Campaigners have written to Prime Minister Theresa May calling for an urgent review of immigration policy to boost international research and attract new talent.
The letter, published by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), has the backing of more than 40 universities, institutes, companies and research charities.
Current visa restrictions meant that hundreds of key vacancies in engineering, technology and medicine were going unfilled, said the campaigners.
The UK’s reputation as an attractive destination for talented scientists and engineers was being undermined, it was claimed.
The letter urges Ms May to exempt certain roles from the Tier 2 visa cap that sets an upper limit for skilled people allowed to live and work in the UK.
CaSE executive director Dr Sarah Main said: “Surely it is shooting ourselves in the foot to deny visas to engineering, tech and medical specialists recruited to the UK to fill a specific need. Yet this is now happening, alongside many other business-critical roles, leaving employers frustrated and the public poorly served.
“To relieve pressure on the system, roles on the Government’s Shortage Occupation List and PhD level roles should be made exempt from the Tier 2 visa cap. This would allow recognised skills shortages to be filled and would create the headroom to allow the visa cap to operate effectively for other business roles.”
Organisations supporting the letter include the Institute of Directors, the Association of Medical Research Charities, the Manufacturing Technologies Association, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and University College London.