UK doubles fast-track visas for international scientist

Last Updated 23 December 2019, 14:17 IST

The UK government on Monday announced to double fast-track visas for scientists from around the world, including India.

UK home secretary Priti Patel said the number of eligible fellowships which can offer an accelerated endorsement for visas for scientists wanting to conduct research in the UK will double from 62 to over 120.

Britain's senior-most Indian-origin minister said the plan builds on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s outline for a wider pool of world-leading scientists and researchers to be able to benefit from a fast-track process to obtain entry into the UK.

“The UK is already a world leader in science, with some of the most exciting and innovative research being undertaken here in this country. We want to make sure the UK continues to be at the forefront of innovation, so we need an immigration system that attracts the sharpest minds from around the globe,” said Patel.

“As part of this ambitious plan, we are taking decisive action to boost the number of top scientists and elite researchers who can benefit from fast-tracked entry into the UK,” she said.

In line with the current process, qualified scientists who receive such fellowships will only need to provide a letter from the relevant funding organisation, which will see them fast-tracked to the UK Home Office visa application stage where immigration checks will be carried out. The UK government says this will ensure that world-leading scientists can come to the country as soon as possible to begin their innovative work.

“We want the UK to be a global science superpower, and continuing to attract the world's top scientists and researchers to join us in the race to solve the great challenges of the future – from clean energy and advanced storage to solving antibiotic resistance – is an important part of realising that ambition,” said UK business secretary Andrea Leadsom.

Organisations joining an expanded list include world-renowned research fellowships such as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Human Frontier Science, European Research Council and the European Molecular Biology Organisation.

A number of additional awards from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and its research councils will also be added, allowing the UK to attract a wide range of elite researchers and specialists, the government said. The revised list of fellowships will be added to the existing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route, which is the beginning of a wider package of measures to welcome the brightest and best researchers to the UK, it added.

As announced in August, the department also confirmed bringing forward the plans to abolish the cap on the numbers under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and an accelerated path to settlement for those who arrive under the exceptional talent scheme. The new changes are set to be implemented in the early New Year.

Britain is set to leave the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020 and experts have previously called for a progressive new post-Brexit system that remains open to worldwide talent. Earlier this year, Indian-origin Nobel Prize winning scientist Venki Ramakrishnan had flagged Royal Society analysis, which found that UK science missed out on around EURO 0.5 billion a year because of the “uncertainty around Brexit”.

“We need to fully associate to European research programmes and we need an immigration system that makes global talent at all levels feel welcome in coming to the UK,” said Professor Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, in the wake of Boris Johnson's landslide election win earlier this month.

“The Prime Minister promised ‘colossal’ investment in science, which backs up his campaign commitment to doubling public investment in science by 2024-25. This is a welcome commitment, which is central to addressing the pressing health, environmental, and economic issues that the PM has prioritised. It will also help us to build on our many strengths in UK science and innovation,” he said.

(Published 23 December 2019, 14:17 IST)

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