Tier 1 Exceptional Talent

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Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa

The UK’s Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa is aimed at individuals with outstanding, world-class ability and status within specific eligible professions. It is a highly flexible and attractive visa route for both employers and employees alike.

What is a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa?

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa allows nationals of non-EEA countries to come to the UK to work (either on an employed or self-employed basis), study or volunteer, in most cases for up to 5 years. You can also bring family members and dependants with you and you may become eligible for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The eligibility standard is high for this visa category – applicants will have to evidence their status as an established world leader in their field – and the application process is far from straight forward.

With so much at stake, it’s important to ensure it is the most suitable route for your needs, and that you follow the application process and submit all required documentation to avoid issues, delays or even refusal of your application.

Which professions are eligible for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa?

The visa is open to individuals in the fields of science, arts, engineering, humanities, digital technology and architecture.

How to apply for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa

Applications are open to nationals of non-EEA countries or Switzerland. It is a two-stage process.

The first stage is to secure professional endorsement as a recognised leader in your field in global terms. Endorsement must come from the nominated professional body for your profession.

Applications for endorsement are made online via the Home Office website and cost £456.

Once endorsed, the next step is to apply to the Home Office for the visa.

This application will involve confirming your eligibility under the route and that you satisfy the general grounds for leave to enter or remain in the UK.

The exceptional talent route has relatively relaxed grounds for admission, and does not for example include the English language requirement or proof of maintenance funds.

The visa application can be submitted up to 3 months before the date of travel.

The costs of this stage of the application is £152, or £97 if the applicant is from Turkey or Macedonia.

Applicants also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge at £400 per annum to cover the duration of their stay.

Who endorses the application?

The Royal Society, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Arts Council England, Tech City UK and RIBA are mandated to identify and endorse exceptional talent for their respective professions.

Can I bring my spouse, children and dependants?

You can apply for your spouse, civil partner and dependent children to join you in the UK.

How many of the visas are available?

2,000 exceptional talent visas made available annually (April to March) across all eligible professions.

Why is the visa attractive?

Immigration rules have traditionally made it difficult for some professions to come to the UK – whether employed, self-employed, setting up a business or remaining here after training.

The Exceptional talent route makes it easier for employers to attract, hire and retain international talent, both at the highly experienced and up-and-coming ends of the talent market. For example, there is no requirement for the individual to be sponsored as there is under Tier 2 – alleviating the employer of considerable administrative burdens, costs and compliance duties.

Can I switch to the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa?

It is possible to switch to this visa category from another UK visa, such as another Tier 1 visa, Tier 2, or certain Tier 5 categories. Applicants currently holding a UK visa or leave to remain must apply for stage 2 before their current visa or leave expires.

Do I have to work on this visa?

While in the UK, visa holders can choose to either be employed, self-employed, study or volunteer. To be eligible to apply for ILR, you must have been working in your field of expertise during your qualifying period in the UK.

What is the Exceptional Promise visa?

The visa is also open to those who can evidence their status as an emerging leader in their field under ‘exceptional promise’.

Making a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa application

At DavidsonMorris we help both individuals and a wide range of commercial employers meet their global mobility needs, including Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa applications.

We have the experience to advise you on the most appropriate category of visa for your circumstances and have the insight to make the process as smooth as possible.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient management and processing of visa applications, and for providing expert visa-related advice. We also understand the stresses involved with moving across the world, and take great pride in playing a supportive role to ease the pressure.


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We are a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, with an established reputation for supporting employers and HR professionals on all aspects of immigration including immigration audit and compliance.

We are highly experienced in all the document and evidentiary requirements vital to a prompt and stress-free immigration audit.


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