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Working in the EU and UK

Will the status of non-UK nationals working in the UK change when the UK leaves the EU?

Researchers from around the world work in the UK.

Where do academic researchers working in the UK come from?

Where do academic researchers working in the UK come from?

Source: Higher Education Statistics Authority. 2017 Staff numbers and characteristics. Figures include academic staff with functions in research, in teaching or neither. (see hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/staff accessed 14 March 2018.

29% of academic staff in UK universities are non-UK nationals, with 17% coming from other EU counties and 12% from the rest of the world. (HESA)

Those coming from outside the European Economic Area currently apply for visas, through the UK’s immigration system. There are a number of different visas that researchers may use – you can read more about this at gov.uk/apply-uk-visa 

Those from countries within the European Economic Area currently do not need to apply for visas. The transition agreement reached with the EU in March 2018 has confirmed that these rights would remain unchanged until the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020.  How this may change when the UK leaves the EU will be decided by the UK government.

They have commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC, an independent body which advises the Government on migration matters) to undertake research to inform this decision.

The Society has submitted evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee:

We have called for the UK government to attract talented people from around the world by:

  • Streamlining the UK’s current immigration system
  • Removing international students from the immigration figures
  • Rapidly developing a future immigration system to be in place at the point of departure from the EU that enables workers from the EEA and Switzerland to with skills relevant to research, innovation and enterprise activities to travel and work within the UK with ease in support of their work.

We welcome the Government’s ambition to ensure that the process for acquiring the proposed Settled Status is light-touch and inexpensive. 

Will the status of students (including PhD students) in the UK who are non-UK nationals change when the UK leaves the EU?

People from around the world come and study in the UK.

Where do postgraduate researchers in the UK come from?

Where do postgraduate researchers in the UK come from?

Source: Higher Education Statistics Authority. 2017 Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2016/17. Postgraduate researchers includes students undertaking research masters’ and PhDs full-time. Part-time students are not included.

57% of postgraduate research students in UK universities are from outside the UK, with 20% coming from other EU countries and 37% from the rest of the world.

Those coming from outside the European Economic Area currently apply for visas, through the UK’s immigration system. 

Those from countries within the European Economic Area currently do not need to apply for visas. The transition agreement reached with the EU in March 2018 has confirmed that these rights would remain unchanged until the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020.  How this may change when the UK leaves the EU will be decided by the UK government.

They have commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC, an independent body which advises the Government on migration matters) to undertake research to inform this decision.

The Society has submitted evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee highlighting the impact of international students on the health of the UK’s research and innovation system and has called for the government to send a message that the UK will remain a global beacon for higher education and that the brightest and best young minds around the world are welcome to study in the UK by removing international students from immigration figures and targets.

Will UK researchers be able to work elsewhere in the EU once the UK has left?

The Society is calling for an agreement that enables workers from around the world with skills relevant to research, innovation and enterprise activities to travel and work within the UK, the EEA and Switzerland with ease in support of their work.

UK-nationals work in research around the world. They may work abroad for long periods, or travel for short visits to collaborate on projects or attend conferences. 

When they work outside the UK, they must go through the immigration systems in place in their destination country. Find more information about some of the different requirements

Currently they are free to move and work within the European Economic Area. The transition agreement reached with the EU in March 2018 has confirmed that these rights would remain unchanged until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. How this may change when the UK leaves the EU will be decided by each destination country.

Will UK students (including PhD students) be able to study elsewhere in the EU once the UK has left?

UK-nationals can choose to study around the world. 

When they go to study outside the UK, they must go through the immigration systems in place in their destination country. 

Currently they are free to study and work within the European Economic Area. The transition agreement reached with the EU in March 2018 has confirmed that these rights would remain unchanged until the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020.  How this may change when the UK leaves the EU will be decided by each destination country.

Will the Royal Society provide additional funding to support immigration/relocation expenses for researchers coming to work in the UK from around the world?

We do not yet know how the immigration system will change when the UK leaves the EU and what impact this will have on the costs of immigration/relocation. We will be keeping this under review.

We currently offer support to EU and international researchers as part of the new Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship:

  • Up to £250,000 can be requested.
  • Funding can be used flexibly by the fellow and as part of their start-up package to support their research programme and team and can cover salary, research expenses, a four year PhD studentship and other justified research costs.
  • For further details, visit the scheme webpage 

We currently offer support to EU and international researchers as part of the Newton International Fellowship:

  • Relocation budget of £2,000.
  • Funding can be used for visa fees and basic setup (i.e. rent deposit).
  • For further details, visit the scheme webpage 

What will happen to EU laws, policies and regulations which apply to science and research following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU?

The UK government has stated its plan to move all EU law into domestic UK law upon Brexit. This would mean that at the point of departure there would be complete harmonisation between UK and EU law. However once the UK has left the EU, it will be possible for UK and EU law to diverge.

On 2 March 2018, the UK Prime Minister outlined that the UK government’s “default is that UK law may not necessarily be identical to EU law, but it should achieve the same outcomes.” And that “If the Parliament of the day decided not to achieve the same outcomes as EU law, it would be in the knowledge that there may be consequences for our market access.”

She also indicated that the UK may remain part of EU agencies that are critical for some research intensive industries including the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency, and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The Society is calling for the government to identify areas of regulation where continued alignment with EU rules is most important for the UK. For example, future association with the Framework Programmes may require some regulatory alignment. EU policy governing animal research is a condition of all countries that wish to access Horizon 2020 funding, whether or not they are EU Member States.

However the government can also identify opportunities for the UK to take a world-leading, innovative approach to emerging areas of technology, and take part in global conversations to shape these.