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Award-Winning Scientists Not Applying For Global Talent Visa Fast-Track Route

The Global Talent visa, which was launched by the Home Office in February 2020 to encourage the brightest minds to come to the UK, has been dealt something of a blow. According to a new article by the New Scientist magazine published on 22nd November 2021, not a single scientist has applied to the fast-track visa scheme, which is designed for Nobel prize laureates and other award winners. The route was expanded back in May 2021 to make it easier for those with a prestigious prize to gain a visa without the need for endorsement.

What is the fast-track Global Talent visa route?

In May 2021, the Home Office introduced changes to the Global Talent visa in a bid to encourage those with prestigious prizes in the areas of science, engineering, the humanities and medicine who want to work in the UK. This fast-track route works by removing the need for applicants to seek endorsement. There are several prizes that are eligible across each discipline. In the area of science, the awards include:

  • Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award
  • Balzan Prize
  • Benjamin Franklin Medal
  • Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture
  • Blue Planet Prize
  • Cadman Award
  • Centenary Prize
  • Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering
  • Copley Medal
  • Crafoord Prize
  • Croonian Medal and Lecture
  • Davis Medal

Among the most well-known prizes which are eligible include the:

  • Nobel Prize - Chemistry
  • Nobel Prize - Economic Science
  • Nobel Prize - Literature
  • Nobel Prize - Physics
  • Nobel Prize – Medicine
  • Turing Award,
  • L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science International Awards

In total, there are over 70 prizes eligible for the fast track route.

Speaking back in May, Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said of the changes to the route, “Winners of these awards have reached the pinnacle of their career, and they have so much to offer the UK… 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”.

The New Scientist magazine submitted a ‘Freedom of Information’ request to the Home Office to seek clarification on the number of applicants to the fast-track scheme. This confirmed that no applications have been received from an award winner in the fields of science, engineering, the humanities or medicine. This does not mean, however, that no applications have been for the wider Global Talent visa; only for the fast-track pathway.

Why have no prize-winning scientists applied for a Global Talent visa?

According to some scientists interviewed by the New Scientist, the fast-track pathway for prestigious prize winners has not been taken seriously within the ranks of the profession. As quoted in the article, Andre Geim, who won a Nobel prize in 2010 for his groundbreaking work on graphene and works at the University of Manchester, “Chances that a single Nobel or Turing laureate would move to the UK to work are zero for the next decade or so”. He then went on to bluntly say that “The scheme itself is a joke – it cannot be discussed seriously…The government thinks if you pump up UK science with a verbal diarrhoea of optimism – it can somehow become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Another top scientist, Jessica Wade, who works in the field of material science at Imperial College London, who spoke to the magazine, confirmed, “Frankly, having precisely zero people apply for this elitist scheme doesn’t surprise me at all”.

But why is this the case?

Wade thinks that part of the problem is the lack of access to European funding for scientists, plus European students now need to pay full international fees to study here. She also cites the lack of support for scientists in the UK by the government and the cutting of pensions.

Is this really bad news for the Global Talent visa?

While the lack of applicants under the award winners fast-track route has undoubtedly been disappointing, other scientists have expressed satisfaction that the wider immigration system is working successfully. Neuropsychologist Dorothy Bishop from the University of Oxford and Andrew Clark at the Royal Academy of Engineering take the view that other routes are working effectively for scientists coming to the UK. Clark told the New Scientist, “In many cases, applicants would be eligible for multiple routes…We wouldn’t want to focus on the use of any particular route over a six-month period, but rather the overall success”.

Furthermore, some also believe that the new prize winners route isn’t really needed, with some scientists of the view that prioritising award winners is a flawed idea.

Responding to the lack of Global Talent visa prize-winning applicants, the Home Office stated, “It [the Global Talent visa] is just one option under our Global Talent route, through which we have received thousands of applications since its launch in February 2020, and this continues to rise”.

Final words

The lack of applications from Nobel prize winners for fast-tracked Global Talent visas may not reflect a wider lack of interest by scientists wishing to come to the UK. Some factors have likely lowered interest, such as the lack of access to EU funding and the ending of some scientific cooperation between the UK and the EU following Brexit. In addition, this may highlight that the Home Office need to revisit how they assess demand for visas and how they determine the eligibility criteria they apply to each. If you need assistance with your Global Talent visa, including checking your eligibility, checking your application, assisting with your endorsement, or managing a refusal, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to advise you.

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