In a welcome move, Boris Johnson recently announced the potential for a new Global Talent visa for those with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. This follows hot on the heels of his other recent announcements in relation to asking the Migration Advisory Committee to look at whether the UK should adopt an Australian-style Points Based System. Our new Prime Minister appears to have an emerging fixation on the Australian immigration system, especially in light of Australia introducing a pilot scheme only last year called the (you guessed it) Global Talent Scheme!

While the full details of the UK’s Global Talent visa are yet to be released, this new category would effectively be an expanded version of the current Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) scheme. The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) scheme has been underutilised, with only a small proportion of the 2,000 places being filled.That scheme is overly complicated and has frankly put off would-be talented applicants. It is a scheme which largely rewards not what you know, but who you know as applicants must be able to show they have exceptional talent or exceptional promise in their field by providing sufficient reference letters from leaders in the field.

The new Global Talent visa is being heralded as removing the cap on the number of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas which can be issued, with applicants not requiring a job offer before applying, an accelerated route to settlement and dependent family members being able to work. On closer inspection, unfortunately those ‘changes’ will not alter the existing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) scheme as it already has all of those features and the cap on the number of visas has never been reached. What is more significant would be the proposals to expand the pool of UK research institutes and universities able to endorse candidates, creating criteria that confers automatic endorsement, and that those applying for endorsement as someone with exceptional promise would not need to have been awarded a research fellowship.

We would hope that changes such as those would go some way to simplifying the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) scheme and encourage more applicants to apply. The science community’s reaction to the new proposals has been mixed, with an emphasis on the Global Talent scheme being insufficient to quell the potential negative effects of a no-deal Brexit.