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Downing Street announces plans for new fast-track visa route for scientists


Plans to attract "brightest and best" could see cap on Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas abolished

Date of Publication:
09 August 2019

Downing Street announces plans for new fast-track visa route for scientists

09 August 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced plans to change the Immigration Rules to develop a new fast-track visa route for scientists.

Johnson said: "[T]o 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."

According to Downing Street, the fast-track immigration route will be designed to attract elite researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology, from maths Olympiads at the very start of their careers to the winners of internationally recognised prizes and fellowships.

The Government added that ideas and options which could be discussed with leading institutions and universities include:

  • abolishing the cap on numbers under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas
  • expanding the pool of UK research institutes and universities able to endorse candidates
  • creating criteria that confer automatic endorsement, subject to immigration checks
  • ensuring dependents have full access to the labour market
  • removing the need to hold an offer of employment before arriving
  • accelerated path to settlement

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new fast-track visa route would be a key part of a post-Brexit, points-based immigration system that would attract the brightest and best global talent to the UK.

In response, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said the Prime Minister's announcement was a "sticking plaster policy to cover the gaping wound that will be a No Deal Brexit."

She added: "Boris Johnson has not even taken the time to confirm his position on the EU Settlement scheme and what it will mean for the rights of EU nationals. So this announcement is simply an attempt to gloss over the very real damage his Brexit approach will do scientific research and development."

The Independent noted that physicist Sir Andre Geim was also among those who expressed scepticism at the announcement.

The Independent quoted him as saying: "The government may try and reduce the barriers to entry for scientists but they cannot reduce turmoil that would be caused to science in the UK by a no-deal Brexit. Scientists are not fools. They know that turmoil is inevitable for many years."