The government has announced some changes to the immigration system to give the impression that the UK is a welcoming and functioning country despite the ongoing chaos of Brexit.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, giving a Spring Statement economic speech yesterday, said that PhD level jobs would be taken out of the cap on Tier 2 work visas and globe-trotting researchers made exempt from settlement rules that penalise lengthy absences from the UK.
Hammond, a prominent Europhile, repeated through gritted teeth the Home Office mantra that after Brexit “free movement of people will end and we will take back control of our borders”.
But he also mentioned several measures to make the border regime more liberal. Landing cards will be phased out from June 2019, and citizens of the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be able to use airport e-gates. The Guardian reports on leaked Home Office analysis that opening up e-gates will cause delays for British citizens, however.
Most significantly, the Chancellor said that “from this autumn we will completely exempt PhD-level roles from the visa caps.”
Fleshing out the latter, a written ministerial statement says:
From Autumn 2019, PhD-level occupations will be exempt from the Tier 2 (General) cap, and at the same time the government will update the immigration rules on 180-day absences so that researchers conducting fieldwork overseas are not penalised if they apply to settle in the UK.
The Treasury says that overseas research will now count as residence in the UK.