Boris Johnson accused of using immigration system ‘as a marketing gimmick’ over high skill visa

Boris Johnson has been accused of using the immigration system as a marketing gimmick after creating a new, uncapped visa for top scientists, researchers and mathematicians.

The global talent visa will allow an unlimited number of specialists to enter the country without job offers, while also offering an accelerated path to citizenship – advantages not currently afforded to lower-skilled migrants in sectors such as health and social care.

However, critics have said the new policy remains the same as the Tier 1 ‘exceptional talent’ visa it replaces with the main difference being the removal of a cap, currently set at 2,000 people per year, that has not been reached since the policy was first implemented.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the policy was “nothing more than a marketing gimmick”.

“Boris Johnson is showing that he fundamentally doesn’t understand what makes our science sector so successful. Changing the name of a visa and removing a cap that’s never been hit is not a serious plan,” she said.

However, the prime minister has argued that the policy shows the nation is open to “the most talented minds in the world” as the nation begins the Brexit process on 31 January.

Mr Johnson said: “The UK has a proud history of scientific discovery, but to lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting-edge research.

“That is why, as we leave the EU, I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world and stands ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality.”

Much like the current scheme, which asks applicants to both apply to an official body like Arts Council England or the British Academy for endorsement and apply for a visa, the new scheme will see academics reach out to the UK Research and Innovation organisation for approval.

It comes as Mr Johnson looks to develop a new three-tier immigration system after Brexit, with skilled workers able to remain with a job offer and low skilled workers only allowed to stay if there were staffing shortages in a sector.

Traditionally, workers regarded as low-skilled by the government have included those in NHS roles and care work, as well as jobs in hospitality and agriculture.

However, the government is looking into the development of a specialist visa to support overseas doctors and nurses to top up ailing staff numbers in the NHS.

On Sunday, home secretary Priti Patel confirmed that the Migration Advisory Committee would report this week on its suggestions for a points-based immigration system and immigration cap for the UK.

She said: “We have been abundantly clear… that we are absolutely determined to change the immigration system, end the complexity of the immigration system, have simpler rules, have a points-based system where we can absolutely have people that bring the right kind of skills for our labour market, meet the right kind of labour market tests, but also bring the right kind of skills that we need in our country – promoting the brightest and the best.”

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