International pre-registration trainees

We have developed information and guidance on how optometry graduates can join the Scheme for Registration as an international pre-reg trainee. 

If you need a visa to work or study in the UK, you will need a sponsor for your visa to complete the Scheme for Registration in a UK practice. The College is an approved licensed sponsor under the Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) scheme, and can provide a Certificate of Sponsorship for your visa application. 

Visit the GOC website before starting your application.

Applying for a Certificate of Sponsorship

Before we can process your application, you need to provide payment of £550. This can be paid online once an invoice has been generated. We will also need the following documents sent via email in PDF format:

  • your passport
  • proof that you have graduated from a GOC approved university with a 2:2 or above in optometry. This can be a final transcript or degree certificate
  • contract/agreement from your employer for your pre-registration placement
  • proof of address (utility bill, bank statement or rent agreement)
  • a copy of your GOC approval letter, if relevant, including your foreign degree
  • a completed Scheme for Registration enrolment form.

You can attach PDFs to an email to chareen.rae@college-optometrists.org. Please contact 0207 766 4357 for any visa queries. 

Once we have payment and documents, we are usually able to email you a Certificate of Sponsorship in about 10 working days. 

Here to help

If you would like to talk to someone about your application, call Chareen Rae on (+44) 20 7766 4357 or email chareen.rae@college-optometrists.org who will be happy to talk you through the application process.

Applying for your Temporary Worker GAE visa 

The Certificate of Sponsorship is only valid for three months, so it is essential that you apply to UKVI for your Temporary Worker GAE visa within three months of your certificate being issued. You can only start work when the UKVI has issued your visa. You should seek appropriate advice from UKVI or an immigration lawyer if you wish to live and work in the UK once your visa has expired. The Temporary Worker GAE visa is valid for a maximum of 24 months. You cannot extend your visa if you don’t complete the Scheme in time.

Switching from a Tier 4 Visa to a Temporary Worker Visa

If you plan to switch from a Tier 4 visa to a Temporary Worker GAE visa, please notify the College at least twelve weeks before your current visa expires. You can take part in the Scheme for Registration under a Tier 4 visa, while you application for a Temporary Worker visa is underway. 

Enrolling on the Scheme 

Once you have been granted a visa, you need to send a copy of the Biometric Residence Permit in PDF format, in an email to chareen.rae@college-optometrists.org.

Completing the Scheme 

When you have completed the Scheme, we will inform the UKVI that we are withdrawing your sponsorship. If you wish to stay in the UK and work as an optometrist, you can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa. You are able to apply within the UK, or from your home country. Your intended employer would act as your sponsor for this visa. Further information can be found on the UKVI website.

International optometrists practising in the UK

Optometrists who qualified outside the UK or Switzerland must complete the College’s Scheme for Registration before they can practise in the UK. You must register with the GOC before following the process for international pre-reg trainees outlined above. Visit the GOC website for more information.

Frequently asked questions

The College is a licensed sponsor under Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) scheme. The College issues Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to migrant trainees wishing to complete their pre-registration placement in the UK. Once a CoS has been issued the trainee will be able to apply to the UKVI for a visa under Temporary Worker (GAE).

Before you can start the UKVI will issue you a visa. If you are applying from outside of the UK you can enter the UK from the date your initial visa vignette is valid from. The start date of your job is the one given by your sponsor in your Certificate of Sponsorship. Your first date of your time on the Scheme for Registration will be your first day in the placement once enrolment on the Scheme has been confirmed by the College. 

Yes, you can switch from a Tier 4 visa to a Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa whilst you are in the UK.

Yes, in order to meet the requirements of the visa you will need to have secured a pre-registration placement with a UK employer and be able to evidence this through confirmation from the employer. The College will then verify this with the employer directly. The College will not be able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship unless you have guaranteed employment in order to meet the UKVI requirements under this visa.

The format of your pre-registration period will not change; you will be subject to the same assessments and procedures as detailed in your handbook. However, the tier 5 GAE visa is only valid for up to 2 years and therefore you will be required to complete the scheme within this time frame. The 2 years will commence from the date your leave to remain is granted. There are no provisions for an extension under this visa.

You will also be required to keep your supervisor and the College up to date with your contact details. If any changes occur which may affect the continuation of your pre-registration period this must be reported to your supervisor and the College immediately.

The Temporary Worker GAE visa is valid for a maximum of 24 months; there is no provision to extend the visa if you fail to complete the Scheme in time.

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)
This is a separate scheme to the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) and one which the College has no involvement with. You will need to meet the requirements of this visa in your personal capacity. The YMS visa is only available to trainees from a specified list of countries and in certain countries, there is a limit to the number of visas awarded annually. The visa will be valid for two years and it is not possible to extend the visa further. You will need to provide the College with proof of your visa status (copy of both sides of your BRP card) in order to be enrolled or continue on the scheme, under this visa. Please refer to the UKVI Youth Mobility Visa Website for more information.

Graduate Route Visa
The Graduate Route visa is a new visa route which came into effect on the 1 July 2021 and will give you permission to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing a qualifying course in the UK. You can apply within the UK to switch from a Student visa to the Graduate Route visa. You are not able to extend this visa beyond the two years permitted. You must apply to switch to this visa before your Student visa expires. You will need to provide the College with proof of your visa status (copy of both sides of your BRP card) in order to be enrolled or continue on the scheme, under this visa. Please refer to the UKVI Graduate Route Visa Website for more information.

British National (Overseas) (BNO) Visa
The BNO visa is a new visa route which came into effect on 29 January 2021. If you are from Hong Kong and meet the requirements for this visa, you can apply for either a two and a half year visa or a five year visa. You can apply to switch to this visa within the UK if you are a UK resident. You will need to provide the College with proof of your visa status (approval documentation from UKVI) in order to be enrolled or continue on the scheme, under this visa. Please refer to the UKVI British National Overseas BNO Visa Website for more information.

No, upon completion of your pre-registration period your entitlement to stay in the UK under Temporary Worker GAE is no longer valid. You will be required to return to your home country or apply for a different visa type.

The Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa is intended for migrant students to undertake their pre-registration placement in the UK and subsequently return to their home country to register and practice. The visa does not give any provision for trainees to stay in the UK after the visa expires; continued employment in the UK as an optometrist is subject to UKVI rules and is beyond the scope of the Temporary Worker GAE visa.

If you wish to stay in the UK and work as an optometrist there is the option of switching to a Skilled Worker visa. You are able to apply within the UK, or from your home country. Your intended employer would act as your sponsor under this visa. Further information can be found on the UKVI website.

Scheme for Registration Guidance for Non-UK Applicants

The Scheme for Registration is the United Kingdom’s programme for pre-registration trainees. It consists of work-based assessments and a final practical examination which takes the form of an Objective Structured Clinical Examination, or OSCE. This assess trainees against the GOC elements of competence. Trainees who successfully complete the Scheme in the necessary time will be eligible to join the GOC register as an optometrist.

There are a number of different ways to work as an optometrist in the UK. The following links provide some further guidance and are important to read before you apply for the Scheme.

LOCSU England

Optometry Scotland

Optometry Wales

Optometry Northern Ireland

To be able to enter the Scheme for Registration as a non-EEA trainee, you must first have met the GOC criteria set out on their website. We cannot accept your application if you have not first been through this process successfully.

The current fee for the Scheme of Registration is £3,740.

Find out full details of what this entails, as well as the various payment options.

The Scheme for Registration consists of a work-based assessment and a Final Assessment OSCE, both of which must be completed within 2 years and 3 months from enrolment, or sooner depending on visa arrangements. A good trainee, however, might expect to finish the scheme in 12 months.

The work-based assessment is divided into two stages. Both stages consist of assessments carried out as you work in a pre-registration placement, under supervision. Stage One normally consists of three to five scheduled assessment visits, where you are observed carrying out day-to-day tasks and assessed on the GOC’s 75 elements of competence by one of our College assessors. In Stage Two you undergo a three to four hour assessment, again carried about by a College assessor in your practice, including a routine eye examination, a soft contact lens fitting with aftercare and a case discussion around your records. You are also assessed on the over-arching competencies, as in Stage One.

On completion of Stage Two you can apply to sit the Final Assessment OSCE. This takes place 4 times a year in London. The OSCE consists of a series of five-minute stations, where you carry out tasks based on the 75 GOC elements of competence covered at Stage One and Stage Two. The examiners are looking for evidence that you understand the theory behind each element of competence and can apply it in a practical clinical setting.

On passing the OSCE, you can then apply to join the GOC register as an optometrist.

More detail on the different stages of the Scheme for Registration.

English Language Competency
In addition to meeting the GOC competencies, you must also continue to demonstrate a good level of English throughout the Scheme of Registration. If you fail to do this, we are required to report it to the GOC.

Visa Arrangements
In order to work in the UK, you will need to have an appropriate visa arrangement between you and your employer. The College is an approved licensed sponsor under the Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) scheme. This means the College can issue Certificates of Sponsorship to Non-UK students, who meet the necessary criteria, in order for them to complete the Scheme for Registration in the UK. 

Please note that is it up to the trainee to ensure that all visa arrangements are in place before applying for the Scheme. More information on visa arrangements can be found on the UK government’s Visa and Immigration website.

  • Find a pre-registration placement (subject to necessary visa arrangements). Get advice on finding a placement and a list of current vacancies.
  • When you are ready to enrol, please contact us by calling (+44) 0207 839 6000 or email education.help@college-optometrists.org, and one of our team will be happy to talk you through the application process.
  • Once you receive your college login, watch our ‘Plan Your Career’ videos that outline the different career paths available to you.

    Note: you will only be able to login to access this once you have enrolled with the College.

Privacy statement

We will use your information to process your application for a Tier 5 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) on the UKVI Sponsor Management System. We will also use it if we need to make any changes to your CoS or to inform UKVI that you have finished the Scheme for Registration.

We will destroy all your information when you have completed the Scheme for Registration. We will not share your information with anyone else.