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Government Doubles the Number of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visas

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The UK government has announced that “as part of its ongoing commitment to welcome talented people from across the globe, and in recognition of the importance of these innovative industries to the UK”, it is doubling the amount of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visas it offers.

The allocation of visas will increase from 1000 per year to 2000.

In a Home Office press statement, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said:

“I am delighted that we are able to welcome more talented people from across the world to our country. Increasing the number of visas for these sectors will make sure that we continue to be at the heart of world culture and forefront of digital and scientific advances.

“The UK’s innovative industries, including the thriving digital technology sector, are at the centre of our industrial strategy and making sure that businesses in these fields have access to exceptional talent from across the world is vitally important.

That is why I will be meeting with technology experts to seek their input on making sure that our visa processes are as efficient as possible.”

Currently, the 1000 visas available are split between five endorsing bodies;

  • Tech City UK
  • Arts Council England
  • The British Academy
  • The Royal Society
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering

This system will remain, with the additional thousand visas being allocated to bodies depending on need.

This move has delighted Immigration lawyers in London, who believe this is one of the best ways for businesses to meet their highly-skilled worker requirements.

The eligibility requirements of a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa

To be eligible for entry to the UK via the exceptional talent route, you must be a recognised leader or an emerging talent in your field, and be from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. Applicants for this visa come from all over the world including the United Arab Emirates, America, and China.

The application process is split into two stages:

  • gaining endorsement from one of the five endorsing bodies
  • gaining entry-clearance

Gaining endorsement

You will need to be recognised as a leader or someone of exceptional promise in one of the following fields:

  • science
  • engineering
  • humanities
  • medicine
  • digital technology
  • the arts

The threshold for ‘exceptional talent’ or ‘exceptional promise’ is extremely high.


To achieve endorsement by the Royal Society, you need to complete two steps. The first step includes showing you meet the following criteria (this list is not exhaustive):

  • demonstrating that you have a PhD or an educational equivalent
  • are an active researcher and a member of a national or international academy
  • have been awarded a prestigious internationally recognised prize
  • have a letter of recommendation from a reputable organisation connected with research in your field

If you satisfy these requirements, your application may progress forward to full assessment. The endorsement body will consider several elements of your submission, including any research grants you have received, career history, significant of awards, patents and the benefits to the wider society of your presence in the country.

The Arts

To qualify for an endorsement from the Arts Council England, you must be able to demonstrate several points, including (but not limited to):

  • you must be professionally involved in producing work of outstanding quality which has been published (other than exclusively in newspapers or magazines), performed, presented, distributed or exhibited internationally;
  • you have recently (within the last five years) and regularly been working professionally in your field; and
  • can show a substantial (if applying under the Exceptional Talent criteria) or developing (if applying under the Exceptional Promise criteria) record of accomplishment in at least two countries, one of which can be your home country.

Digital Technology

Tech City may endorse applicants for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa if they can show (among other criteria):

  • they have a proven track record as a director or founder of a tech company or they are an employee working in a new digital field or concept
  • evidence that you have gone beyond your day to day work and this contributed to the advancement of the tech sector
  • you have been published, or your work has been endorsed by a research supervisor
  • you have been recognised as a world leader in your field

You can also gain endorsement if you can show you have exceptional promise in this field.

Gaining endorsement is not easy and requires a breadth of supporting documentation which must be presented clearly. Your best chance of succeeding with an endorsing body is to work with an Immigration solicitor who can help you prepare your application.

Gaining entry clearance into the UK

Once you have gained endorsement, the Home Office will consider if there are any general grounds for refusing you a visa (for example, if you have broken any Immigration rules in the past or have a criminal record). There is no English language requirement.

A Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa lasts for five years. During this time, you are free to work on a freelance basis or be employed, and you do not need to inform the Home Office if you change jobs. This makes this visa highly attractive as it does not come with the same restrictions as a Tier 2 or 5 visa.

After you have completed your five years, you can extend your visa for a further five years or apply for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain).

Getting expert Immigration advice

At OTS Solicitors, we have helped many people further their career by assisting them to successfully apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa. We have an in-depth understanding of the requirements, and thanks to our commercial acumen, we can present a persuasive application to an endorsing body, designed to prove your talent and value to the UK.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London and is a Legal 500 leading firm. By making an appointment with one of our business immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960.

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