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Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa

Exceptional Talent Visa – What is it and who should apply for it?

The Home Office have expanded the range of fellowships that lead to automatic endorsements for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa. This is great news for those who qualify.

This is a great visa for those who can get it because it is so flexible. Successful applicants can work for any employer, be self employed, start a business, continue studying or a combination. They are not tied to a particular sponsor and there is no minimum earnings requirement. No other points based system route offers such a high degree of freedom and also lead to settlement within a little as 3 years. However, this remains an underused route.

If it’s so good, why do so few people apply for it?

Who should consider an Exceptional Talent Visa?

The route has two categories. The ‘Exceptional Talent’ category is for those who are ‘leaders’ in their field and is aimed at those who have already made some significant achievements in their career.

The ‘Exceptional Promise’ category is for those who are ‘emerging leaders’ in their field. It is for those who are in the early stages of their career, but have nonetheless shown the potential for significant achievements in the future.

Who decides if I am a leader or potential leader in my field?

The Home Office accept that they are not well placed to judge whether any individual is ‘exceptionally talented’. They have delegated this decision to a number of ‘designated competent bodies’. They are;

  • Arts Council England – for arts, culture, fashion, architecture, film and television applications;
  • The British Academy – for humanities and social science applications;
  • The Royal Society – for natural sciences and medical science research applications;
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering – for engineering applications; and
  • Tech Nation – for digital technology applications.

There are some sub-delegated designation bodies for certain other specialisms such as fashion, TV and film.

How do endorsing bodies decide who to endorse?

A strong endorsement application is the key to success in this type of application.

There are certain fellowships that lead to automatic endorsement by the relevant competent body. This list has recently been expanded to include 162 fellowships. If you have been awarded one of these fellowships, then you have an excellent chance of getting endorsement and a quick decision.

However, you can still be endorsed even if you have not been awarded any of the fellowships listed. Each of the endorsing bodies have their own criteria for deciding who is a ‘leader’ or ‘future leader’ in their field. These are set out in Appendix L of the immigration rules.

The criteria for endorsement do set the bar quite high- this is a route for ‘exceptional’ individuals after all. That does not mean potential applicants should not seriously consider whether they might meet them.

It is notable that certain designated bodies grant more endorsements than others. Tech Nation endorsed 1,085 applicants between April 2014 and September 2019. The Royal College of Engineering only endorsed 166 in the same period. The Arts Council have increased their number of endorsements year on year and endorsed 178 in the year March 2017-April 2018.

Why is this? I suspect that part of this is due to the fact that the endorsement criteria for Tech Nation and the Arts Council both rely more heavily on work and industry experience. This gives applicant more flexibility in the evidence that they can provide. The other endorsing bodies’ criteria rely more heavily on evidence within academia, such as being awarded a prestigious fellowship. Arguably, this narrows the range of individuals who could meet the criteria.

That said, success breeds success. It may be that this visa category is better known to specialists in tech and the arts than it is in engineering precisely because more endorsements have been granted. Those in engineering may also find it easier to get a visa in another category, such as Tier 2, and therefore not look for other options.

I have been endorsed! Now what?

Once an applicant has a letter of endorsement, a visa application must be submitted to the Home Office within 3 months. The vast majority of such applications are successful, however it is still important that care is taken in submitted the final visa application.

If you are considering applying for endorsement, our immigration lawyers can assist. Please contact us here.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.