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'Do whatever you can for the Brits and their beloved animals'

This year saw the first person with refugee status successfully pass the RCVS Statutory Examination for Membership (‘the Stat Exam’). This exam must be undertaken by individuals who hold veterinary degrees not recognised by the College if they wish to join the Register of Veterinary Surgeons and practise in the UK.

Since October 2020 the College has been in partnership with the Refugee Council to offer financial assistance to overseas-trained veterinarians with refugee status to undertake the Stat Exam. Other organisations, including the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) have since partnered with our refugee support scheme to provide free CPD and membership in support of refugees undertaking the Stat Exam. This article is an interview with the first refugee to pass the Stat Exam. Their identity is being kept anonymous both for their own protection and for the safety of their family in their home country.

If you’re comfortable with doing so, could you tell as a bit about your background and why you decided to seek refugee status in the UK?

I was born in a country located in the Middle-East; a region full of different challenges. Unfortunately, I was forced to leave the country due to having political and religious beliefs different to the government.

When did you decide you wanted to become a veterinarian and why?

I have been animal lover since I was born and when I was a teen I always dreamed that one day I will become Her Majesty the Queen’s private vet! After taking pre-university exams in my home country and, with the grades I got, I chose to study to become a veterinarian.

When did you first find out about the Stat Exam and the possibility you could continue your veterinary career in the UK?

Actually, I did not have any idea about migration and seeking refuge, let alone about the RCVS Stat Exam or working in the UK! I was happily living in my country as a vet and I had everything which an educated person can have in their lives such as family, wealth and suchlike. After arriving in the UK in 2019 and going through tough times I wanted to get back to my routine, though I knew it would not be easy at all. So, I googled to find out about the process and then I emailed the RCVS and asked more about eligibility and how the process works.

Were you originally aware about the free support available to those with refugee and asylum seeker status? What are your thoughts on the offer? Which aspects of RCVS support did you find most helpful?

At the start I did not know about getting support from the Refugee Council and the RCVS. There are some charities which help refugees to educate and requalify for their qualifications in the UK. So, I started asking them if they could help me, because passing the Stat Exam, and also the IELTS English language test as well, would be difficult due to the challenges those with refugee status have on a daily basis.

In 2023, due to the Ukraine crisis, I realised the RCVS has started helping refugees, so I asked them to support me as well. The refugee support scheme was of great help to me, for example, in terms of the free membership of the BSAVA which meant I was able to access and read useful magazines and articles. Overall, it made the way to success unbelievably easier by paying to get access to lots of books and sources, as well as paying for my Stat Exam registration fee and getting accommodation for a week or so for the OSCE in Glasgow, because such costs would not be easy for a refugee.

I personally feel that there could be some refugees with veterinary degrees who may not start taking the exam as they think they cannot afford it, so I want them to know that help is there if they need it.

How did you find the Stat Exam process overall and how did you feel when you passed it?

No matter what level of knowledge and experience you have, it is tough! However, it is an unbelievable moment once you get the RCVS email saying CONGRATULATIONS. After years of hard work I thought this is the least I deserve!

What would you say to other refugee/ asylum seekers with veterinary qualifications to encourage them to consider taking the Stat Exam?

They should not lose their hope. No matter how hard passing the exam may be, they have to strive to get back to the job they had in their home country.

What are your plans now you have passed the exam and joined the Register?

My priority is to get my parents visas but that is far more difficult than passing the RCVS exam. I need to spend quality time with my parents and share my happiness with them. In terms of work plans, I am looking for a practice near the area I am living.

Have you been able to tell family back home about your achievement?

Despite internet filtering in my country, I talked to them. Actually, my parents are even happier than me. They told me find a job ASAP, compensate whatever the UK provides for you, and do whatever you can for the Brits and their beloved animals.

October 2023