The Government's cap on immigration threatens the UK's position as a centre of scientific excellence, eight Nobel prize-winning academics have warned.
The researchers, including the two Russians migrants who won the prize for physics on Tuesday, said that the best talent would be potentially barred from the UK by new restrictions to visa applications.
In a letter to The Times, they warned that the Coalition's plans to curtail the number of migrants coming to Britain from outside the European Union "would damage our ability to recruit the brightest young talent as well as distinguished scientists into our universities and industries".
The laureates said ministers should make changes to the cap in order to recognise the need to recruit leading lights in science and industry. Such changes have already been made for sport.
In the letter, the academics wrote: "The Government has seen fit to introduce an exception to the rules for Premier League footballers. It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers."
The cap of 24,100 work visas for non-EU citizens, introduced in June, was a plank of the Conservative election manifesto.
It will be replaced by permanent measures next April but Business Secretary Vince Cable has already said it could do "huge damage" to business and science, and he was backed by the CBI, the Royal Society and university vice-chancellors.
The letter is signed by eight of the 11 living British or British-based scientists to win a science Nobel since 1996. They include Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov, from the University of Manchester, who invented graphene, the world's thinnest material which is 200 times stronger than steel.
The scientists were awarded the Nobel prize for physics on Tuesday for their invention which is expected to revolutionise the production of everything from touch sensitive screens to aircraft and satellites.
The other signatories are Sir Paul Nurse, Sir Tim Hunt, Sir Martin Evans, Sir Harry Kroto, Sir John Walker and Sir John Sulston.