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Budget 2021: Science and Innovation to Benefit from a Modernised Immigration System

The Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his Budget to Parliament on 3 March 2021. Whilst the emphasis was, understandably, on supporting the UK out of the pandemic, the Chancellor also announced a number of immigration measures with a focus on attracting highly skilled workers in academia, science, research and technology to boost the UK’s economy. At a time when UK businesses are still grappling with the impact of freedom of movement for EU nationals ending post-Brexit, the announcement underlines the Government’s pledge to attract the best talent from across the globe.

The key proposals can be summarised as follows:

  • The introduction of a new ‘elite’ points-based visa by March 2022 for highly skilled scientists, researchers, academics and those working in the technology sector. Individuals with a job offer from a pre-approved UK ‘scale-up’ business will be able to use a fast-track process which will circumvent the time-consuming sponsorship process. Although much has been made in the press of this visa being aimed at the FinTech sector, it potentially has a much wider reach to attract top talent from across the globe in various sectors, to drive UK innovation and growth.
  • The Global Talent visa is to be reformed. Further colour was provided in a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules published on 4 March 2021. For most applicants, the two-part application process will remain in place, requiring an application for endorsement and an application for permission. From 5 May 2021, individuals personally awarded a prize listed in the new ‘Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes’ will be deemed to possess exceptional talent and therefore not require endorsement.
  • The new Global Business Mobility visa is to be opened by spring 2022. Currently, the Representative of an Overseas Business visa allows a sole representative of an overseas business to come to the UK to set up a branch or wholly owned subsidiary. Any further representatives would have to use the Skilled Worker or Intra-Company Transfer route, both of which require sponsorship (and therefore the business’s presence in the UK to already be set up). It is hoped that the new visa will afford overseas businesses with more flexibility in establishing and cementing a presence in, or transferring staff to, the UK.
  • The Innovator visa will also be reviewed, with the purpose of making it easier for (and thereby encouraging) individuals with the skills and experience to found an innovative business to obtain a visa, creating jobs and promoting additional investment in the UK.
  • The Sponsor Management System will become more user friendly and the Home Office will increase its ability to offer technical support. This will be welcome news for the increasing number of smaller companies now having to engage with the system in order to sponsor migrant workers from the EU.

Although much of the detail is still awaited, the proposals are likely to make the process for obtaining a UK visa significantly less burdensome for some highly skilled individuals. The proposals are expected to be enacted through changes to the Immigration Rules over the course of the coming year.

For further details on how the changes may benefit your business, please contact Shabana Muneer of the Walker Morris Business Immigration team using the details below.



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