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Boris Johnson to unveil ‘talent visa’ for high-flying scientists

Global Talent visa due to come into effect on 20 February

Boris Johnson

The UK is planning to introduce a fast-track visa for scientists next month that the government says will help attract “the most talented minds in the world”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Global Talent visa – due to come into effect shortly after the UK leaves the EU on Friday – would encourage “scientists, researchers and mathematicians” to take up positions in the UK, with no ceiling on the number that can be accepted and no need to have a job offer before applying.

Applicants will have to work in a qualified field and be endorsed by a recognised UK scientific body, according to the government, which says the new visa will replace an earlier ‘exceptional talent’ route that was capped at 2,000 a year. It will come into effect on 20 February.

Critics – including Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine – have suggested the changes amount to a rebranding exercise for a scheme that has been running for a long time without ever hitting the cap on available places.

“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,” said the Prime Minister in a statement issued this morning.

“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,” he added.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is to manage the scheme rather than the Home Office, which usually handles immigration issues. It will be able to endorse applicants for UK positions, along with other bodies like the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, and the British Academy.

At the moment, around half of the UK’s 211,000 scientific workforce are EU nationals, according to a BBC report. Last October, a report suggested that the UK was experiencing a drop in research application grants for top scientific talent, which had been attributed to Brexit uncertainty.

Top industry leaders have maintained that guaranteeing the job and visa security for scientists is paramount if the UK wants to remain a top global power in both the pharma and life sciences sectors.

The announcement came alongside a pledge to invest £300m ($393m) – $60m a year for five years – into “experimental and imaginative mathematical sciences research”, including artificial intelligence projects. The funding will double the number of fellowships and PhD places available to scientists.

Ahead of last year’s general election, Johnson also promised to introduce a system of accelerated, cut-price visas for doctors, nurses and other key NHS workers.

Article by
Phil Taylor

27th January 2020

From: Healthcare

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