The Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive (Directive 2005/36/EC) on the mutual recognition of qualifications will no longer apply from 1 January 2021.

The UK government will maintain a system of recognition for architects with an approved qualification from an European Economic Area (EEA) state or Switzerland, provided the applicant has access to the profession in their home state.

During the transition period

The Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive is a reciprocal arrangement which enables European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals to have their professional qualifications recognised in an European Economic Area State other than the one in which the qualification was obtained. It provides several routes to do so, including:

  • Automatic recognition on the basis of coordination of minimum training conditions. This recognition based on EEA-wide standards applies to: Doctors, Nurses, Dental practitioners, Veterinary surgeons, Midwives, Pharmacists and Architects.
  • The General System for registration of architects allows regulators to compare an applicant’s qualifications to the same or similar UK qualifications for a particular regulated profession. If the qualifications are equivalent, recognition is granted. If there are substantial differences in the qualification, the regulator must consider offering ‘compensation’ measures to allow the applicant to make up any gaps or differences in the qualification. These may be a requirement for the applicant to undertake further studies, usually in the UK. Only if compensation measures are not feasible can the regulator refuse to recognise the qualification and not permit access to the profession.
  • A mechanism which facilitates and sets out rules for a temporary or occasional provision of service. This allows EEA and Swiss professionals to move to and work in the UK in a regulated profession on a temporary basis, whilst remaining established in their home state.

The Directive applies in general to regulated professions unless otherwise stated. A non-exhaustive list of professions covered by the Directive is available in the database of regulated professions.

The Directive also provides rules for recognition of non-EEA qualifications held by EEA and Swiss nationals.

The current version of the MRPQ Directive (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU) is implemented in the UK by the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015. Parts of an earlier version of the MRPQ Directive were originally implemented in the UK by the European Communities (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2007, which have since been revoked except as they apply to Switzerland. This is supplemented by the Architects Act 1997, the relevant legislation to the Architects Registration Board.

From 1 January 2021

The MRPQ Directive will no longer apply to the UK and there will be no system of reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications between the remaining EEA states and the UK.

As such, the Architects Act 1997 will be amended via 2 Statutory Instruments for EEA nationals and Swiss nationals respectively, to correct deficiencies in the system for recognition of professional qualifications that arise in law as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is to ensure that the current arrangement of automatic recognition of EEA and Swiss qualified architects operates as closely as is possible, subject to any immigration rules that may be in place.

Architects that hold registration or have applied prior to Exit

Architects that have already registered with the Architects Registration Board will continue to be recognised.

Professionals practising under temporary and occasional status will be able to continue to do so until the expiry of such status, with no option to renew.

Architects who have submitted applications to the Architects Registration Board to have their professional qualification recognised before exit day but have not yet received a decision will have their application considered and concluded under the Directive procedure as far as possible. Applications will need to be settled within the deadlines set out in the Architects Act.

Architects submitting applications from 1 January 2021

The UK will retain a system of recognition for EEA and Swiss qualifications at exit day that is similar to the current system. UK regulators will continue to recognise EEA and Swiss qualifications that are currently automatically recognised and referred to in point 5.7.1 of Annex V to Directive 2005/36/EC as it has effect on the day the UK exits the EU, provided the applicant has access to the profession in their home state. EEA or Swiss citizenship will not be a requirement for this system of recognition.

A review of these arrangements will be undertaken in due course. A consultation will be undertaken by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with input from the Architects Registration Board prior to any significant legislative changes.

Those architects with EEA and Swiss qualifications who were previously in the scope of the general system, and acquired rights nationals, will be required to apply under the third country route to recognition. This includes the prescribed exams at Part 1 and Part 2, and the completion of a UK Part 3 exam.

The government will continue to work with the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Civil Service as well as regulatory bodies to ensure the future system for the recognition of professional qualifications works across the UK.


There are implications for all the professions named in this notice as well as businesses:

  • For EEA and Swiss professionals (including UK nationals holding EEA and Swiss qualifications) who are already established and have received a recognition decision in the UK, this recognition decision will not be affected and will remain valid.
  • EEA and Swiss professionals (including UK nationals holding EEA and Swiss qualifications) who have not started an application for a recognition decision in the UK before 1 January 2021 will be subject to future arrangements, as detailed above.
  • European Economic Area and Swiss professionals (including UK nationals holding European Economic Area and Swiss qualifications) who have applied for a recognition decision and are awaiting a decision on 1 January 2021 will, as far as possible, be able to conclude their applications in line with the provisions of the MRPQ Directive.

Individuals with UK qualifications seeking recognition to offer services in the EEA or Switzerland should check the host state national policies. The EU Commission has stated that decisions on the recognition of UK qualifications in EU Member States before 1 January 2021 are not affected. EEA and Swiss individuals presently studying in the UK who expect to secure UK qualifications after 1 January 2021 should check the host state national policy on what recognition will apply.

Actions for businesses and other stakeholders

UK based architectural practices that currently employ EEA and Swiss architects (including UK nationals holding EEA and Swiss qualifications) who are already established and recognised by the Architects Registration Board do not need to take any action as the recognition decision will remain valid.

Architects with EEA or Swiss qualifications and employers wishing to recruit architects from the EEA and Switzerland should not expect significant delays to recognition decisions, subject to the correct documentation being made available to the ARB in line with its published requirements.

UK regulators may no longer have access to some EU systems, and regulator cooperation is no longer obligatory. This includes the Internal Market Information (IMI) system, which facilitates the exchange of information between regulators.

European Economic Area and Swiss architects should be aware that due to the potential loss of the IMI System, in the event that an application is incomplete or supporting documents are insufficient, it will be the responsibility of the EEA or Swiss applicant to obtain the required documentation from their Home Competent Authority.

More information

In 2015, the government published guidance for regulatory bodies of professional qualifications. It sets out the obligations placed upon them by the revised Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC. The published guidance will be updated to reflect the changes that are made to the MRPQ Regulations during the transition period.

Stakeholders will be able to find further information on rules and rights from 1 January 2021 on www.gov.uk.

This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.

These arrangements are without prejudice to the rights and privileges accorded, by virtue of the Common Travel Area, to Irish and UK citizens when in each other’s state.

Published 24 January 2019
Last updated 8 August 2019 
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