UK visa and immigration ‘Office for Talent’ created

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Business Secretary Alok Sharma Covid-19 Presser 28 March 2020

Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street.

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

We will see what happens with the new “Office for Talent”.  The Global Talent visa, Start-Up visa, and Innovator visa have all been huge failures.  They are all difficult to qualify for.  Was it ever the intention of the UK Government to make these new visa schemes accessible?  Perhaps just window dressing.  In reality most migrants have to come under the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 visa scheme.  There is no real scheme for businessmen unless you count the Tier 1 Investor visa scheme that requires a £2 million investment that few people can afford, or the Innovator visa scheme that hardly anyone seems to qualify for.

The UK government has setup a new, ‘Office for Talent’ to make it easier for international scientists, researchers and innovators to obtain a UK visa. The announcement follows the recent publication of the government’s UK Research and Development Roadmap, which prioritises ‘ground-breaking research’ in the hope of attracting top global talent.

It’s understood that the Office for Talent will ‘remove any unnecessary red tape’, while transforming Britain into ‘one of the best places in the world for entrepreneurs, researchers and scientists to live, work and innovate.

The Office for Talent will be based at Downing Street, under Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, with those responsible for its operation spread across government departments.

The Office will begin work immediately to assess the effectiveness of the current UK immigration system for scientists, researchers and innovators to ensure excellent customer service and a quick and easy process.

Britain has strong history in tech

The new Office will give those arriving in the UK greater understanding of the opportunities available and help them to overcome any challenges they might face.

Alok Sharma, the UK’s Business Secretary, said: “The UK has a strong history of turning new ideas into revolutionary technologies – from penicillin to graphene and the world wide web. Our vision builds on these incredible successes to cement Britain’s reputation as a global science superpower.”

“The R&D Roadmap sets out our plan to attract global talent, cut unnecessary red tape and ensure our best minds get the support they need to solve the biggest challenges of our time,” Sharma added.

Office for Talent will not compensate for skills shortages caused by Brexit

However, education spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, Layla Moran, said: “The Office for Talent is merely compensating for the fact we will lose our valuable friends and neighbours’ help in the science community across Europe, especially if Mr Johnson pursues a no-deal Brexit.”

A number of groups representing scientists have warned that leaving the EU, especially without any sort of formal deal, would badly damage science and research in the UK.

Moran said that the Office for Talent is merely pandering to Dominic Cummings who has sought to centralise more elements of ministerial work in recent months.

Moran said: “Placing the office in No 10 is just another pandering play to puppet master Dominic Cummings. If Johnson is serious about the science, he’d make sure we work with talent across the world not just in his new office.”

£300 million investment

The government’s R&D Roadmap commits to:

  • A £300 million investment to bring forward upgrades to scientific infrastructure
  • Securing the benefits of world-class research by setting up a new Innovation Expert Group to improve how government supports research, from the idea stage right through to product development
  • Boosting international collaboration to create new opportunities for trade, growth and influence for the science and innovation communities, and
  • Aiming to maintain a close relationship with European partners by seeking to agree a fair and balanced deal for participation in EU R&D schemes

PhD students to benefit

The Office for Talent has been setup principally to assist international students at the start of their careers, plus established experts in their field.

International students who complete a PhD in the UK from 2021 – when the new UK immigration system comes into force – will be allowed to remain in the UK for a further three years after finishing their studies.

Meanwhile, under existing plans, undergraduate and master’s degree students can stay in the UK for an additional two years.

It’s understood that UK visa application times will be extended and the ability to switch visa will be made easier to further assist students and researchers.

Chief executive of UK Research and Innovation, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “Research and innovation are national strengths, central to our well-being, our economy, and our prosperity. The government’s R&D Roadmap emphasises this importance, sets out a clear ambition and recognises the vital role UK Research and Innovation will play in unlocking its full potential.”

“UKRI welcomes the continued commitment to a record increase in public investment in R&D to £22 billion a year by 2024/25. This investment will allow us to build, with others, an inclusive knowledge economy across the UK, a system we are all part of and proud of, which we can all contribute to and benefit from,” Professor Leyser added.

UK innovator visa and global talent visa

The government has introduced the UK innovator visa and global talent visa in the last 12 months or so, in an effort to attract the brightest minds to the UK. However, a combination of the UK’s hostile environment policy and Brexit, have deterred much of the world’s top talent.

Just four people applied for a UK innovator visa in the first three months of its launch in April 2019. Meanwhile, the global talent visa hasn’t fared much better. Although the government is hopeful of attracting more people through this route following Donald Trump’s temporary US work visa.

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