A new fast-tracked visa for researchers after the UK leaves the European Union has drawn scepticism from the Liberal Democrats.
Scientists will receive fast-tracked entry into the country under the new scheme
Top scientists, researchers and mathematicians will get fast-track entry to the UK under a new scheme announced by Boris Johnson.
The so-called Global Talent visa opens on 20 February, less than a month after Brexit, due to take place on Friday.
It replaces the old tier-one “exceptional talent” visa, which allowed applicants to be recommended by a number of science and research academies.
Applicants for the old visa were capped at 2,000 per year, but that limit was never reached.
Under the new visa, the UK Research and Innovation funding agency will be added to the list of groups that can endorse applicants.
In this new visa, applicants will not need a job offer before arriving in the country and will be assessed more quickly for settlement once accepted.
The government has also announced £300m in funding for experimental and imaginative mathematical sciences research in the next five years, double funding for new PhDs and a boost to maths fellowships and research projects.
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In announcing the scheme as the country prepares to leave the EU, the prime minister said Britain’s borders would be open to the “most talented minds in the world” after Brexit.
He said the nation “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”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the “decisive action” to boost numbers through the Global Talent route would “keep the UK at the forefront of innovation”.
But the Liberal Democrats played down any real change the visa might bring, saying the cap on the current one has never been hit.
Lib Dems Home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine called the announcement “nothing more than a marketing gimmick”.
“Boris Johnson is showing that he fundamentally doesn’t understand what makes our science sector so successful,” she said.
“Changing the name of a visa and removing a cap that’s never been hit is not a serious plan.”
The scheme, managed by the UK Research and Innovation organisation, will help UK-based research projects with recognised prestigious grants and awards to recruit global talent.
The National Health Service has suffered a significant staff shortage since the Brexit vote, with recruits from the EU leaving the UK in large numbers.
More than 40,000 nursing roles were empty as of January.
The Government plans to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system by early 2021, to coincide with the end of Britain’s transition period with the EU.
A proposed £30,000 minimum salary threshold for migrants has alarmed businesses, who fear they might be facing a shortage of workers in sectors such as construction or hospitality.
The government is considering what to do about the threshold.
– By Clare Sibthorpe, news reporter