I originally wrote this guide for family and friends who have been asking me about the steps to become an RN in the UK. I am currently on the process of acquiring my Tier 2- Visa and will be updating this as I go, and only when I have free time to do so.
I'll be as concise as I possibly can. I may miss a few details, just remind me if I do! If you have any questions you may post on the comments box.
This is mainly an account of my personal experiences and not an authoritative guide, so I disclaim any liability that may be incurred by information found here.
1. Make sure you have passed the Philippine Nurse Licensure Exam (local boards) first, and have a Registered Nurse license awarded by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).
The NMC requires that we're licensed in our home country, as well as all of the countries we've practiced in. So make sure you have your Board Certificates in your possession, as you will need to submit these, among other documents, during the Assessment stage.
2. Make sure you have at least 12 months of post-registration nursing experience.
The NMC requires that we have at least a year of post-registration experience, and has to be related to the area of nursing we'll be applying for. For Filipino nurses, I think it's almost always Adult Nursing. Both volunteer and employed work will be considered.
3. Get Academic IELTS scores acceptable to the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council.
You'll need a grade of at least 7.0 (out of 9.0) in Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Presently though, two IELTS test certificates may be submitted to meet the above requirements, but you must not have scored below 6.5 in any categories, in either of the test sittings. The two test sittings must be taken within six months of each other to be considered.
Make sure you take the Academic module, not the General Training one. I also recommend getting the UKVI one if you are feeling confident about getting 7.0 on everything right off the bat. It's hitting two birds in one stone, since you will be needing a UKVI Academic IELTS test result later when processing your UK Tier 2 visa. It's more expensive though, and UKVI only requires IELTS scores of 4.0 on all tests for the visa. I paid SAR 925 (approx. PHP 11,500) for the regular Academic IELTS I took in Riyadh, and PHP 16,090 for the UKVI Academic IELTS I took in Manila. (Total of PHP 27,000++, my agency paid for my UKVI and reimbursed my regular one too.)
I recommend preparing for the test, both through practice and also by becoming familiar with the IELTS test formats. You may be very confident about your oral and written English, but if you do not conform to these formats, I'm pretty sure your score will fall below the target score, which is 7.0. I found Clarity and Road to IELTS as invaluable guides to hurdling the tests. Make sure you go through them as they provide tips that will help especially the first-time IELTS test-taker. Never ever sit for the test without going through them.
As for my own preparation, aside from studying Clarity and Road to IELTS, I downloaded a random Cambridge IELTS practice test online (I forgot where exactly, but you can Google for one). I have only practiced once for each test, but I feel that people will need to practice more to warm up and have a feel of what it's going to be like at the test center. The more you practise, the more confident you will feel. The confidence you get from practicing will help you overcome the anxiety you will be feeling whilst taking the test, as well as beat the time pressure, especially during the Writing test. You will also need to develop techniques such as skimming and scanning through paragraphs for the Reading test, as the full hour may not be enough for you to cover all of the materials.
I also made sure I had a full meal and good coffee to keep me awake throughout the test day. (Although I was sleepless the night before the test, I would recommend too for you to have a good night's sleep! It will help keep you focused. )
I didn't find the Listening test hard. I would advise you to give full attention as the items will not be repeated. Take advantage of the few minutes provided at the beginning of the test to take note of the test questions, so you can anticipate the word/phrase you will need to jot down to fill in the blanks.
For Reading, I took advantage of the margins on the test booklet and wrote keywords on it beside the paragraph I just finished reading. This will help you answer the questions later on and not take too much time looking for the information again (remember you are given only 60 minutes to finish, and I think I was asked to read 4 academic articles for this test). The keywords you make will help as a reference whilst you're answering the questions, so you can confirm that your answer is indeed correct. I would recommend speed reading, skimming and scanning, and not lingering too long on anything. I swear, I speed-read, wrote keywords, matched my test answers to the text, and read faster than average, but only finished the test just in time.
I remember I took almost the full hour on Task 2 of my Writing test. I only had 5 minutes to do my Task 1, thankfully I still got a 7.0. I recommend writing Task 2 first because it's worth twice the points. Be careful not to exchange your answer sheets if you write Task 2 first. Make sure you have an introduction, body, and conclusion, and adhere to writing only 250 words. Writing a lot more than 250 words for Task 2 and 150 words for Task 1 will give demerits, so try to count words per paragraph as you go.
The Writing test is notorious to almost every Filipino IELTS-taker. Many people fall short of 7.0 for Writing, (even end up re-taking IELTS six times!) so make sure you take this seriously and practice, practice, practice! Get accurate information with regards to format and guidelines to writing both Task 1 & 2 from Clarity and Road to IELTS, and adhere to them when you practice and when taking the actual test itself.
The Speaking test will seem scary at first, but really it's just like talking to a close friend or family member. It consists of three parts, the easy, medium and difficult parts. Just kidding! You will be asked on the first part to talk about things you're familiar with, such as your home town, your family, your accommodation, etc. This will warm you up for the second part, wherein you will be given a full minute to prepare to talk for a few minutes about a topic that will be provided by your interviewer. You will be given a task card, make sure you cover all the tasks because if you skip some, you will not be awarded any points for it. Make use of the pencil and paper provided for you to, again, write keywords for each task to guide your talk. Lastly, you will be asked to talk at length about a topic related to the one you had on the second part. This is relatively easy because you will only be asked to give your thoughts and opinions about a certain topic.
If you run out of things to say, make sure you don't have 'dead air.' Say something like, "Let me think for a few seconds." Do not say "uhmmm"or "ahhh" a lot in between words, when trying to think of things to say. I believe this also gives demerits.
(If you're curious, my test scores are the following. For my regular Academic IELTS, I got 8.5 for Listening, 8.0 for Reading, and 7.0 for both Writing and Speaking. I think I scored better, had only one mistake I believe for Listening because they provided headsets in Riyadh, unlike in Manila where they only played the items through a loudspeaker. For my UKVI Academic IELTS (taken in Manila), I got 8.0 for Listening, 8.5 for Reading, and 7.0 for both Writing and Speaking. I did not need to rehearse or review because I already understood what I needed to do in the tests. I got an overall score of 7.5 on both tests.)
4. Declare your Eligibility on the NMC website.
Congrats for hurdling the IELTS! It may have seemed so daunting already, but really you're just getting started. The first step of the process is the Eligibility stage. You will need to sign up on this website: NMC International Registration > Login. Here you will need to declare that you are eligible to take the Test of Competence 1, more popularly known as the CBT (Computer-Based Test). Tick all of the boxes that need ticking and input your IELTS scores. You will receive an e-mail confirming your eligibility and authorization to test (ATT) from the NMC. You will need to sign up here to register and pay to take the test with Pearson Vue.
5. Pass the Test of Competence 1, aka the CBT.
The CBT is not the same as the PNLE or the NCLEX or the Saudi Prometric. It is different because the questions gauge your nursing knowledge based on UK practice. Do not attempt to take this test without preparation as it will definitely result in a fail, because UK practice is a bit different from everywhere else.
For Adult Nursing, here is the NMC link for topics to review. I recommend taking serious notes on Standards and Guidelines, specifically The Code, Medicines Management, Safeguarding Adults and Children, Raising Concerns, Social Networking Guidance, The Professional Duty of Candour, and Infection Control. You may read The Royal Marsden Manual of Nursing Procedures and skim through the other readings outlined in the blueprints. You don't need to memorize things, you only need to understand them.
You also need to know that out of the 120 questions in the test, there will be 20 critical questions that you will need to answer correctly. If you fail at one of these, you will get a failing mark, even if you scored 119/120 on the test. I don't know if this has changed now.
You will find the test very easy, so easy you'll finish 120 questions in 2 hours. Do not be fooled! Try to re-check your answers at least thrice. Most of the time you will have a /failfish moment finding you answered one item incorrectly, and thank yourself after for being so thorough. Make most of the time given to you. There will be drug computations but these are very basic, so much you can get a correct answer with your eyes closed. Be very careful cuz you'll never know when a question is a critical one, so treat all questions as if they are. Most of the time it's questions about medicines management, safety, safeguarding, infection control. Do not rush, think about the Â£130 (approx PHP 8,000++) you will need to shell out again if you fail!
6. Have your documents assessed by the NMC.
You will receive a congratulatory e-mail a few hours (to a maximum of 48 hours) after taking the CBT if you pass. If you fail, you will need to wait at least 28 days to resit the test. If you fail again, you will need to wait a further 6 months to take the test again. It's okay, you can try again. There may have been a few things on the blueprint you've skipped, so go through them again. Or read Marsden. The CBT isn't so impossible to pass anymore like it used to be.
When you get a pass, you will progress to the Assessment stage. You will be asked to pay Â£140 (approx PHP 8,800+) to continue the application process. Then, you will be asked on the NMC website to fill out forms and upload scanned documents online with regards to Proof of Identification, English Language Skills, Professional Education and Training, Post-Qualification Registration, Work Experience, and Good Character and Good Health.
You will also be asked to download barcoded forms, specifically a form to Accompany Transcript of Training, Reference forms for two Employers, a Registration Authority Verification form, and a Declaration of Good Health form to be filled out and couriered to the NMC office in London. These barcoded forms will be unique to you, and cannot be downloaded prior to passing the CBT.
The documents you will typically need to scan and upload are:
A Valid Passport
Old Passports (if pertinent to your application)
NSO Birth Certificate
IELTS Test Result
BSN Diploma (Qualification Certificate)
PRC Board Certificate
NBI Clearance (the yellow one, for abroad)
For my application, I also included my old passport (as a reference to most of my scanned documents), PRC Board Rating and Passing, PRC ID, SCFHS Board Certificate and certified translation, SCFHS ID, and KSA Police Certificate with certified translation (since I practiced too in Saudi Arabia).
As for the barcoded forms, you will need to send the form to Accompany Transcript of Training to the university where you got your nursing degree. The Employer Reference forms need to be filled up by anyone senior to you, whether physician or nurse. The NMC is very particular about the job titles you input in your forms. If senior nurses, they need to be your Chief Nurse, Head Nurse, or Nurse Supervisor. They won't consider any job title that isn't superior to yourself, such as Operating Room Nurse, or Medical-Surgical Nurse. The Registration Authority Verification form will need to be sent to the PRC (Professional Regulation Commission) in the Philippines (and Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, or SCFHS in KSA, if you practiced too in Saudi Arabia like me. You will need two forms filled up). The Declaration of Good Health form will need to be filled up by any GP or consultant that isn't your relative or employer.
Make sure that the information you input on the forms at the NMC website match those found in your uploaded scanned documents and barcoded forms. You can not afford to be delayed after you hit the submit button or get refused because you have input wrong/different information, I.e. start and end dates of your nursing education or post-registration experience.
I recommend accomplishing the barcoded forms as soon as you can download them from the website. I have normally had them couriered to London, which got received around 2-3 days. I have sent a set of blank documents once thru registered mail, which arrived after 7 days. So really, a courier service would be a worthy investment for this end, especially if you're running after time. I was informed by the NMC that once these documents get received, they normally get scanned and uploaded into their system around 8-15 days. In my experience, I have had all barcoded forms received in London, scanned documents all uploaded, and forms accurately filled out, but only got in assessment queue 20 calendar days after. So I really recommend accomplishing the barcoded forms as quickly as possible, because getting all of these up in the system typically takes a very long time.
A reply to an e-mail you have addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org typically gets received around 5-11 days in my experience. Make sure you include in your inquiry your complete name, NMC candidate ID, and birthdate, or they may not be able to respond to your request. If they give feedback that they cannot verify your IELTS result, make sure you e-mail back the scanned test result to them to avoid further delays.
You may also call the NMC when your 70-day processing time is almost due. The people who answered my calls were very friendly and helpful. If you're calling from the Philippines, you need to dial 0044 207 333 6600. I used Globe IDD card or my Globe sim to make calls, I usually get 12 minutes of talk time for every PHP 100 air time.
This part of the process is the ultimate test of patience and required a lot of prayers on my end. My application got processed for the full 3 months, even beyond the 70-day target processing period. I felt like I will never ever get my OSCE invite, but I did. So don't lose hope! Your decision letter may come to you in 5 days, or more than 90. But it will come, don't worry. It's just a matter of time. It also pays to call NMC as often as you can, saying you are on your 70th ++ processing day. I got my decision letter that same night, UK time. 🙂
7. Acquire your Tier 2 Visa
Congratulations on your long wait! Finally, your OSCE Invite is in your NMC portal and downloaded to your computer. Now it's time to book your OSCE. We'll need to fly to the UK so we can sit for the exam at the University of Northampton. For this, we will need a proper visa.
I am sponsored by an NHS trust in London, so the visa I applied for was the Tier 2 Visa (General Migrant for 3 Years). In my experience, the entire application process has been quick and easy. I was completely clueless about the whole thing, thankfully I have Omanfil, my agency that helped me go through the entire process. Their support is priceless and I could not have gone through it right without their guidance.
Firstly, I had my Certificate of Sponsorship (provided by my NHS trust sponsor), IOM (Tuberculosis) Certificate, UKVI Academic IELTS test result, and all original supporting documents ready. Then, I registered on this website, filled up the online application form with my Certificate of Sponsorship as my guide. When I was done with the application form and IHS section, my agency paid for my visa (USD 620.00, approx PHP 30,000) and IHS (Immigration Health Surcharge, USD 756.00, approx PHP 36,000++) fees.
After this, I was able to make an appointment with VFS Global. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available for Manila, so I had to fly to Cebu. It was on very short notice but needed to be done ASAP, since visa processing takes about a maximum of 15 working days. So I flew there, stayed for a night, then flew back to Manila right after.
The documents I've brought with me to VFS were:
Passports, old and new (and photocopies of all pages, from beginning to end)
1 Passport Photo for the application form (take note of UKVI guidelines for passport photos)
My KSA exit visa printout
Printed out online application form
Printed out appointment confirmation
NMC Pass printout
OSCE invitation printout
Certificate of Sponsorship
Tuberculosis Screening Certificate (IOM)
UKVI IELTS Results
PRC Board Certificate
SCFHS Board Certificate and certified translation
NBI Clearance (Green one, for abroad)
KSA Police Clearance Certificate and certified translation
KSA Experience Certificate
IHS Payment Receipt
IHS Reference Number printout
Photocopies of all supporting documents
I paid PHP 525.00 to have everything couriered back to my agency in Manila.
So far, I have (and my agency) paid something around PHP 150,000 (approx £2,000+ / $2,700+), including money spent for medical exams, courier services, transport and supporting documents, from Steps 1 to 6.