain for three years. You would now be eligible for EU professional recognition when applying for recognition in a different EEA Member State.

C) Be ‘fully qualified’ in your profession.

An individual is ‘fully qualified’ if they have either:

– obtained the appropriate qualifications to legally practice in a profession which is regulated in their ‘home’ country

– gained an appropriate qualification, plus two years of work experience in a profession which is not regulated in their ‘home’ country.

The rules on recognition do not currently apply to students or individuals who have not fully qualified in their profession.

How will my application be assessed?

Each ‘competent authority’ (the professional body or regulator responsible for accepting applications for recognition for the profession in the specific country) is responsible for assessing eligible applications. The authority will have its own specific procedures, but they will be in accordance with the requirements of the EU Directives.

They will likely require that you provide evidence of qualification (for example, your registration document from your ‘home’ country regulator, or copies of your degree certificate or transcripts), and evidence of your work experience (if your profession was not regulated in your ‘home’ country).

The admitting authority will be assessing the application to determine:

– if you have fully qualified in your ‘home’ country;

– if you have a level of qualification similar to the level that country requires for the profession;

– whether there are any gaps in the competences and skills that you have covered in your training.

The assessment will be different if you have rights to automatic recognition. For seven professions, automatic recognition procedures have been agreed between all the EEA Member States, based on a process of the harmonisation of basic training for these professions. The professions covered by automatic recognition are: doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons and architects.

What if there are differences between my training & the training required in the other country?

As long as the differences are not ‘substantial’, the admitting authority should offer the option of compensation measures to account for any skills gaps that exist between your training and the training required in that country.

Compensation measures can take the form of either an aptitude test or a period of supervised practice (a.k.a. an adaptation period) in which you should cover any elements of professional competence not covered in your ‘home’ country qualification.

The authority should explain the reasons for having assessed a skills gap and explain the compensation measure procedures to you. In case of any difficulties in dealing with the professional authority, you can get in touch with the National Contact Point. The National Contact Points are there to help with any problems you might encounter with the EU professional recognition system.

Where can I find more information?

You can find more information about professional recognition on our website:  We have links to the authorities for the regulated professions in the UK, links to the Contact Points for the other EEA Member States, information on the legislation and links to documents produced by the European Commission, as well as contact details so you can get in touch with us if you have any questions.

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