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On the 27 November 2017 the UK Government published an ambitious and impressive White Paper entitled ”Building a Britain Fit for the Future”.

As part of an overall “Industrial Strategy”, the Government has stated that it recognised that “research and innovation are global endeavours and talented and experienced people in these fields are internationally mobile. Businesses have talent scouts around the world to spot opportunities in the most creative clusters, and investment tends to follow talent. The UK has the second largest bilateral flow of scientists and we want the UK to be a magnet for world-class talent.” (p88)

In view of this, the Government will seek to increase the number of scientists working in the UK by enabling leading scientists from around the world easier access to work in the UK. The Government wishes to “continue to recruit and retain the best talent and ensure the UK remains a world-leader in science and innovation” through its Rutherford Fund. The Government further wants to “continue to be an attractive destination for the world’s most talented and innovative people” (p88) and stated that the “UK will continue to remain a global, outward looking nation and home to the brightest and best. Our thriving and flexible labour market continues to attract international businesses and investment, enabling businesses to respond and adapt to economic change. To ensure that our labour market remains competitive, the Migration Advisory Committee has recently undertaken a wide-ranging consultation to form a UK-wide view of our skills needs, ensuring our future migration system supports our Industrial Strategy. We will consider the Migration Advisory Committee’s forthcoming conclusions carefully.” (p125)

In its efforts to implement the above strategy the Government has announced the following changes:

  • The number of available visas in the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route available to those who are already recognised as global leaders or who show considerable promise in their fields are to be doubled. This recognises the importance of supporting those working in the digital technology, science, arts and creative sectors, and ensures that the UK can continue to welcome international talent to work in these key emerging and innovative industries (p88)
  • The Government is to change the immigration rules so that world-leading scientists and researchers endorsed under the Tier 1 route can apply for settlement after three years rather than the usual 5 years (p88)
  • The Government will make it quicker for highly-skilled students to apply to work in the UK after finishing their degrees (p89)
  • UK Research and Innovation and other select organisations to sponsor researchers will not have to meet the resident labour market test, which will make it easier to hire international researchers and members of established research teams (p89)
  • The National Academies are considering how they can attract and encourage top global research talent to come to the UK through the Research and Innovation Talent scheme within Tier 1 of the visa system (p89).

These improvements in the visa system are very welcome, though we have seen previous governments introduce visas for graduates and then take them away. It remains to be seen what the criteria will be for highly skilled students. As an Immigration solicitor of many years, it would be fantastic to see a system which is a little more flexible as some cases do not quite fit the precise requirements of a particular visa. It might be argued that such a system would require too much resource but I am of the view that it could be managed reasonably.

For further information regarding this topic or any other immigration matters please contact Dhruti Thakrar – Head of Immigration, or any member of the Immigration team.

Edwin Coe LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England & Wales (No.OC326366). The Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office address: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3TH. “Partner” denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing.

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