New Tier 5 UK visa for overseas researchers from 6 July 2018

UK immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, previously announced a new UK visa scheme that was added to the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (GAE)) visa route. The UKRI Science, Research and Academia scheme allows non-EEA researchers, scientists and academics to come to the UK for up to 2 years.  The Tier 5 visa scheme may be worth considering as an alternative to the Tier 2 visa scheme.

Sanwar Ali comment:

The Tier 5 Visa Government Authorised Exchange scheme is worth considering in a number of circumstances.   Tier 4 student visa holders unable to find a Tier 2 sponsor may wish to consider the Tier 5 visa scheme.  It is easier and cheaper to obtain than a Tier 2 visa.   However, Tier 5 visas are available only for shorter periods of time, say one or two years, and in most circumstances will not lead to permanent residence.   For those who are able to meet the requirements and wish to stay in the UK on a long term basis the Tier 2 Visa scheme to work for an employer with a Tier 2 Sponsor licence is preferable.  It is also quite usual in a number of Tier 5 visa schemes for the employee to work via a Tier 5 sponsor, that enables the employee to work at an employer without the employer having their own Tier 5 sponsor licence.

The new initiative was launched on Friday, 6 July, with applications being accepted since that time. According to an official statement published on the UK government website, the scheme has been introduced to ‘reflect and encourage the ongoing growth of the research sector in the UK.’

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are operating the scheme alongside 12 approved research organisations, including the Natural History Museum, who will have the authority to directly sponsor highly-skilled individuals, such as specialist technicians, to work and train in the UK.

UKRI to monitor sponsor organisations

UKRI will be tasked with monitoring sponsor organisations to ensure that they comply with UK visa and immigration rules. Taking ownership of the scheme means that they will also require individual Tier 5 sponsor licences.

UK immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, said: “I acknowledge the crucial contribution science makes to the UK economy and society, and I am determined that the UK will continue to welcome leading scientific and research talent from around the world.”

“The UK is a world leader in research and innovation and these changes will make it easier for international researchers to work and train in the UK. We must have an immigration system that makes sure we can attract leading international talent and benefit from their knowledge and expertise,” Nokes added.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, chief executive of UKRI, said: “Research and innovation is inherently international, as are the unprecedented 21st century challenges we must address.”

“Global collaboration through the movement of talented people plays an essential role in meeting these challenges and this new scheme will provide further support for international researchers to work and train in the UK,” he added.

Tier 5 Visa GAE offers a two year stay in the UK

The Tier 5 GAE is the primary visa route for non-EEA nationals looking to pursue training and work experience placements in the UK. The route offers a UK stay of up to two years.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) observes and monitors the scheme’s activity on a regular basis, while UKRI provide assurances that it meets the criteria for operating a Tier 5 visa scheme.

An official government statement, said: “This initiative demonstrates the government’s commitment to making the UK a dynamic, open, globally-trading nation and builds on other recent reforms to the UK visa system.”

The reforms referred to include:

  • Doubling the number of visas available on the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route to 2,000 per year. This actually  occurred on 15 November 2017.
  • A new Start-up visa route which will replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route and widen the pool of candidates who can apply to launch a new business in the UK beyond graduates endorsed by higher education institutions
  • From 6 July 2018 doctors and nurses were removed from the Tier 2 visa cap

Further Information, Help, and Advice on Tier 5 and Tier 2 Visa scheme

If you need help with a Tier 5 visa or Tier 2 visa, or a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence, including help with complying with your Sponsorship Licence obligations, can help.

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at