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This took effect on 20 February 2020.  Despite this, the route remains applicable for exceptionally talented and promising individuals in the following fields wishing to work in the United Kingdom:

  • Science;
  • Medicine;
  • Engineering;
  • Digital technology;
  • Humanities; and
  • Arts and culture.

Applicants from outside of the EEA and Switzerland can apply for this type of visa if they work in a qualifying field by:

  • applying for endorsement as a “recognised leader” (exceptional talent) or an “emerging leader” (exceptional promise) by one of five designated competent bodies; namely:
    • the Royal Society (for science and medicine);
    • the Royal Academy of Engineering (for engineering);
    • the British Academy (for humanities);
    • Tech Nation (for digital technology); or
    • the Arts Council England (for arts and culture).
  • If endorsed, within three months, apply to the Home Office for the visa.

In this article, we focus on the changes affecting the universities and research sector, looking specifically at Research and Innovation Talent, namely potential applicants in science, medicine and the humanities.

What options are there for applying?

Under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa there were three options for applicants including researchers in academic, industry or government research institutions.  These were:

  1. Under the “standard” peer review route.  The eligibility criteria include being an active researcher, having a PhD (or equivalent experience) and providing evidence from peers.  The relevant endorsing body assesses the evidence and determines whether or not the applicant should be endorsed;
  2. Under the “accelerated” fellowship route for recognised peer-reviewed fellowships.  This leads to an applicant being automatically endorsed if they hold a specific UK based research fellowship (or held it within the 12 months directly prior to the date of application); and
  3. Under the “accelerated” senior appointment route for senior academic or research appointments.  This also leads to automatic endorsement if the applicant has been appointed to an eligible senior academic or research position at a UK higher education institution or research institute.
    Each of these routes continue to remain open under the new Global Talent visa.

New fast track scheme

In addition, a fourth was introduced on 20 February 2020 for those applying in the fields of science and medicine, engineering and humanities as endorsed funders.

This is an additional “accelerated” route for applications from academics, researchers, scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology/methodology job holders. This will be managed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and will predominantly benefit post-doctoral researchers and those in specialist technology roles.  The aim is for this new route to benefit those individuals whose name or job title is specified in a successful grant application from an ‘endorsed funder’.  Qualifying applicants will be automatically endorsed, with minimal evidential requirements, where they meet the following individual eligibility criteria:

  • The applicant must be named or hold a role named on a successful grant application from an endorsed funder;
  • The applicant must be employed, hosted or in receipt of a job offer from a UK university, independent research organisation or public sector research establishment;
  • The research grant must have been won subject to peer review;
  • The minimum value of the grant must be £30,000 and must support a project of at least two years in duration; and
  • The applicant must have, or be given, a contract of at least two years in duration and contribute at least 50% of their working time to the grant.

UKRI has a list of approved organisations who can act as “endorsed funders” by employing or hosting the applicants. The applicant, in turn, must be directing a “unique research or innovation project” or be making “critical contributions to research”.

To download a list of the endorsed funders please fill in the form.

The Government announced last week that from January 2021, the Global Talent visa route would be extended to EU citizens on the same basis as non-EU citizens.

How does this help me?

This is a step in the right direction to make it easier for UK based universities and research institutions to recruit and retain the overseas talent they need.  It is likely that such organisations will be able to rely less on the costly, restrictive and onerous Tier 2 General visa route and instead, benefit from the Global Talent visa route.

In addition, the new immigration system which is to be introduced in January 2021 also brings benefits for PhD holders, making it easier for them to obtain sponsorship and a visa purely because of their academic qualifications.

Successful applicants under the new route will be granted a visa of up to five years with the ability to settle with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after three years. They will not require sponsorship or a minimum salary and will have much greater flexibility under this visa type.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

Our specialist immigration team has significant expertise in Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise endorsement applications and can advise on the impact of the changes introduced, the application procedure, eligibility, cost and timescale.  Please just get in touch.