UK Announces Fast-Track Visa to Recruit Top Scientists
UK Announces Fast-Track Visa to Recruit Top Scientists

UK Announces Fast-Track Visa to Recruit Top Scientists

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the immigration program will help the nation remain a science superpower post-Brexit.

Aug 9, 2019
Ashley Yeager

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new fast-track visa to attract elite scientists to live and work in the UK, in light of the nation leaving the European Union later this year.

“I want the UK to continue to be a global science superpower, and when we leave the EU we will support science and research and ensure that, far from losing out, the scientific community has a huge opportunity to develop and export our innovation around the world,” Johnson says in a statement posted yesterday (August 8).

Immigration is a major concern for the scientific community post-Brexit, Science reports. The worry is that once the UK leaves the European Union (EU), scientists and technicians from EU countries will no longer get automatic rights to live and work in the UK and will need to navigate Britain’s current visa process, which is slow and expensive. The visa process can take months and cost thousands of dollars, according to Science, which might deter people from trying to move to the country. 

In response, Johnson announced the fast-track visa, but few details about the process have been revealed, according to the Associated Press. The statement from the prime minister’s office mentions that several strategies are open for negotiation with the nation’s leading research centers, including increasing the number of UK research institutes and universities that could endorse candidates for visas, removing the need to have employment before arriving, and getting rid of the cap on the number of Tier 1 “Exceptional Talent Visas,” opening the door for more scientists. 

See “As Visa Difficulties Persist, Scientists Push for Change

“The new rules should place more trust in institutions, who are best placed to make decisions about the people they need to keep us at the cutting edge,” Beth Thompson, head of EU policy at the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical charity, says in a statement, according to Science.

Despite the visa announcement, scientists are still concerned that Brexit will make it hard for UK scientists to collaborate with EU researchers and that it will cut them off from EU funding. Brexit may also block the growth of research and development funding. To deal with the issue, the prime minister announced the UK government will provide funding for researchers who applied for EU funding before Brexit “to ensure no-one is disadvantaged,” according to the statement from his office.

The plans for visas and funding are being put in place as the UK government tries to broker a deal to leave the EU smoothly. If no deal is reached, the UK is slated to leave the EU no matter what on October 31.

See “Scientists Expectations for Brexit Mostly Grim” 

Ashley Yeager is an associate editor at The Scientist. Email her at ayeager@the-scientist.com.