The UK Government has announced its plans for a new “Global Talent Visa” for researchers to come to the UK to work. This visa will open on the 20 February 2020 and will be administered by UKRI. The route will replace the “Exceptional Talent” Tier 1 visas.

In addition to having no limits on the number of visas, key features of the Global Talent Visa include no salary threshold for eligibility, researchers can be accompanied by their families (assuming relevant requirements are met), and research conducted outside of the UK will count towards settlement, which can be applied for after three years.

This new visa aims to be fast and flexible, where eligible researchers can apply to switch to a Global Talent Visa from within the UK.

There will be four routes to apply for a Global Talent Visa, reflecting different roles within research. This is a broadening of the criteria for who is eligible for these visas compared to the current Exceptional Talent visas:

  • Senior Appointments: professor, associate professor, reader, senior group leader or equivalent at any UK higher education institution (HEI) or eligible research institute.
  • Fellowships: fast-track endorsement for applicants awarded a fellowship on the list approved by the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society.
  • Endorsed Funders: those whose name or job title is listed in a grant awarded by a recognised funder, which has been subject to peer review. Applicants must be employed by, hosted by, or have an offer of employment or hosting from a UK HEI or other recognised research institute. There are currently 21 funders from across the globe listed as endorsed funders, with the implication that this list will remain under review and potentially be updated in future.
  • Peer Review: individuals who submit an application for review by The British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering or The Royal Society.

Senior Appointments, Fellowships and Endorsed Funder routes will all be fast-tracked for endorsement. Following endorsement, applicants should have a decision on their visa within three weeks. There are more details of the eligibility criteria for the four visa routes and a list of the current Endorsed Funders on the UKRI website. Further details of the ‘endorsed funder’ route are anticipated when it launches in February.

Commenting on the Global Talent Visa, Professor Sir Pete Downes, President of the Biochemical Society said:

“The Government has been a vocal supporter for science and innovation and it is great to see this announcement from 2019 coming into action. The proposed Global Talent fast-track visa is a positive step towards an immigration system that works for science. We are particularly pleased to see the proposed “Endorsed Funders” route of eligibility for the scheme, which looks to enable talented scientists of different levels and career stages to come to the UK to work. Science is international and a team effort. Access to global talent has been a vital part of the UK’s reputation as a leading science nation. We look forward to further exploring the details of what we hope will be an immigration system that reflects this.”

The announcement of the Global Talent Visa has been broadly welcomed by the scientific community.

Dr Sarah Main, Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering said:

"The Global Talent visa is a great move to attract talented scientists to the UK from Europe and worldwide, which is positive as science thrives on collaboration and new ideas.[…] We now need to make sure the scheme is fully used, which will require effective communication about the visa route to the science community in the UK and globally, to ensure that it makes its mark. Previous visa systems have lacked the profile to be fully utilised. We will continue to work with the Government as they develop further phases for the Global Talent Visa to ensure it meets the needs of the whole UK science and engineering community."

Dr Main’s comment reflects some criticism that the previous quota for Exceptional Talent Tier 1 Visas of 2,000 per annum was not met. However, current plans for the new visa look to be open to a broader range of researchers than previous fast-tracked options, something the science and engineering community has been calling for.

Also included in the Government’s science announcement on the 27 January was additional investment to be put into mathematical sciences, and the development of a Place Strategy for UK R&D which will be published later this year.

Further Reading:

UK Government press release

UKRI website with further details

Full reaction from CaSE

BBC – Global Talent visa: New system to keep UK ‘open to talented scientists’

Science Media Centre rapid roundup of comments from the sector