In a statement on Facebook Live, Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that he intends to change the immigration rules to make the UK “even more open, even more welcoming to scientists from around the world.”
Mr Johnson said: ‘Britain has a proud history of innovation, with home-grown inventions spanning from the humble bicycle to the lightbulb… But 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.’
The Home Office will work with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the scientific community to develop the new visa route, which the government hopes to launch later this year. There are a number of options available:
1. An entirely new fast track visa route designed to attract researchers and specialists working in science, engineering and technology and which confers automatic endorsement subject to immigration checks.
2. Amending the criteria of the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa and Tier 1 Exceptional Promise visa categories, including abolishing the annual cap on numbers.
3. Expanding the pool of UK research institutes and universities which are able to endorse candidates as exceptional.
4. Removing the requirement to hold an offer of employment before arriving as under the existing Tier 2 Sponsored Skilled Worker route.
5. Providing an accelerated path to settlement.
The government announcement postulated “ensuring dependents have full access to the labour market”, however, this already exists across all Points Based Dependant categories.
Having already retreated from former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May’s policy of seeking to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, this marks an attempt to mitigate some of the damage that Brexit, and especially a no-deal Brexit, will inflict on the UK science sector hoping to ensure that the UK can continue to attract the brightest and the best.
Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, chairwoman of the Wellcome Trust wrote to Mr Johnson last month to advise that damage has already been done to the UK science sector through a loss of researchers and influence, pointing by way of example to a 50% drop in applicants from the European Union wishing to study at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge. She said, “We are at a tipping point. If we don't do [something], if we make the UK unfriendly to scientists overseas, the damage that has already been done in the last three years by the uncertainty of Brexit will be compounded." Yesterday’s announcement is clearly designed to mitigate this damage and, in the words of Mr Johnson, is aimed at making the UK “the greatest place for science, the greatest place to start a business and invest, the greatest place to bring up your kids and send them to school, the greatest place to live. That is the mission.”
With a “radical overhaul” of the immigration rules already announced it will be important to ensure good quality legal advice and representation to stay on top of all the forthcoming changes. RLegal Solicitors are here to help.