Can UK’s Global Talent Visa justify its ever-heightening threshold to attract overseas talents?

On March 12th, the UK Home Office wrote to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), requesting a thorough investigation into the current Graduate Route visa available to graduates in the UK with undergraduate and higher qualifications. The inquiry aims to examine the driving factors behind graduates applying for the Graduate Route visa and whether it is being abused as a pathway for graduates to remain in the UK long term.

Three days after the Correspondence was released, the UK Home Office issued the latest Immigration Act amendment, spanning a lengthy 292 pages. This revision has been hailed as an epic strengthening of UK immigration difficulty, with particular attention drawn to the increase in salary requirements for employer-sponsored work visas. This is precisely the immigration route that most UK international students seek after graduating. To learn more, visit New laws to cut migration and tackle care worker visa abuse – GOV.UK.

Undoubtedly, with the surge in international student numbers after the pandemic, there’s a growing desire for many to make the UK their new home by pursuing studies there and seeking employment post-graduation. Yet, this isn’t exactly aligned with the UK government’s vision. However, here’s the real deal: there’s a lesser-known immigration pathway in the UK, akin to the Quality Migrant Entrant Scheme of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, tailor-made for graduates holding master’s or doctoral degrees who meet specific professional criteria. It’s none other than the coveted UK Global Talent Visa.

The UK Global Talent Visa does not require UK graduates to find a job before they can apply. As long as the applicant demonstrates outstanding academic achievements, they can apply directly for a 3- or 5-year Global Talent Visa after graduation. Subsequently, holding this visa and residing locally while earning income can lead to permanent residency. Compared to other similar immigration pathways in the UK, the requirements for permanent residency through the Global Talent Visa route are remarkably relaxed. For example, the Innovator Visa requires applicants to start a business locally, and the employer-sponsored work visa requires applicants to work locally for at least 5 years. If one loses their job, they must immediately find a new job to switch their work visa, or else risk losing their previous efforts.

The UK Global Talent Visa is available to applicants in three main fields: Digital Technology, Culture and Arts, and Academic Research. All of whom must have made outstanding contributions, including awards, works, papers, and so on. Compared to other talent immigration programs in major countries, the UK Global Talent Visa has been consistently underestimated in global immigration markets. One main reason is that applicants in the fields of culture and arts and academic research need to provide recommendation letters from outstanding individuals in relevant fields in the UK, which means that even if the applicant is outstanding themselves, if they have no connections with the UK and cannot provide recommendation letters from outstanding individuals in the UK, they are still not eligible to apply. This condition may deter many applicants, but it is relatively easy for UK master’s and doctoral graduates to fulfill, as they can directly look for their supervisors for recommendation letters.

Another difficulty in applying for the UK Global Talent Visa is how to demonstrate the applicant’s outstanding contributions. For UK master’s and doctoral graduates, although their qualifications are excellent, they generally have not yet entered the workforce and cannot demonstrate their contributions to the field through awards or a large body of work. Additionally, the UK Global Talent Visa requires a maximum of only 10 documents to be provided, which makes the preparation process really dense in order to come down to an essence of the applicant. How to excel within the scope of these 10 documents and clearly demonstrate the applicant’s excellence in the field requires a professional legal team to plan the application for the applicant, effectively presenting the applicant’s excellence and contributions to the immigration authorities.

The recent changes to the immigration laws did not involve the Global Talent Visa, indicating that this immigration pathway is currently operating well and has not deviated from the original intention of the UK Home Office. However, with the increase in the threshold for employer-sponsored work visas and the rigorous scrutiny of graduate work visas, the remaining routes of the Innovator Visa, Global Talent Visa, and self-employed work visa will undoubtedly become more crowded. Prospective applicants are advised to seize the opportunity and start the process as early as possible!


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