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Do you have exceptional talent? The UK has a visa especially for you

by John Dunn | Dec 20, 2017
  • If you’re exceptionally talented in the field of science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or the arts, you could be eligible for a special UK visa: The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. This visa allows you to live, work and eventually settle in the UK with very few restrictions. What’s more, the Home Office has just made it easier to get one of these visas.

    How do you know if you are exceptional?

    This Tier 1 visa is for individuals who show exceptional talent or exceptional promise in a variety of fields. In order to be considered exceptional by the Home Office, you will need to be officially recognised as a current or emerging leader in your field.

    You will first need to be endorsed in one of the following fields, by the relevant competent body. Click on the links below to read more about each field and the organisations charged with assessing your skill.




    The Royal Society


    The Royal Academy of Engineering

    Humanities and social science

    The British Academy


    The Royal Society of Medicine

    Digital technology

    Tech City UK

    The arts

    Arts Council England

    Science: The Royal Society

    Exceptionally talented individuals in the science arena are those who are active researchers in a relevant scientific field and have a PhD or equivalent research experience. To be eligible for an endorsement, you will also need to provide a dated letter of personal recommendation from someone who is resident in the UK, familiar with your work and qualified to assess you.

    Engineering: The Royal Academy of Engineering

    The Royal Academy of Engineering endorses individuals who do extraordinary work in the following fields of engineering:

    • Mechanical engineering
    • Process engineering
    • Civil engineering
    • Biomedical engineering
    • Innovation and policy engineering
    • Electrical engineering
    • Information communication technology engineering

    You will also need to make sure you get your letter of recommendation from a qualified person within your specific field of engineering.

    Humanities and social science: The British Academy

    The British Academy covers a range of disciplines, including:

    • Philosophy
    • Anthropology and geography
    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Political studies
    • Law

    Due to the numerous varying disciplines that fall under humanities, the requirements for this endorsement vary quite drastically. You will need to get in touch with the relevant department at The British Academy to find out exactly what they require for your endorsement application.

    Medicine: The Royal Society of Medicine

    Medicine is used as a blanket term used for anatomy, clinical medicine, biochemistry and many more. The Royal Society of Medicine considers those who demonstrate exceptional promise in their respective field, or those who have already exhibited exceptional talent through research or innovation in the medical field.

    Digital technology: Tech City UK

    The digital technology route is open to those on the technical side, such as programmers and developers, as well as those involved in the business of digital technology. Applicants will need to show Tech City UK that they have a proven track record within the digital sector or have contributed to the advancement of work in the field.

    The arts: Arts Council England

    The arts covers all of the following disciplines:

    • Dance
    • Music
    • Theatre
    • Visual arts (including museums and galleries)
    • Literature
    • Combined arts

    You will need to demonstrate to the Arts Council that you are professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality. Your work should have been published, performed, presented, distributed or exhibited internationally and you will need to provide evidence thereof. The Arts Council England also requires you to provide three letters of support from varying arts or cultural organisations, institutions or companies, one of which must be UK-based.

    Think you may qualify for this visa?

    What happens once you’ve been endorsed

    If your endorsement application is successful, you will receive a letter of endorsement, which you will need for your visa application. Only once you’ve received this letter may you apply for your visa. Your application must be lodged within three months of receiving your letter of endorsement.

    The percentage of visas granted for those who receive an endorsement is in the high 90s, but be aware, receiving your endorsement does not mean you will automatically get your Tier 1 visa. Your endorsement and your visa application are two distinct processes and you will still have to fulfil several other visa-related criteria in order to be granted your exceptional talent visa.

    There’s not a lot you can’t do with this visa

    If you are granted a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, there’s little you can’t do in the UK. You are able to:

    • Work for an employer, as a director of a company, or be self-employed
    • Bring your family members with you
    • Travel freely in and out of the UK
    • Do voluntary work
    • Change jobs without telling the Home Office

    The only real restriction on this visa is that you may not work as a doctor or dentist in training, or a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

    The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa allows you to stay in the UK for five years, after which, if you qualify, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Alternatively, once your five years are up, you can also choose to extend your Tier 1 visa.

    See also: Our complete guide to indefinite leave to remain

    Why it is now easier to get one of these visas

    On 15 November, the UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, announced that the quota for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas has doubled as a part of the UK welcoming talented individuals who will enhance the UK’s economy. This announcement was greeted with particular enthusiasm by the digital technology sector, which has seen the most significant increase in applications in the last five years.

    With an increase in the number of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas, your chances of getting one, should you qualify, have literally doubled. 

    If you’re interested in applying for this visa, get in touch with our UK immigration specialists on +44 (0) 20 7759 5330 or

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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