Working in the United Kingdom

Here you can find out how to gain entry to our register if you have gained your primary qualification from outside of the United Kingdom. There are three main routes:

  • applicants who trained in Switzerland
  • applicants who trained in the EEA (if application submitted prior to 11pm on 31 December 2020)
  • applicants who trained outside Switzerland (referred to as ‘international’) – see separate pages for optometrists and dispensing opticians

We strongly recommend that you read the information below before you proceed to apply. 

If you have any questions that we have not been able to answer on our website about our routes to registration please contact us at international@optical.org

Before applying to work in the UK, you will need to ensure that you have the appropriate visa to do so. Please refer to your potential employer and/or the UK Home Office for further information.

You should also ensure that you read our Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians which sets out the standards of behaviour and performance expected of our registrants.

European Diploma in Optometry

As part of our non-UK application process, we reserve the right to assess all non-UK candidates’ applications to join the register for optometrists and dispensing opticians. We recognise the European Diploma in Optometry (accredited by European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO)) as a route to registration for non-UK applicants, however this qualification does not grant direct entry to the register. Neither is it an approved qualification under the Opticians Act (Part 2, Section 8). Candidates who have passed the European Diploma in Optometry will only be eligible for registration with us, provided that the Council is satisfied they have demonstrated a satisfactory scope of clinical practice, and they are proficient in the English language.

Information for optometrists

The funding of sight tests varies across the four nations of the UK. The Association of Optometrists provides guidance on their website on how sight tests are funded in the UK.

You should ensure that you can meet all of the relevant requirements before applying to join our register, as otherwise you may be able to enter the register but not meet the requirements to work in the UK.

England

If you want to work as an optometrist in England you will likely want to apply to enter National Health Service (NHS) England’s National Performers List which requires completion of a General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) contract so that you can carry out sight tests on behalf of the NHS.

If you gained your qualification outside of the UK or the Republic of Ireland you must provide:

  • evidence of English language (please note that the scores required in International English Language Testing System are 7.5 – higher than those required by the GOC);
  • evidence of three months continuous professional employment from the past two years in a country where English is the first language (two clinical references required) (please note that NHS England may not approve your application if you have not carried out any sight tests for a number of years); and
  • an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

You should refer to the NHS Area Team for the area in which you intend to work for more information about the requirements and how to apply. The Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) also gives advice on how to apply to enter the Performers List.

Northern Ireland

If you want to work as an optometrist in Northern Ireland and provide General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) in a contractor practice, you will need to formally apply to the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) in order to be eligible to provide GOS. Applications for this are available on the HSCB website.

Most employers in Northern Ireland will require an AccessNI criminal records check. Information on this is available on the nidirect government website.

Scotland

If you want to work as an optometrist in Scotland, you will need to obtain a General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) contract in Scotland. This requires completion of a GOS Competency Training Assessment which is a practical assessment carried out on a live patient.

Please refer to the NHS Education for Scotland website for more information.

Wales

If you want to work as an optometrist in Wales and you want to be able to provide an enhanced sight test – the Eye Health Examination Wales (EHEW) – you will need to be accredited by the Wales Optometric Postgraduate Centre (WOPEC). This accreditation involves undergoing theory and practical training. You must first be registered to a practice that provides EHEW before applying.

Please refer to the Wales Eye Care Services (WECS) website for more information.

For further information, please email international@optical.org

We do not wish to cause disappointment so please note that the Registration Department does not accept appointment requests. All queries are dealt with by email or phone. We are unable to meet with any person who visits our offices.