The Science and Technology Committee's new report, 'An immigration system that works for science and innovation' sets out a proposal for an immigration system for the science and innovation sector, and skilled workers more generally. The Committee developed the proposals following Government inaction on the issue and the urgency of the situation facing the UK’s science and innovation sector.
Norman Lamb MP, 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.
"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.
"Nobody wants to see damage to our economy as a result of restricting the ability of skilled workers to come to this country. This is essential for our future prosperity."
The Committee’s proposed immigration system has been developed to tackle the "pressing matter of EEA migration to the UK after we leave the EU, though it sees clear advantages to applying it to non-EEA countries".
The Government establish visa-free and permit-free work in the UK for up to 180 days for skilled workers.
Long-term migration to the UK, a five-year skilled work permit should be established for those with either an offer of employment, a minimum salary that reflects both the going rate for the job, as well as regional, and public/private sector, differences in salary, or third-party sponsorship.
The report sets out the steps that the Government can take now, unilaterally, to the current non-EEA immigration system while negotiations with the EU are ongoing.
Highlights concerns that the eligibility criteria for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa are too stringent and that this has resulted in a poor uptake of the visa.
Calls on the Government to reinstate the Tier 1 (Post-study work) visa, so that talented, international graduates, who have chosen to study at a UK higher education institution, are able to contribute further to the UK economy through working here.
Calls on the Government to remove the cap on Tier 2 (General) visas and reduces the cost of making an application.
Lamb added: "Our framework details a sustainable and enforceable system of immigration which should form the basis of further detailed work by the Government with the science and innovation community. Ultimately, it sets out the basis for an immigration policy that promotes the UK as the go-to place for science and innovation, and one that facilitates the global movement of talent into the UK."
Support individuals with different types and levels of skill, and who are at different career stages, as well as their dependants.
Facilitate both long-term and short-term stays in the UK.
Enable further travel, outside the UK, for research purposes, without it harming an individual's ability to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
An efficient, streamlined and low-cost application process for employees and employers.
Readily recruit highly skilled people, wherever they are from, without being subject to an annual limit; and assess skills in a way that is not wholly reliant on salary as a proxy for skill.
The proposal follows demands from the NFU and others for a new seasonal immigration scheme for horticulture workers, reiterated in Parliament this month. The eduaction and work hearing of the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group (APPGHG) inquiry into the future of the garden and horticulture industry also heard that immigration barriers were preventing skilled horticulturalists working in the UK.
In its earlier Report, Brexit, science and innovation, the Committee recommended that the Migration Advisory Committee "bring forward its conclusions in relation to the immigration arrangements needed to support science and innovation" in order for the Government to "build these into a science and innovation agreement with the EU by October 2018 or earlier if possible". This recommendation was rejected by the Government. The Committee subsequently decided to take the proactive step of developing its own proposals for an immigration system that works for science and innovation.
This week the ‘Together Science Can’ campaign published its report on ‘Supporting researchers to move internationally: a profile of visa systems’. Data was compiled by the law firm Fragomen to examine the immigration routes available to researchers, from PhD students to established academics, across 22 countries (including the UK) chosen to represent a variety of established and emerging research communities. The report found that half of the countries’ systems reviewed had a dedicated immigration route for researchers.