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Tier 1 Exceptional talent

Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) is for individuals who are internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts, and who wish to work in the UK. It is a point points based system and is split into five tiers. Points are awarded for different attributes (for example, your qualifications, age, previous earnings, English language skills, employment status and source of funds). You will need a certain number of points depending on the tier under which you apply.

Exceptional talent

The Tier 1 Exceptional visa is a point based system entry route for individuals who are recognised globally as leaders in their fields and/or they possess exceptional world class talent in the fields of science and the arts. Please note that this route is for individuals who would normally need a visa to live and work in the UK and must have had endorsement from a recognised institution.

The Tier 1 Exceptional talent visa is quite different from the Tier 2 work visa and it comes with some additional benefits when compared with the Tier 2 work visa. Importantly, it allows for more flexibility between jobs, locations and institutions. The tier 2 work visa tends to restrict the Tier 2 migrant to a particular job and would even need the Tier 2 migrant to make a fresh application if they want to change jobs.

It is also important to note that the cost of applying the Exceptional talent visa is quite less, significantly, especially if you are comparing it to the Tier 2 work visa. It offers a flat rate and may even half the price of the entire cost of the Tier 2 visa.

The Tier 1 Exceptional talent visa also allows the holder the opportunity to collaborate with individuals and institutions in the country. It is important to note that holder would be eligible for settlement after 5 years in this category.

Entry Clearance As Tier 1 Exceptional Talent

The Application process

The application process for the Tier 1 Exceptional talent is divided into 2 viz: -

  • Endorsement
  • Visa application


Prospective applicants would have to first and foremost be endorsed by a Designated Competent Body (DCB). The Home Office have authorised certain institutions to undertake the process of determining who meets the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa criteria. These bodies are referred to as Designated Competent Body, also referred to as DCBs

The following are the current DCBs

  • The Royal Society
  • The British academy
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Arts Council England
Exceptional Talent

Mandatory Criteria

The following are the mandatory criteria for been endorsed as an exceptional talent under the Tier 1 Exceptional talent immigration route

  • The individual is an active researcher in a relevant field. Most likely within a university, research institute or within a recognised industry; and
  • Holds a PhD or an equivalent research experience.
  • There has to be a letter of personal recommendation from a UK resident who is familiar with the applicant research works as well as their contribution to knowledge within their fields. It is important that the UK resident who is giving the recommendation is qualified enough to access the applicant's claim to be a world leader in their field

Furthermore, it is also important that the applicant meet at least one of the following requirements

  • A member of a national academic association either in or outside the UK; or
  • Has been awarded a prestigious globally recognised prize; or
  • A reputable organisation based in the UK has provided a recommendation letter. The UK based organisation must be concerned, connected to or interested in their research work. The letter must be written by a Chief Executive, Vice-Chancellor or any other top executive on an official letter head.
Exceptional Promise

Exceptional promise typically refers to the applicant having a potential world class talent. The key word here is the potential. It is important to know the following:-

  • The applicant is an active researcher in a specific field. The research must be within a university, research institute or within a recognised industry; and
  • The applicant is a PhD holder or has an equivalent research or industrial experience.
  • The applicant must have obtained a recommendation from a reputable organisation based in the UK. It is important that there is an established interest of the UK based organisation in research work and the letter should be written by a top level management staff in the recommending organisation.
  • The prospective application must still be in the early stages of his career.

Please note that been endorsed is not the same thing as been granted a visa. Also, endorsement will in no way affect your current leave to remain if you are currently in the UK. You will still need to make a visa application after your endorsement

Visa Application

This is the second stage of the Tier 1 exceptional talent visa process. Having been endorsed, the applicant may then proceed to preparing his Tier 1 Exceptional talent visa application with the Home Office.

Points Required for an Initial application

Applicants must score a total of 75 points if they wish to successfully make an application for a Tier 1 Exceptional talent visa.

Endorsement by a Designated competent body 75 points

Switching into Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route

Only holders of a valid leave to remain under the following visa categories are allowed to switch into the Tier 1 Exceptional talent route

5 steps in ensuring a successful switch into the Exceptional Talent route

The first step in the process of switching is to obtain a Unique Reference Number from the UKBA. The application must make a request to the UKBA for the URN; as well as stating the relevant Designated Competent Body that is endorsing the application.

It is important to note that the government have placed a limit on the number of places available per year under this route. A limit of 1000 places have been earmarked for this route. If an applicant receives his Unique Reference number from the Home Office, it is most likely that a place is available within the limits for the selected DCB.

Having received a Unique Reference number, the applicant may then proceed to putting together an application along with necessary supporting documents for submission. It is important to note that applications are to be submitted to the UKBA Visa Services and not to DCBs.

Applicants are advised to submit their application within 10 working days of the receipt of the Unique Reference number. Any application submitted after this period will be rejected.

The UK Border Agency will send the relevant documentation to your chosen Designated Competent Body who will advise the UK Border Agency whether you meet their endorsement criteria.

The UK Border Agency will then consider the application, taking into account whether the Designated Competent Body has endorsed you, make the decision and notify you of the result.

A refusal of an application for switching into Tier 1 Exceptional talent is challenged by way of appeal to the First Tier Tribunal within 10 working days of the date of receipt of the refusal letter. Upon successful application, the applicant is granted extension of stay as Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Migrant for 3 years.

Extension of Stay As Tier 1 Exceptional Talent

In order to extend your stay under this immigration route, you will need to score at least 85 points.

75 points You are economically active in the same field for which you were originally endorsed by the Designated Competent Body. This can either be in employment, self-employment, or both. The Designated Competent Body must not have revoked its endorsement.
10 Points English Language requirement

Economic activeness is defined as

  • Payslips; or
  • Letter from your accountant stating that you have registered as a self-employed and are actively trading

How we can help

Our immigration lawyers are experts in dealing will Tier 1 Exceptional talent visas. Feel free to contact us should you need assistance with applying for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa or have had a refusal, contact one of our Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa London lawyers for a free initial assessment. We will help you to decide what your options are and once you understand your options, will offer you a tailor-made service for the process. Contact us on 020 3540 7770 or e-mail us at


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