At a Glance

  • The Home Office has announced it will launch a new fast track Global Talent Visa Scheme later this year for select applicants in the science, technology and mathematics (STEM) sector.
  • The new Scheme is based on the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route and will include an initial three-year duration in which applicants and their eligible dependents will be able to enter the United Kingdom without restriction and with no need for an existing job offer or any salary requirements. After three years, applicants will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the United Kingdom.
  • Most importantly, the existing selection criteria will be relaxed so applicants will not need to have been awarded a Research Fellowship and the annual cap of 2,000 per year will be removed.

The situation

The Home Office has announced it will launch a new fast track immigration scheme for select applicants in the science, technology and mathematics (STEM) sector later this year by rebranding and expanding the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route.

The announcement is part of the UK government's plan to attract global talent in the STEM sector and make it easier for top scientists to enter the United Kingdom after Brexit.

A closer look

  • Initial three-year duration. The Global Talent Scheme will provide eligible individuals with an initial three-year visa, during which time they will be able to enter and leave the United Kingdom without restriction. The visa will not be subject to any minimum salary requirements and individuals will not need to secure a job before applying.
  • Fast track to indefinite leave to remain. At the end of the three years, foreign nationals will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the United Kingdom.
  • Dependants. Applicants will be able to sponsor eligible dependant spouse/partner and children, and dependants will be able to work without restriction.
  • Expansion. The Scheme will be expanded to individuals who are integral to scientific/research teams (as to be defined by further government guidance) and those who have received European research funding.
  • Relaxed requirements. The Home Office will remove the current requirement for applicants who are endorsed as having 'Exceptional Promise' (a status used to describe those who are emerging leaders in their respective fields) to have been awarded a prestigious Research Fellowship award. Currently, applicants in the science sector must be endorsed by the Royal Society and endorsements are limited to those who have been awarded, hold, or have held a prestigious UK-based Research Fellowship or an international Fellowship (or an advanced research post of equivalent standing) in the previous five years.
  • Removal of cap. The new Scheme will be uncapped, whereas the current Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Scheme is subject to a cap of 2,000 visas per year, having been raised from 1,000 in 2018. Historically, the annual cap on Exceptional Talent visas has never been reached as the existing endorsement criteria are very restrictive.


  • Potential increase in applicants. This route is likely to become more popular as applicants benefit from relaxed salary, role and travel rules as well as a fast track to settlement.
  • Fast track to ILR. Those who obtain ILR in the United Kingdom after just three years will be able to reside in the United Kingdom permanently and access benefits and healthcare on the same basis as UK nationals.
  • Rebranding. The main features of the new Global Talent Visa are similar to the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Scheme, however the government will rebrand the Scheme and expand it to attract a greater pool of top scientists.


The existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa is a route for highly-skilled applicants in specific qualifying fields who have been endorsed as either leaders ('Exceptional Talent') or emerging leaders ('Exceptional Promise') in their respective fields. Applications must be reviewed and endorsed by a designated competent body in the respective field and are subject to strict selection criteria.

The Home Office will now review the existing restrictive criteria to expand this preferential route to applicants from the STEM sector as part of the Prime Minister's goal to relax visa restrictions on top scientists after Brexit. The announcement is intended to ease widespread concern that a no-deal Brexit will disproportionately impact the science sector in the United Kingdom, which is particularly reliant on funding from the European Union.

Looking ahead

Further details of the Scheme are expected to be released this year once the Home Office has reviewed the existing eligibility criteria. Once available, the newly branded Global Talent Visa is likely to be increasingly used if the selection criteria are sufficiently relaxed, but this is may be insufficient to curb concern surrounding the impact of a no-deal Brexit in the science sector.

More broadly, concerns related to labor shortages are likely to remain high. However, if the trend to relax and liberalise immigration controls post Brexit continues, immigration is likely to rise post Brexit. This may prompt the Home Office to consider re-introducing additional controls in the long term after Brexit.

Fragomen will report on relevant developments.

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