UK immigration policy continues to be under the microscope on the national and international stages with wholesale changes planned over the course of the next 18 months.
Some small policy shifts have already started creeping in, with the Prime Minister outlining Home Office plans to offer “fast-track processes” for leading scientists applying for visas to come to the UK. The Home Secretary has now announced that the number of eligible fellowships which can offer accelerated endorsement for visas for scientists wanting to conduct research in the UK will double from 62 to over 120.
The expansion will be realised by a wide package of measures to welcome “brightest and best” researchers to the UK. One such measure will be expanding the list of endorsing organisations for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) applications. This will now include world renowned research fellowships such as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Human Frontier Science, European Research Council and the European Molecular Biology Organization. A number of additional awards from UK Research and Innovation and its research councils will also be added.
Recipients of these fellowships will need to provide a letter from the relevant funding organisation, which will see them fast-tracked to the UKVI visa application stage.
The Home Office will also bring forward plans to abolish the cap on the numbers under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and introduce an accelerated path to settlement for those who arrive under this scheme. These changes are expected to be introduced early this year.
These policy shifts show the Government’s direction of travel on immigration policy, with the consequence that businesses that depend on the recruitment of very highly skilled migrants are likely to be rewarded with expedited or more straight forward visa processing. A shift towards bolstering the numbers of highly skilled or exceptional talent type visa holders coming to the UK may also be an indication of how a new points based system may be structured in the future.