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Global Talent Visa: UK Launches Fast-Track Immigration Route for Prestigious Award Winners

It is no secret that the UK Government is keen to encourage the brightest minds to the UK. Back in 2019, after just being elected British PM, Boris Johnson set the scene, stating, “Britain has a proud history of innovation, with home-grown inventions spanning from the humble bicycle to the lightbulb. We were home to the world’s first national DNA database, we discovered graphene, and our cutting-edge scientists should be proud to follow in the footsteps of titans like Ada Lovelace and Nobel Laureates Francis Crick and Peter Higgs. But to ensure we continue to lead the way in the advancement of knowledge, we have to not only support the talent that we already have here but also ensure our immigration system attracts the very best minds from around the world”. In this article, we will look at the news that in the past week, the Home Office has announced plans to widen the eligibility rules for the Global Talent visa to prestigious award winners.

What Is The Global Talent Visa?

The relatively new UK Global Talent visa scheme was launched on 20th February 2020. It was designed to encourage leaders and potential leaders in the following three main categories to come to the UK:

  • academia or research;
  • arts and culture, and;
  • digital technology

Under the initial eligibility rules, applicants needed to be endorsed by an endorsing body approved by the Home Office as either a leader or potential leader.

Those in academia or research must be working in the areas of science, medicine, engineering, or humanities and may be eligible for a Global Talent visa if they have an eligible job offer as an academic or researcher, an individual fellowship, or a research grant that is approved by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

To apply under the arts and culture route, individuals need to be working in combined arts, dance, literature, music, theatre or visual arts, architecture, fashion design, or film and television, including animation, post-production, and visual effects.

And the digital technology Global Talent visa is available to those who are a leader or potential leader in one of the Tech Nation’s (the endorsing body in this field) eligible digital roles.

How Has The Global Talent Visa Changed In May 2021?

The Home Office recently announced that as of 5th May 2021, a new fast-track route would be available under the Global Talent visa scheme for those with an eligible award. The eligible award route is available under any of the three categories above.

The official press release stated, “Winners of awards, including Nobel Prizes, the Turing Award, Oscars and Golden Globes, will be able to live and work in the UK more easily under reforms being introduced by the Home Office. From today (5th May), individuals who have won prestigious awards from across the sciences, humanities, engineering, the arts, and digital technology will be able to take advantage of changes to the Global Talent visa route.

Currently, people on the Global Talent route have to successfully apply to one of six endorsing bodies. The new fast track route launching today would allow applicants who hold a qualifying prize to fast track the endorsement application and instead make a single visa application”.

The full list of eligible prizes is available on the Home Office website and includes:

  • science, technology, engineering, and maths: Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry, Economic Science and Medicine; Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering; Fields Medal; Turing Award
  • music: Brit Award - International Male/Female; Mobo – Best International Act; Grammys – Lifetime Achievement Award
  • film, TV, and theatre: Various Academy Award and Golden Globe categories; Bafta – Best Film Actress/Actor/Director; various Tony Awards and Olivier Awards
  • arts & literature: Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; Hugo Boss Prize; Nobel Prize – Literature

It is also possible for award-winning dancers, fashion designers (e.g. those with awards from the British Fashion Council including Designer of the Year, Accessories Designer of the Year, and Outstanding Achievement), architects (e.g. the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Pritzker Prize from the Hyatt Foundation), and social scientists (e.g. the Fyssen Internation Prize from the Fondation Fyssen) to secure a Global Talent visa under the newly announced changes.

Announcing the new scheme, Home Secretary Priti Patel stated, “Winners of these awards have reached the pinnacle of their career, and they have so much to offer the UK. These important changes will give them the freedom to come and work in our world-leading arts, sciences, music, and film industries as we build back better. This is exactly what our new points-based immigration system was designed for – attracting the best and brightest based on the skills and talent they have, not where they’ve come from”.

Will The New Global Talent Prize Winner Route Any Real Benefits?

It is difficult to determine if the Home Office have put this new route due to the demand for a fast-track from eligible immigrants, or whether it is really about signaling that the UK is open to the world’s top talent. Clearly the new eligibility criteria for the Global Talent visa are only of interest of a very small number of those at the very top of their career, and while it will mean that they can apply without needing to wait for endorsement, given this only takes 28 days normally, the benefit in terms of time saved is not considerable. That said, the ability to make a single visa application will reduce the administrative overhead for eligible applicants.

Final Words

The UK Government continues to encourage top talent from around the world in the wake of Brexit, and this latest change to the Global Talent visa is the latest of these initiatives. The time and administrative saving may not be considerable compared to the regular endorsement route, but it provides an advantage for those for whom receiving a timely decision is essential. We expect to see similar changes in the coming months to make it easier for top talent to come to the UK through a range of immigration routes.

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