As the prospect of leaving the EU becomes a reality, many of those working at the forefront of research and development projects are as concerned as other industries. But perhaps there is some reassurance in the ‘Global Talent Route’ of immigration, which was announced in January and opened on 20th February 2020.

Unfortunately, the global health pandemic has rather scuppered everyone’s plans for travel and work in another country. But this will only be for now, maybe it helps to be looking forward and see what government support is in place for your next R&D projects.

What does the ‘Global Talent Route’ mean?

The government’s aim is to make sure that talented individuals from around the world are not impeded by bureaucracy if they want to come and work in the UK.

Prime Minister Johnson, said: “The UK has a proud history of scientific discovery, but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting edge research. That is why as we leave the EU I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality.”

This change is a replacement of the old tier one ‘exceptional talent’ visa. The scheme will be administered by the UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI), not the Home Office.

Main elements of the Global Talent Route

  • Fast tracked visas for top scientists and researchers
  • Not necessary to have a job to get a visa
  • Visa not tied to one job
  • No cap on numbers
  • Double the number of research fellowships
  • Research bodies and other institutions able to endorse someone’s application
  • Dependents can access work here too
  • Researchers and scientists on the Global Talent Route will have an “accelerated path to settlement”

Priti Patel, Home Secretary, said: “The UK is a world leader in science, with research and innovation that changes lives being undertaken every day in this country. To keep the UK at the forefront of innovation, we are taking decisive action to maximise the number of individuals using the Global Talent route including world-class scientists and top researchers who can benefit from fast-tracked entry into the UK.”

What do other people think about the scheme?

There has been a lot of support for the fast-tracking scheme. For example president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Sir Jim McDonald said: “The new arrangements will allow awardees of a much larger range of UK and international fellowships to receive fast-track visas through the academies, while UKRI will administer a route that awards fast-track visas to principals and named team members of research and innovation grants from a range of endorsed funders.”

But others, while welcoming the prioritisation of boosting innovation in the UK, are concerned about the emphasis on ‘top talent’.

Christine Jardine, a Liberal Democrat, said: “Science relies on thousands of researchers, and this announcement does nothing for the vast majority of them. If the government is serious about championing UK science, it must prioritise continued mobility as part of our future relationship with the EU.”

At the very least, the scheme may help those worried about a ‘brain drain’ of European colleagues as we move out of the European Union. Half of our scientific industry is staffed by workers from the EU. They’ve been working here without the need for a visa. But this may all change dramatically.

We’ll all have to wait and see what January brings. But this is one way of getting international talent into your business quickly. Worth keeping the information in your back pocket, in case you need it for your next R&D project.

Jamie Smith