Government departments are to work with Britain’s scientific community in developing a new fast-track visa system that ‘attracts the very best minds from around the world’.
The Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will work with the research community on the new visa, which is expected to launch later this year.
“To ensure we continue to lead the way in the advancement of knowledge, we have to not only support the talent that we already have here, but also ensure our immigration system attracts the very best minds from around the world,” said prime minister Boris Johnson. “The fast-track immigration route will be designed to attract elite researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology.”
Proposals to be discussed include abolishing the cap on numbers under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas, removing the need to have a job offer before arriving in the UK, and expanding the number of UK research institutes and universities able to endorse candidates.
The government said it will provide additional funding for scientists and researchers who have sought EU funding before the UK leaves the EU, including schemes delivered by the European Research Council.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government will ensure that pending Horizon 2020 applications will be automatically reviewed by UKRI, with successful applications provided with funding.
Johnson said: “I want the UK to continue to be a global science superpower, and when we leave the EU we will support science and research and ensure that, far from losing out, the scientific community has a huge opportunity to develop and export our innovation around the world.”
Today’s proposals have received a mixed reaction from Britain’s STEM community.
“A no deal Brexit is already reducing Britain from a world science superpower to an also ran in Europe,” said Prof John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, UCL. “More money always helps but science is about collaboration across borders and even the threat of a hard Brexit is seriously damaging to our national interests. The strategy of promising more help to every sector of the economy which will be damaged is simply not credible.”
“A fast-track immigration system for talented researchers and technicians will set the UK on the right track to maintain the UK’s position as a science and engineering superpower…and reassure the world that the UK remains an open and welcoming country,” said Prof Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. “However, EU research and innovation programmes have made vital contribution to the success of the UK’s research and innovation base. A No-deal Brexit could dramatically increase our chances of being unable to participate in these programmes.”
Fast-track visa options:
- abolishing the cap on numbers under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas
- expanding the pool of UK research institutes and universities able to endorse candidates
- creating criteria that confer automatic endorsement, subject to immigration checks
- ensuring dependents have full access to the labour market
- removing the need to hold an offer of employment before arriving
- accelerated path to settlement
Source: HM Gov’t