Launch of study: “Attracting Researchers to Ireland: The Impact of the Scientific Visa”

Ireland’s reputation as an innovation hub has been given a boost by the introduction of a fast-track scientific visa, a new survey of internationally mobile researchers reveals. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science launched the findings of the survey at the Irish Presidency conference on Researcher Careers and Mobility held in Dublin Castle.

Over the last six years, 1,720 researchers from 78 different countries have come to Ireland using the fast track Scientific Visa which is part of the Commission drive to create a European Research Area. The scheme offers a free and fast service for both educational institutions and companies. By registering for a hosting agreement participants can benefit from accelerated procedures for research staff coming from overseas. As a result, visas are issued rapidly and work permits are not required. A further attraction is the fact that researchers’ families can accompany them immediately and avail of public schooling.

The scheme is operated by the EURAXESS Ireland office based in the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and supported by government through the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, and with the close involvement of immigration authorities.

The recent IUA EURAXESS Ireland Office survey involved over 300 researchers who have participated in the scheme. The top satisfaction rating was given to the significant reduction of the length of the immigration process. EURAXESS Ireland statistics show that on average the process takes a maximum of 2 weeks, with the majority of visas being processed in two to four weeks. Prior to the introduction of the scheme the average processing time was six to eight weeks.

The survey revealed that 23% of researchers would definitely not have come to Ireland if the scheme were not in place. Another 53% said they might have decided not to choose Ireland for the next step in their research career without this facility. Only 24% would have come regardless of the immigration process. This shows clearly that immigration issues are a key deciding factor in locational decisions.

Speaking at the launch Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science said, “The publication demonstrates the remarkable success of Ireland’s participation in the Scientific Visa after opting voluntarily to implement the Third Country Directive in 2007. As many as one quarter of researchers using the scheme said they would definitely not have come to Ireland if this fast track immigration were not in place. So it really is a crucial initiative.”

There are over 40 organisations are using the fast track scheme including universities, institutes of technology, research organizations and companies with over half of the researchers involved coming from China, the USA and India. Universities are significantly the largest users of the scheme at over 80%, with many researchers now involved in joint university-industry research activities supported by government through Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock TD commended the scheme saying: “the openness of Ireland’s research and innovation system is greatly boosted by this initiative. I hope that the scheme will continue to expand and I hope to see its take-up, especially by our innovative export sector, increase further in the coming years”