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UK immigration reform on the cards in budget amid drive for 'global competitiveness'

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Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 16: The international travellers arrivals areas of London Heathrow Airport in London, United Kingdom on February, 16, 2021. All travellers arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries will be required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. (Photo by Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The UK's Global Talent route will be reformed to allow recipients of international awards, including the Nobel Prize, to automatically qualify for a visa. Photo: Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce new planned UK immigration system reforms on Wednesday in a move that aims to attract global talent and drive economic growth post-COVID-19 and Brexit.

The move will include a new high-skilled jobs route into the UK which would boost "international competitiveness."

It will also look to streamline the sponsorship process in order to cut red tape and the burden on business trying to recruit talent globally. 

"High-skilled" workers are to include researchers, engineers, scientists and those in the tech sector which the government says will help maintain Britain’s position as a top destination for world-class overseas workers.

Central to the changes will be a new “elite” points-based route that will help start-ups and fast-growing firms like fintechs recruit the talent they need to innovate and grow. As part of the route, highly skilled migrants with a job offer from a recognised high-growth firm will qualify for a visa without the need for sponsorship or third-party endorsement.

The Global Talent route will be reformed to allow recipients of international awards, including the Nobel Prize, to automatically qualify for a visa.

The UK’s Innovator visa route – which allows entrepreneurs with existing skills and experience to set up an innovative business in the UK – will also be reviewed, with a view to making it easier to obtain endorsement and apply for a visa.

Further details on the elite points-based route are expected in July and the reforms are anticipated to be made through immigration rule changes and secondary legislation over the next year.

READ MORE: Britain readies new 'fast track' fintech visa for highly-skilled workers

Immigration reforms is just one idea in a slew of policy decisions set to be announced on Wednesday. New changes to tax, benefits, national insurance, mortgage approvals and support for businesses' coronavirus recovery are also on the cards.

Sunak said: “We’ve taken back control of our borders and are backing business with a skills-led approach to migration that works for the whole of the UK.

“These reforms will ensure we maintain our global status as world-leader in science and innovation – welcoming those with unique expertise.

“Our immigration system will attract top talent to boost firms, drive economic growth and help us to build back better from the pandemic.”

The reforms come alongside news of a proposed "fast track" visa to attract highly skilled workers for rapidly growing companies.

The chancellor hopes that the new scheme will allow firms to get applications from the best candidates globally — a move the Treasury says will boost the fintech sector.

READ MORE: Week ahead: UK Budget, global services PMIs, US non-farm jobs report

Around 42% of Britain's 76,500 fintech workers are migrants, an independent report found.

The route is largely targeted at financial technology and cyber firms, such as Monzo, Revolut and OakNorth, which contribute billions of pounds to the UK economy every year.

Watch: Rishi Sunak hints at furlough extension but says he must 'level' with public over pandemic toll