On 19 December, the Government published plans for the future immigration system. Our President, Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci responds:
“Research and Innovation is an inherently international activity. Almost a third of all academic staff at UK universities come from outside the UK. Continuing to attract and retain these talented individuals is absolutely essential to the health of UK research. The Immigration White Paper goes some way to recognising this; the removal of the arbitrary caps on skilled migration being one positive step. Bringing EEA nationals into a single system with the rest of the world will dramatically increase the number of visas issued for science and research each year. Any future system must therefore minimise the administrative burden faced by institutions and individuals as well as being adequately resourced to cope with this increased demand.
“Moreover, in research, many of the skilled people who are integral to the process do not receive a salary above the UK average. Preventing these extremely valuable people from coming to the UK by applying the current £30,000 salary threshold to all non-UK nationals would be extremely counterproductive. I am pleased that the Government will consult on this issue.
“The Academy of Medical Sciences, looks forward to responding to this consultation and reiterating my firm belief that salary must not be used as a proxy for skill. The Government will find the scientific community is absolutely united on this. It is clear to me that some Government departments also share this view and I hope that, following consultation, a consensus can be reached.”
“Finally, as the UK prepares to leave the EU, a fast, efficient and transparent immigration system is an essential component in maintaining the UK’s world-leading position in research. However, leaving the EU without a deal would seriously compromise this position and would undoubtedly jeopardise UK medical research.”