Will the new global talent visa put Britain back in the business of international research?

Will the new global talent visa put Britain back in the business of international research?

In a move aimed at showing that the UK is serious about welcoming international research talent post-Brexit, the new Tier 1 Global Talent visa scheme opens for applications on 20 February. Replacing the undersubscribed Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, this updated route is designed to attract top scientists, mathematicians and researchers to choose Britain for work.

A much more flexible route to living and working in the UK, the new visa is set to offer a number of advantages to eligible applicants. No job offer or minimum salary is needed ahead of application to this route, and migrants can apply for settlement after three, rather than five, years in the UK.

Part of the reason for the update is the relative failure of the outgoing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise scheme. With a limit of 2,000 applicants per year and restrictive eligibility criteria, very few researchers qualified for this route into Britain. In reality, only very senior appointments like professorships had any prospect of getting a visa in this way. The 2,000-visa cap was rarely reached, proving how inaccessible this route was to the talented minds it was designed to recruit.  

Administration of the new visa scheme will be managed by UK Research and Innovation and not the Home Office. This shows a shift in attitude from the government: they want the decision-making process to be handled differently, and more transparently. This should also encourage more applications in the first place.

Rashid Uzzaman, Business Immigration Solicitor at Harper James, comments: “If the new Global Talent route succeeds in attracting the best scientists and researchers, it will help the UK re-establish itself as an international centre for research and innovation. We’ve been sliding back in this respect for some time and this will help boost our credentials. This new visa has the potential to create jobs and therefore directly benefit the economy.”

The introduction of the new visa route has not been without its detractors. The government has faced criticism that it only wants to attract elite research talent and that this will continue to leave shortages in those fields. Some commentators fear that the route is just a marketing trick: nothing more than a new name for the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas and that very few will able to qualify. There is also disquiet that the requirements may discriminate against migrants from Africa and Asia and may not be as inclusive as the government says it is.

However, by removing some of the previously restrictive eligibility criteria, the new visa route is likely to widen the talent pool of international research skills for Britain. Only time will tell if the scheme is successful or not.

If you’ve got questions about what the new Tier 1 Global Talent visas might mean for your organisation, our business immigration solicitors can give you up-to-date legal advice. You can also read our helpful guide to the new Global Talent visas.

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