Scrapping Tier 2 visas is a great step forward - but what about students?

Mark Middleton

UK architecture relies on talented young part Is and IIs but the new immigration system will exclude them

In early December, the RIBA and the Home office announced that a new bespoke category of visa for “exceptional talent” in architecture would be available from January 10, 2019. I for one greeted this with a yawn and a thought the architectural powers that be are answering the wrong question. These new visas would be for “outstandingly talented” individuals and would involve both the RIBA and Arts Council England assessing and endorsing applications with the Home Office. This has typically been open to entrepreneurs and investors, basically people with wads of cash to invest in UK PLC, but will now be available to “exceptionalness”. I wonder how this will be defined, as it will need to be demonstrable. If this refers to completed works, it will be more difficult for the talented emerging architects we need to come here and join existing practices. This may help to keep London as one of the centres of architectural excellence post-Brexit, but it won’t help those who have kept it as a leading light for so long.

The current system of Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas is inadequate and remains an impenetrable and expensive mess. The fact that we were EU members with access to a visa-free architectural workforce was the only reason why we didn’t scream and shout about it before. You would think that my practice Grimshaw, with its global footprint of eight offices, would have used the system often and know all the buttons to press: the reality is we don’t touch new Tier 2 visa applications at all, although we have transferred a few Tier 4 student visas to Tier 2 which is a simple process in comparison.

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