On 27 January 2020, the British government announced a new route for researchers to live and work in the U.K. The new visa will be launched officially on 20 February 2020.

The new Tier 1 Global Talent Visa replaces the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route. The new visa rules will mean that a researcher:

  • Does not have to have a job offer before arriving in the U.K.
  • Can have access to an accelerated path to settlement (for which they can apply after three years).
  • Does not have to stay in a particular job, so that they can move between organisations and jobs.
  • No longer has to be paid a minimum salary in order to be eligible.
  • Does not have to take an official English Test Qualification (though having sufficient knowledge of English might be a job requirement).
  • Can be accompanied by their family.

The new scheme will be administered by the UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI), rather than the Home Office. This is an attempt to ensure that applicants are assessed quickly and fast-tracked by people who are qualified to assess academic credentials, rather than immigration officers. An applicant can use the Global Talent Visa route via four different roles:

  • Senior appointments: fast-track endorsement for applicants such as professors, associate professors, readers, group leaders or equivalent at any U.K. higher education institution.
  • Fellowships: fast-track endorsement for applicants who have a fellowship from a list approved by The British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society. The fellowship must be held currently or within the last 12 months.
  • Endorsed funders: fast-track endorsement for researchers and specialists whose name or job title is specified in a successful grant application from a recognised funder.
  • Peer review: standard endorsement for individuals who apply for review by The British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering or The Royal Society (though this is not fast-track).

An applicant through the endorsed funder route must be endorsed by a recognised organisation, and they must comply with various requirements. These include the fact that the grant must come from an approved organisation and must have a minimum value (£30,000 over two years), among other specifications.

Until 31 December 2020, freedom of movement from the European Union (EU) countries will still apply in the U.K. However, the British government has indicated that it will change the immigration system starting in 2021. Although there has been much discussion about what these changes could look like, this announcement regarding the Global Talent Visa is the first official move from the government. Over the coming year, we expect more changes to be announced, and we will update you accordingly.