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New immigration route for overseas researchers to come to the UK

As part of its effort to encourage the ongoing growth of the research sector in the UK, the Home Office has introduced a new ‘UKRI Science, Research and Academia’ scheme for overseas researchers to come to the UK.

The ‘UKRI Science, Research and Academia’ scheme opened on 6 July 2018 by way of an addition to the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange) visa route.  

The Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange) route is the principal visa route by which non-EEA nationals who wish to undertake training and work experience are able to come to the UK.  The new scheme allows non-EEA researchers, scientists and academics to come to the UK for up to 2 years.

The scheme is operated by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and means that they, along with 12 approved independent research organisations, including the Natural History Museum, are able to directly sponsor highly skilled researchers to work and train in the UK.

Sponsored researchers include academics, researchers, scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology specialists who will be hosted through an approved research institute, in a supernumerary role.

The sponsored researcher may give lectures (which do not amount to a formal teaching post), act as an examiner, undertake skill development/knowledge transfer, undertake a period of work-based training/work experience/internship/placement or work on research collaborations.

The sponsor organisations will be monitored by UKRI as the scheme owner and they will also require individual Tier 5 sponsor licences.

Other recent reforms to the work visa system include:

  • doubling the number of visas available on the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route to 2,000 per year;
  • a new Start-up visa route which will replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route and widen the pool of candidates who can apply to launch a new business in the UK beyond graduates endorsed by higher education institutions; and
  • removing doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 cap

Contact our Business Immigration Barristers

For advice and assistance with applying for a UK research and innovation visa, contact our business immigration barristers in London on 020 3617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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