The government has introduced a new fast-track visa scheme with no upper limit, designed to attract the world’s top scientific minds to this country and to ensure the UK retains a leading edge in technological developments after Brexit.
The Global Talent visa will enable the world’s best scientists and researchers to accelerate through the UK visa application process and is part of wider government reforms to speed up the rate of highly skilled people coming into the country after its departure from the European Union.
The initiative will replace the current Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa on 20 February and is backed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Home Office.
The announcement also ties in with a £300m funding grant by the government for “experimental and imaginative mathematical sciences” over the next five years, meaning £60m will be available each year for new PhDs, mathematics fellowships and research projects.
The immigration reforms and extra funding are part of wider commitments made last summer by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to ensure science, research and innovation are top priorities for the UK in future – and to underpin the UK’s research into technological developments around artificial intelligence (AI), green energy systems, crime prevention, and other smart technologies.
The Global Talent visa will…
- enable an individual to be fast-tracked to the visa application stage
- have no cap on the number of people able to come to the UK
- enable UK-based research with recognised grants, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), to recruit top global minds, benefiting a wider range of higher education and research establishments
- double the number of eligible fellowships, such as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, the European Research Council (ERC) and Human Frontier Science (HFSP)
- not require an individual to hold an offer of employment before arriving in the UK, or tie them to one specific job
- give researchers and their dependants exemption from government absences rules, in which they are required overseas for work-related purposes, ensuring they are not penalised when they apply for settlement
“The UK is a world leader in science, with research and innovation that changes lives being undertaken every day in this country,” said home secretary, Priti Patel.
“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.”
UKRI is also talking with academics and industry figures about a government-backed plan to reduce and simplify bureaucracy around R&D projects, including lengthy paperwork and application processes that hinder otherwise meaningful work in curing disease and improving UK transport networks.
A Place Strategy for UK research and development is due to be published in the summer, alongside an examination about how UK catapult centres can strengthen R&D capacity in local areas.
“Universities are globally connected and this announcement signals that the UK remains open to talent from around the world,” said professor Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of Brunel University London.
“Our universities carry out life-changing research and our knowledge base, economy, and wider society will benefit from the international staff we can attract through this visa route.”