Boris Johnson says UK open to 'most talented minds' after Brexit as he launches Global Talent visa
Boris Johnson has promised that Britain will be open to the world's "most talented" minds after Brexit as he unveiled a new fast-track visa scheme for scientists, mathematicians and researchers.
The new 'Global Talent' visa will be open from 20 February, in a move the Prime Minister said would build on the UK's "proud history of scientific discovery".
It will replace the existing Tier 1 'Exceptional Talent' visa and there will also be no cap on the number of people able to come to the UK under it.
The new regime will also be managed by the UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI) rather than the Home Office, in a bid to speed up the assessment of applicants.
The Government said the route would be open to "world-class scientists and top researchers", with ministers also announcing plans to double the number of fellowships that will be eligible for a fast-track visa process.
Eligible applicants will not have to have to have a guarantee of employment before arriving in the UK.
Unveiling the plans, Mr Johnson said: "The UK has a proud history of scientific discovery, but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting edge research.
"That is why as we leave the EU I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality."
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: "The UK is a world leader in science, with research and innovation that changes lives being undertaken every day in this country.
"To keep the UK at the forefront of innovation, we are taking decisive action to maximise the number of individuals using the Global Talent route including world-class scientists and top researchers who can benefit from fast-tracked entry into the UK."
The move, which comes in the week Britain prepares to leave the European Union, has already been welcomed by Professor Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK.
She said: "We share the Prime Minister’s vision to position the UK as a magnet for global science and research talent. The Global Talent visa is a positive step towards this for UK universities.
"The visa route will help to ensure that universities can attract the brightest scientists and researchers to the UK with minimal barriers."
But the Liberal Democrats have branded the new route a "marketing gimmick" that effectively rebrands an existing visa route.
The party's home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said: "Boris Johnson is showing that he fundamentally doesn’t understand what makes our science sector so successful. Changing the name of a visa and removing a cap that’s never been hit is not a serious plan.
"Science relies on thousands of researchers, and this announcement does nothing for the vast majority of them. If the Government is serious about championing UK science, it must prioritise continued mobility as part of our future relationship with the EU."
She added: "The Government’s new immigration system is due to come into force in less than 12 months, and we still have no idea what it will look like. UK employers, individuals and families urgently need certainty about what the rules will be next year."