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UK to launch fast track visa for scientists and researchers

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Thursday, 8 August 2019 that UK visa systems will be amended to attract more top scientists into the UK. The UK Home Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Immigration Department have been instructed to work out a fast-track system for visas so the scheme can be up and running in the shortest possible time.

How will the fast-track scientist visa application work?

Boris Johnson announced these reforms while visiting the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. The current situation is that highly skilled migrant applications need to apply for a Tier One visa, which is capped at a maximum of 2,000 entrants per year. Boris Johnson has announced that this limit will be scrapped for leading scientists and family members. He has also commented that the application system should be easier.

Although the UK’s major scientific organisations have welcomed these visa proposals, they are still firm in the belief that UK research will be damaged far more in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister stated that he would like to see more openness from the UK when it comes to attracting the world’s top science talent. He said: “We’re going to turn the UK into a kind of supercharged magnet, drawing scientists like iron filings from around the world coming to help push forward projects like this (fusion research in Culham) in which we can not only take a scientific lead but a commercial lead as well.”

The UK currently employs a vast number of scientists from Europe, and following Brexit, any European scientists wanting to live and work in the UK will need to go through the typical visa application process. At present applicants from other countries undergo a rigorous process which can take 100 days or more. 

The main science organisations and research bodies in the UK fear that Brexit will cause a huge shortage of labour within the scientific skills sector.

About the new scientist fast track visa system

The Prime Minister has requested a new visa application system for scientists which will have no limits on numbers of applicants and will fall into the Tier One exceptional talent structure. He has also indicated that the number of universities and research organisations with the ability to endorse applications will be increased.

It is anticipated that this new scientist fast track visa will provide automatic endorsement of applications once immigration checks are completed, and will also allow family members and dependants to work in the UK. 

Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, the President of the Royal Society, commented: “We welcome the government’s objective of supporting science by facilitating the immigration of researchers at all levels and look forward to discussing the details of a new immigration system. But the fact remains, half of the international academic talent in UK universities comes from the European Union and the EU is our single largest research collaborator. Alongside immigration reform, therefore, maintaining close working ties with researchers in Europe and access to EU research funding, are essential. A no-deal exit from the EU is the worst option for science.”

Richmond Chambers is a barrister-only immigration law firm, specialising in Tier 1 visa applications. If you’d like to discuss your Scientist Fast Track visa application, or any other Tier 1 visa application queries, in more detail don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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