Tag Archives: visa costs

UK visa costs will turn away those we need most

It still pains me to admit it, but the reality is sinking in fast: free movement is coming to an end.

Liberal Democrats (and others) fought a valiant fight, but the results of last year’s general election made the majority’s views crystal clear. No more free movement, tougher immigration controls.

So, after a series of delays, the Government’s Immigration Bill – the legislation that will legally put an end to free movement – is making its way through Parliament as we speak. With it will come a whole raft of immigration rule changes, the most well-known being the flagship ‘Australian-style’ points-based visa system.

The pandemic has rightly fuelled a heated debate around the impact this new system will have on those shamefully labelled as “unskilled” workers – our friends and neighbours who help teach our children, treat our sick and look after our elderly. It’s right that as a party the Liberal Democrats continue to stand up for these people, and the Prime Minister’s U-turn over payment of the NHS surcharge for frontline health workers was a good first step in the right direction.

But what about those who, on paper, we see as being at the front of the queue?

Around one third of academic staff working in our higher education sector come from abroad, and over half of those from elsewhere in the EU. But as things stand, the sheer cost and burden of entering the UK threatens to turn away the scientists, researchers and innovators who make an invaluable contribution to our national health and wellbeing. And it will be other countries that benefit from their knowledge and expertise.

Credit where credit is due, the Government has worked with the science sector and others to develop the new ‘Global Talent’ visa category that allows talented and promising individuals in specific research and innovation sectors to work in the UK for up to five years without restrictions such as a sponsor, language tests or a minimum salary threshold.

But the upfront cost of obtaining one of these visas can total more than £2600, compared to around £300 for a similar visa in France, £250 in the US and £0 in Japan. If, god forbid, you want to move here with your spouse or children, those costs skyrocket further.

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