Author: Clare McDonald
A proposal has been put together by the Science and Technology Committee urging the government to develop new laws to support immigration of skilled workers after Brexit
The committee has called for visa and permit-free short-term work in the UK for skilled people, and the removal of the Tier 2 visa cap, as well as relaxations of the requirements for a Tier 1 visa.
The Science and Technology committee has called for these changes after its “disappointment” that the government did not take its advice to ensure rules surrounding how immigration arrangements after Brexit will support science and innovation were agreed with the European Union (EU) by October 2018.
Norman Lamb, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Collaboration is crucial to the UK maintaining its position as a science superpower, and it is essential that the UK has an immigration system that facilitates the mobility of the science and innovation community. Delay in confirming how the system will work following Brexit is deeply damaging. Industry and research communities urgently need certainty.”
The UK’s decision to leave the EU has introduced a high level of uncertainty into the UK’s tech sector, with many calling for a focus on better government technology, as well as agreements surrounding security and data sharing if the process will be a success. The Science and Technology Committee hopes to remove some of this doubt by having the government agree on a new immigration system sooner rather than later.
Among these worries is the lack of home-grown technology skills, as thousands of applications eligible for a Tier 2 visa in the UK have been rejected, despite 45% of net employment growth in the UK’s tech sector coming from overseas, painting a grim picture of the state of technology skills after Brexit.
The Science and Technology Committee’s An immigration system that works for science and innovation report made several recommendations, including steps the government can take with its current non-European Economic Area (EEA) immigration system while EU negotiations surrounding Brexit are still ongoing.
These include allowing skilled workers to work in the UK for up to 180 days without the need of a permit or visa, and to establish a five-year permit for skilled workers with an offer of employment.
For the government’s current Tier 1 exceptional talent visa system, the Science and Technology Committee said the eligibility criteria is too stringent, preventing people from applying for it.
The committee called for the government to reinstate its Tier 1 post-study work visa to encourage more talented graduates who are studying in the UK from overseas to work in the UK once their course has finished.
The government closed applications for the Tier 1 post-study work visa in 2012, and has not reinstated it since.
The committee also said the government should remove the cap on its Tier 2 visas and reduce the cost of these applications.
Though the government recently excluded NHS staff from the Tier 2 visa cap, freeing up places for other skilled workers to enter the UK, the number of people choosing to live and work in the UK is dropping, and the UK’s education system isn’t filling the tech skills gap quickly enough.
The report said that without developing an immigration system that supports individuals skilled in science and innovation, the government cannot meet its goal, announced as part of the Industrial Strategy, to raise total research and development (R&D) investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and maintain the UK’s “world-class status in R&D”.
Recommendations made by the Science and Technology Committee aim to support people with different types of skills, at different stages of their career, using a low-cost application process so that highly skilled people can work in the UK without people being turned away because of an annual cap.
It also aims to allow both long- and short-term stays in the UK, with the ability to leave the UK for research purposes without those people risking being able to apply for the indefinite leave to remain.
“If the UK wishes to remain open and attractive to the brightest and best global talent following Brexit, it requires an immigration system that allows researchers, technicians, students and innovative entrepreneurs to arrive and work in the UK without facing a burdensome and daunting process,” said Lamb.
But some are positive about the impact Brexit could have on the UK’s tech sector, with many saying that as long as the government does work to simplifying immigration rules, there could be an increase in tech talent and tech startups in the region.