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Working abroad

Written by: James Dawson, Head of Advice Publications, BDA
Published on: 10 Oct 2017

Dental skills are global, giving you the option of working in another country at some point during your career. Allowing you to broaden your horizons by gaining professional experience abroad. However, any dentist thinking about this needs to look at two vital pragmatic legal questions: am I able to register my qualification there; and what are the immigration rules that I need to comply with? Both depend on the laws in the country you’re heading to and compliance with both is essential.

It’s vital to make enquiries before starting your journey to find out exactly what’s needed to make your experience as positive as possible. Once you have decided on a country, you should get in touch with the national dental association for more information. The local dental association should be able to help you with questions about the country’s health system and, if applicable, with business and legal advice. In some countries this might also be the regulatory body.


You will have to register with or be licensed by the appropriate regulatory authority. Dentistry is highly regulated in every country ensuring that only those who have been properly trained and are competent to practise dentistry are able to do so.

However, regulations and the regulatory authorities differ widely. In some federal countries the rules will also differ from region to region within the country. Nevertheless, as a general overview, many countries will only recognise their own qualification or those of countries with which they have special links or treaties; in other you might have to do extra exams.

You will also need to find out whether the country of your choice has a formal requirement for demonstrating language proficiency in place as part of the registration process. You have an ethical responsibility to ensure you have sufficient ability to communicate clearly with patients. Furthermore, you must ensure you have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place at all times.


Countries generally restrict who can live and work in their territory. It is essential that you comply with these rules and understand your status in your country of choice. Within the European Union, the principle of free movement applies to citizens of EU countries, although if you are not an EU national different rules might apply.

Generally, if you go somewhere outside the EU, you are likely to need a visa or work permit. Check the immigration and visa requirements with the country’s embassy or High Commission in London. Many visas are principally for tourists and if you rely on them to take up employment you may be contravening that country’s law.

Normally, countries will require: that immigrants have a specific skill (for example dentistry); that there is a need for their skills; and that they will be able to support themselves and their dependants without relying on welfare payments. Sometimes reciprocal arrangements allow people to work overseas, as across European Union countries.

Terms and conditions

As with any other job, find out about your work set-up, wherever it may be. Have an appropriate contract in place that stipulates working hours, remuneration, holiday entitlements and other details. The laws governing contracts will differ from those in the UK, maybe the local dental association can give advice.

 Look into the working conditions. The workplace culture, management arrangements and equipment are likely to differ from what you are used to. And importantly, ask what sort of accommodation and earnings you can expect.

Keeping in touch

Whether you go for six months, two years, or on a more permanent basis, make sure you stay in touch with the profession in the UK during your absence. Get all the information you need for your return and don’t assume that you will be able to walk back into UK dentistry after a lengthy stay abroad.

The regulatory framework for the profession changes, for instance issues expected in the next few years are revalidation and a new NHS contract in England and Wales. If at all possible, we would recommend you stay on the GDC register. This will make your return much easier.

 If you come off the register you will have to go through a restoration process which is more costly and can take more time than you expect. You may do local continuing professional development (CPD) in your destination country, as long as your chosen courses fit with the GDC’s requirements for verifiable CPD. You will also need to be prepared for a potentially lengthy process to return to the performers/NHS list after a substantial absence from UK dentistry, which might include conditions on your inclusion. Make sure you inform yourself about the paperwork necessary so that the process is not delayed more than necessary.


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