Changes to Visa schemes for STEM specialists

At last, some Positive news for international students who wish to gain valuable work experience in the UK after studies. Boris Johnson has unveiled a new post-study work visa that allows international students to work in the UK for two years following graduation, reversing a 2012 decision by then home secretary Theresa May.

Johnson’s offices said that international students make up half of all full-time postgraduate students in STEM subjects. It is hoped that the new category will help recruitment and retention of the strongest global talent, while also promoting opportunities for future breakthroughs in science, technology and research.

New Global Talent Visa Scheme for STEM Subjects

Preparations for Brexit – and possibly even a no deal Brexit – are having an inevitable impact on UK immigration and employment law, giving immigration solicitors plenty to think about.

Now, following the announcement of recent changes to the Shortage Occupation List, the government of Boris Johnson has announced it is considering a so-called “Global Talent” visa for individuals with demonstrable excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Johnson’s aspiration to “cement the UK as a science superpower” will begin with Tier 1 Exceptional Talent being rebranded as the new Global Talent visa category for which both EU and non-EU nationals will be eligible if they meet the criteria of ‘elite researchers and specialists’ in STEM subjects, and are either beginning their careers or have already established international recognition and reputation.

Immigration methods from Australia

Furthermore, the prime minister has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to consider the suitability of an Australian-style Points Based System. In fact, Johnson has been keeping a close eye on the immigration policies of the similarly conservative Australian government; just last year its immigration department piloted something it called the Global Talent Scheme.

There has been long-standing criticism of the current Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) scheme, particularly from immigration solicitors, with many claiming it is inefficient and unnecessarily complicated to the point of being unfit for purpose. It is a heavily reference-based system in which, say critics, well-connected applicants may have a significant advantage over equally or more qualified but less well-connected peers.

The new Global Talent visa scheme would not have a cap – unlike the current Tier 1 which is capped at 2,000 applicants per year. However, unless the new scheme can reform systemic problems with Tier 1, this may be irrelevant; the 2,000-cap limit has never actually been reached.

How will Global Talent work?

Successful applicants will be issued with a three-year visa and will become eligible for indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the end of this period. As well as receiving permanent right to reside in the UK, they will be able to bring their dependants (spouses and children) to reside with them. Dependants will then have full access to the NHS, state education and the labour market.

Furthermore, candidates need not meet a minimum salary threshold and the status will not be tied to a specific job, meaning that the applicant will not need to have a confirmed job offer before arriving in the UK (unlike the existing Tier 2 route for skilled workers). Additionally, the new scheme will enable UK research institutes and universities to provide endorsement to exceptional candidates who have not been awarded a research fellowship.

The government also proposes the creation of an additional criteria that confers automatic endorsement (subject to immigration checks). Any person, of any nationality would be able to apply under the Global Talent scheme “fast-track” category.


It is difficult to predict the full potential impact of the Global Talent visa. However, it does appear to be simpler than the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) scheme and should result in growth in the number of applicants. However, Britain’s scientific leaders are generally not in favour of Brexit and they are unlikely to feel that the Global Talent scheme sufficiently compensates for the post-Brexit ‘brain drain’ they anticipate.

Immigration solicitors in London and the South East

The Wellers Law Group can provide expert legal advice on immigration visas, appeals and more. UK immigration law is complex and ever-changing, so having a legal team of experts behind you during an immigration application or appeal hearing is crucial.

Contact Wellers today for an initial discussion of your situation, so that we can help you move forward with your immigration issues.