The government has this week announced a new uncapped fast-track visa for top scientists and researchers to gain entry to the UK, which will replace the Tier 1 (exceptional talent) visa.
The technology community in particular has been calling for an overhaul of the visa system, particularly since the Brexit vote, to allow for more talent to come and live and work in the country.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson seems to be following through on special adviser Dominic Cummings’ plans to make the UK the “school of the world” and a “leading country for education and science”.
The new Global Talent visa, which comes with £300 million in funding for “experimental and imaginative” mathematical sciences research, hopes to underpin the government’s plan to make the UK a cutting-edge centre for real-world technological developments.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said:
The UK has a proud history of scientific discovery, but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting edge research.
That is why as we leave the EU I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality.
The Global Talent route
The new visa system will have no cap on the number of people allowed to come to the UK (which has been a complaint from industry in the past) and for the first time UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will play a role in endorsing applicants from the scientific and research community.
The Global Talent route, as it is being dubbed, will:
Provide a fast-track scheme, managed by UKRI, for UK-based research projects to recruit top global talent. The government states that this will benefit higher education institutions, research institutes and public sector research establishments. Individuals will be fast-tracked to the visa application stage.
Double the number of eligible fellowships, which will also enable individuals to be fast-tracked.
Ensure dependents have full access to the labour market.
Not place restrictions on individuals, who do not need to hold an offer of employment before arriving, nor need to be tied to one specific job.
The government claims that these changes are part of wider reforms to enable those with world class skills in science and research to come to the UK as soon as possible.
Some £60 million per year has also been set aside to double funding for new PhDs, as well as increase the number of maths fellowships and research projects.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said:
The UK is a world leader in science, with research and innovation that changes lives being undertaken every day in this country.
To keep the UK at the forefront of innovation, we are taking decisive action to maximise the number of individuals using the Global Talent route including world-class scientists and top researchers who can benefit from fast-tracked entry into the UK.
Global science superpower
The departments involved with the visa announcement said that the funding forms part of the government’s ambition to establish the UK as a “global science superpower”, with the aim of changing the way people “live, work and travel”.
The government also said that it will be launching a major review of research bureaucracy and methods, including “unnecessary paperwork, arduous funding applications and research selection processes”. It hopes that this will free up and support the best researchers to focus on ambitious and meaningful research.
Scientists, researchers, academics and industry figures will be consulted on what more can be done. As part of this, UKRI will remove the requirement to precisely forecast long-term benefits of projects with unpredictable results.
The UK’s catapult centres - a network of technology centres designed to enhance the UK’s capability for innovation - will also be examined to see how they can be used to strengthen research and development capacity in local areas.
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said:
Today’s announcements further underline the importance of research and innovation to the future success of the UK and the government’s continued commitment and investment.
Working with the government, UK Research and Innovation is ensuring that the UK remains a globally leading environment for research and innovation.
Our ambition is clear: to create a stronger research and innovation environment that is focused on supporting talented people and realising the full potential of their work.
The Immigration Rules to bring the visa changes into effect will be made on the 30 January 2020 and come into effect on the 20 February.