Exceptional Talent Visa (Application Guide)


The Exceptional Talent Visa has now closed to new applicants, and has been replaced by the Global Talent Visa.

The new route remains focused on those with exceptional talent, with a number of enhancements on its predecessor designed to appeal to the ‘brightest and best’ across the globe. This includes lifting the limit on how many people can apply, making it possible for even more exceptionally talented or promising individuals from outside the EEA or Switzerland to live and work in the UK.

For employers, the Global Talent route is attractive since it does not require the individual to be sponsored in order for a visa to be secured. It is also open to both established talent as well as those who can evidence promise, enabling organisations to address talent needs across both ends of the experience spectrum.

Below we provide a guide to applying for a Global Talent Visa, from who is eligible to how to submit an application.


What is the new Exceptional Talent Visa?

The Global Talent Visa was launched in February 2020, and is essentially an enhanced version of the Exceptional Talent Visa, as previously set out under Tier 1 of the UK’s points based system.

While it is no longer possible to apply for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, individuals who are either an established or emerging leader in their specialised field can instead apply under the Global Talent route.

The new visa provides a rebranded route for highly skilled people in specific, recognised fields who wish to work in the UK. Applicants must be able to show that they are leaders in their professional field, or have the potential to become a leader, as determined by an endorsing body that is approved by the UK Home Office.

They do not need to show they have secured employment in the UK when making an application and can become self-employed once in the UK. This may be attractive in many sectors and professions, such as architects.


What are the eligibility requirements for the new exceptional talent visa?

Individuals may be eligible to apply for the new Global Talent Visa if they are at least 18 years old and:

  • They are a recognised leader (exceptional talent) in a specific, recognised field
  • They are an emerging leader (exceptional promise) in a specific, recognised field
  • They have a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent endorsement under the previous route.


The Global Talent Visa is specifically designed for talented individuals in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology, and arts and culture, including film and television, fashion design and architecture.

New applicants, ie those who have not previously held leave in this category or its predecessor, the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, will need to obtain endorsement by a relevant endorsing body. This will require them to provide extensive documentation demonstrating they are internationally recognised at the highest level as a leader in their particular field or have exceptional promise as a potential leader in that field.

If the applicant is currently in the UK with a valid Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, they can rely on their previous endorsement to extend their leave under the Global Talent route, provided the organisation that originally endorsed them has not withdrawn its approval and provided the individual has earned money in the UK linked to their professional field during their last period of leave.

There is no minimum level of earnings needed to meet the financial requirement.


What is the endorsement process for exceptional talent?

Applications for a Global Talent Visa as an initial applicant involves a two-stage process: the stage 1 endorsement application and stage 2 visa application. Applicants will only be granted entry clearance, or leave to enter or remain if successful at both stages.

At the first stage, a relevant endorsing body will be required to assess the applicant’s skills, abilities and achievements, and advise the Home Office of their decision on whether they should be endorsed as either a recognised leader showing exceptional talent, or as an emerging leader showing exceptional promise.

This is an application for an endorsement, and not a visa decision, and will not affect any current immigration leave held by the applicant in the UK.

The applicant will need to decide which endorsing body is best placed to consider their skillset. The Home Office cannot advise on this.

The relevant organisation will typically be the UK regulatory body for their particular industry. The disciplines each endorsing body consider are listed under the Home Office Global Talent Guidance. These include the Arts Council England and associated bodies for arts and culture applicants; Tech Nation for digital technology applicants; and various different bodies for science, engineering, humanities and medicine applicants, including UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The endorsing body will advise the Home Office whether or not it will endorse the applicant. If the individual is not considered by the endorsing body to have met the endorsement requirements by sufficiently demonstrating that their presence in the UK will contribute to the advancement of the relevant sector in question, the application will not be endorsed.

In support of the stage 1 endorsement application there are both general and specific evidential requirements that will need to be satisfies, as set out in the published Home Office Global Talent Visa guidance and under Appendix W7 of the Immigration Rules. In most cases, this evidence will need to be submitted via either email or post.


How to apply for the global talent visa for exceptional talent 

The second stage of the application process is applying for the visa itself, once the individual has secure endorsement from the relevant endorsing body.

At this stage, the Home Office will consider all immigration aspects, such as whether the general grounds for refusal apply and, if they are already in the UK, whether they are able to switch into the Global Talent category.

To apply for a visa, the applicant will need a current passport or other valid travel identification, together with a tuberculosis test results if they are a national from a country where this is a requirement. Additional documents may also be required, depending on the applicant’s circumstances.

It is recommended to provide a copy of the endorsement letter with the application.

The application process will depend on whether the individual is applying from outside or inside the UK:


Applying from outside the UK

If applying from outside of the UK, in most cases individuals can apply online within three months of receiving their letter of endorsement. They may also be able to apply at a visa application centre, although they must have permission to live in the country they are applying from for a period of at least 6 months. It is recommended to first check if there is a visa application centre in that country that accepts Global Talent Visa applications.

As part of the application process, the applicant will need to provide documentation in support. They will also need to have a scan of their fingerprints and a digital photograph taken at a visa application centre. This is known as your biometric information and will enable the applicant to obtain a biometric residence permit that is required once they have arrived in the UK. This must be collected within 10 days of the individual’s arrival in the UK.


Applying from inside the UK

If already in the UK, the applicant may be able to extend or switch to this visa. This includes if they are currently in the UK under the old Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. There are also other visa types that will allow individuals to switch to the new Global Talent Visa, including visas under Tier 2 of the points based system, the Start-Up Visa or the Innovator Visa.

Applicants can apply to extend an existing Global Talent Visa online. However, they will not be required to submit a new stage 1 endorsement application. Their existing endorsement will remain valid and sufficient, so long as this has not been withdrawn by the endorsing body.

When applying, the applicant will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide their biometric information – if this has not already been captured and able to be reused. They will also need to submit supporting documents either by uploading these online or having them scanned at the UKVCAS appointment.

It is important to note, having submitted the stage 2 visa application, that individual does not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man until they receive a decision, or they risk their application being withdrawn.


How long is the application process for the new Exceptional Talent Visa?

Once endorsement from the relevant endorsing body has been secured, the earliest the individual can apply to the Home Office for the Visa is 3 months before travel. For example, if planning to travel on 15 April, they can apply from 16 January.

A decision on the visa application would, under normal circumstances, be expected within 3 weeks if you are applying from outside the UK, but this taking longer due to the pandemic.

If applying from inside the UK, the process is longer, typically around 8 weeks but again – this is now taking longer than usual.

The time taken to process an application may be extended if the supporting documents need to be verified, if the individual needs to attend an interview, or because of the applicant’s personal circumstances, for example, they have a criminal conviction.

In some cases, the applicant may be able to pay for a priority decision on the stage 2 visa application. This is not available for the endorsement stage, although there are fast-track options available for applicants in certain sectors.

While it is possible to apply for endorsement at the same time as applying for the visa, applicants should remember they will need to have confirmation of their endorsement for the visa application to proceed. If applying for both together and the endorsement is refused, the visa will also be rejected. If in the UK and the individual’s immigration leave expires whilst the stage 1 endorsement application is under consideration, the applicant will be classed as overstaying.


How much is an application for the new Exceptional Talent Visa?

The fees for applying for a Global Talent Visa are in two parts: the endorsement fee, and the visa and immigration health surcharge (IHS) fees. The endorsement fee is currently £456.

The fee for applying for the actual visa is £152, or £97 if you are from Turkey or North Macedonia. Applicants can include their partner or children on the same application form, if they are eligible, although there will be an additional cost here of £608 for each dependant.

If the applicant or any dependants are applying to switch to the Global Talent Visa from inside the UK, they will need to pay £19.20 to have their biometric information taken.

All applicants will also need to pay the IHS as part of their visa application. This will enable them to use the NHS while in the UK. The cost of the IHS is £400 per year. Dependants usually need to pay the same amount as the main applicant. The applicant can choose how long they wish to apply for a Global Talent Visa, up to a maximum of 5 years. This would mean the cost of the IHS would be £2000.


Is there a limit on the number of Global Talent Visas issued?

The old Exceptional Talent Visa was subject to an annual limit on the number of people applying. This was set at 2000 per year. However, in a bid to boost the UK economy by attracting additional top global talent, this cap has been lifted for the new Global Talent Visa.

This means that there is no longer any limit on how many foreign nationals will be accepted under the Global Talent Visa route.


Practical tips when applying for the new Exceptional Talent Visa

When applying for a Global Talent Visa or supporting a potential worker in making an application, consider the following practical tips:

  • Carefully identify an appropriate endorsing body that will cover your particular skillset, identifying what requirements you will need to meet to be successfully endorsed by that body. The endorsing bodies do not cover an exhaustive list of disciplines, and it may be that your speciality cannot currently be assessed.
  • If your skillset is such that you are ineligible to be considered by an endorsing body, you should consider whether alternative immigration categories would be more suitable. A full list of alternative work routes is available on GOV.UK. This could include the skilled worker route under Tier 2 of the points based system.
  • If you are eligible to be endorsed by an endorsing body, prior to submitting your stage 1 endorsement application you must ensure that you have the right documentation in support. You will need to carefully assess the evidential requirements for the appropriate body relevant to your particular skillset.
  • As your application for endorsement must be made to the Home Office, you should not contact the endorsing body directly following the submission of your application. If successful, you will be provided with a dated endorsement letter.
  • Once your endorsement has been confirmed, you must ensure that you have the right supporting documents before submitting your stage 2 visa application. This will include a current passport or other travel identification and, where relevant, your tuberculosis test results.
  • Applications for the new Exceptional Talent Visa can be complex and require extensive documentation in support. To maximise your chances of a successful outcome you should always seek expert advice from an immigration specialist.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration lawyers with expertise in supporting employers in recruiting and employing exceptional and promising talent in the UK. To discuss eligibility and the application process for the UK’s new exceptional talent visa, the Global Talent route, contact us.


Exceptional Talent Visa FAQs


What is exceptional talent visa?

The exceptional talent visa was a visa under Tier 1 of the UK points based system that allowed applicants who were internationally recognised at the highest level as a leader in their particular field, or showed exceptional promise as a potential leader in their field, to live and work in the UK. This has now been replaced by the global talent visa.

How can I get exceptional talent visa for UK?

You can no longer apply for an exceptional talent visa in the UK, but this has been replaced with the new global talent visa. If you are either an established or emerging leader in your specialised field you can now apply under this rebranded route.

What is a global talent visa?

A global talent visa is a visa that gives permission for highly skilled people in specific, recognised fields to live and work in the UK. Applicants will be leaders in their field, or have the potential to be leaders, as determined by an endorsing body that is approved by the UK Home Office.


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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