The reference to a ‘more open visa system’ in the Queen’s Speech should be approached with caution. Although an emphasis was placed on scientific capability and space technology, the above statement refers essentially to the wider policy of implementing a ‘points based immigration system’. Nevertheless, the specific reference to scientific capability reflects the Prime Minister’s wish to make the UK more attractive to international scientific talent. How this will operate in practice is an interesting question.
Currently, EU researchers make up roughly half of the UK scientific workforce. Whilst freedom of movement is in operation, these researchers do not require a visa to live and work in the UK. The proposed new immigration bill, post Brexit, would require EU citizens to be subject to the same immigration procedures as non-EU citizens, thus ending free movement in the UK. Concerns have been raised as to the impact this would have on the scientific community. Enter the rhetoric of fast-track visas for scientists and expanding the cap on exceptional talent visas.
Referred to as a Global Talent Visa, this system would closely resemble the current Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route, however the proposed new route would not have a cap on the number of visas issued per year, would not require a pre-existing job offer in the UK, would provide an accelerated route to settlement, and dependent family members would be allowed to work in the UK. Although these ‘improvements’ seek to simplify what many see as an overly complicated application process, the reality is that the current cap for exceptional talent visas is rarely reached. We shall have to await the publication of the details for this proposed visa route in order to assess its viability. The logic, however,- open the doors to skilled workers and make the process for their entry to the UK simple and effective - is sound.
It must be noted that this new visa route would fall into line with the overall proposed changes to the immigration system, involving points based allocation. The process will score applicants on English ability, learned skills, academic achievement, needs-based job skills and willingness to move to various parts of the UK. When combined, this all-new immigration system (yet to be set out fully) will seek to bolster the inflow of highly skilled workers to the UK. The idea has been met with mixed reactions from the scientific community and other highly skilled fields. On the one hand they praise the recognized need to open the UK to global talent, but on the other remain dubious that such efforts will staunch the inevitable outflow of EU citizens currently making up a considerable proportion of the UK’s high skilled workforce. The prospects of such far-reaching changes require a long-term approach, and a detailed assessment of the new system, as and when it is revealed, will give an indication of how successful it could be.
For a comprehensive comparison of an 'Australian' points based system, and the UK’s current immigration system, see here.
If you are considering applying for an exceptional talent visa, or are considering your UK immigration options after Brexit, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.
Paralegal in our General Immigration team