World / Social Issues

Johnson plans U.K. visa shake-up to attract science talent

AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled plans Thursday for a new fast-track visa route for “the brightest and best,” in a bid to attract the world’s top scientists to Britain after Brexit.

The “shake-up” of immigration rules is aimed at encouraging elite researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology to immigrate, the prime minister’s Downing Street office said in a statement.

“We have to not only support the talent that we already have here, but also ensure our immigration system attracts the very best minds from around the world,” Johnson said in the statement.

“I want the U.K. to continue to be a global science superpower, and when we leave the EU we will support science and research.

“Far from losing out, the scientific community has a huge opportunity to develop and export our innovation around the world,” he added.

The new PM announced the plan during a visit to a science center in Oxfordshire in central England, as well as in a Facebook Live video.

Johnson replaced predecessor Theresa May last month after winning the governing Conservatives’ leadership contest on a pledge to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a divorce deal on Oct. 31.

He has pledged to pursue an Australia-style points-based immigration system to attract more highly-skilled workers after Brexit.

Britain’s interior ministry and department for business will “work with the scientific community” to develop the new system, planned for later this year, according to Downing Street.

Abolishing the cap on the number of top-tier immigrants given “exceptional talent visas” and expanding the pool of research institutes and universities able to endorse candidates would be considered, it said.

Officials will also look at removing the need to hold an offer of employment before arriving, and an accelerated path to settlement, for certain qualified candidates.