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Lights, Camera, Action: Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa

The UK has a dynamic, creative and unmatched reputation in the arts and culture sector. Applicants who consider themselves to be the very best in their field are encouraged to apply under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route to enrich Britain’s art and culture sector.

In order to apply under for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, an applicant would firstly need to obtain an endorsement from the relevant Designated Competent Body (DCB).

The Arts Council is the Designated Competent Body (DCB) in the UK for fields of art and culture, including:

  • Dance
  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Combined Arts
  • Literature
  • Visual Arts
  • Fashion
  • Architecture

Who assesses the application?

The majority of applications under this sector is assessed by the Arts Council itself. However, there are specific fields in which other organisations assess the applications on behalf of the Arts Council.

All applications from the film, television, animation, post-production and visual effects industries will be assessed by the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) on behalf of the Arts Council. Further to this, applications from the fashion design industry will be assessed by the British Fashion Council (BFC) and applications from architects will be assessed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on behalf of the Arts Council.

Exceptional Talent only

There are two categories within the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route which include ‘exceptional talent’ and ‘exceptional promise’. The exceptional talent route is for those who are recognised as a leader in their field, whereas the exceptional promise route is for those who are early in their career and can demonstrate that they have the potential to be a leader in their field.

However, there are certain fields where only the exceptional talent route is available (the exceptional promise route is not available) and these include:

  • Film or television
  • Animation
  • Post-production and visual effects

Endorsement for Arts and Culture applicants

In order to receive an endorsement, applicants must be able to meet the mandatory criteria.

An applicant can meet this requirement by demonstrating they are:

  • Professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been published (other than exclusively in newspapers or magazines), performed, presented, distributed or exhibited internationally;
  • Can show recent (within last 5 years) and regular activity of being engaged professionally as a practitioner in their field; and
  • Can show a substantial track record in more than one country (exceptional talent) or developing track record in one or more countries (exceptional promise).

Evidence for Arts and Culture applicants

There are a number of documents an applicant will need to submit to demonstrate that they should be endorsed in their field. However, in most fields there is a limit on the number of documents that can be submitted and therefore carefully selected documents should be submitted which best portray the applicant’s skills and experience.

Most of the fields within the Art Council’s remit, limit the number of documents to 10. Although it is to be pointed out that an applicant does not necessarily need to submit 10 documents as they can submit less. It is the quality of the documents which matter, rather than quantity.

In order to demonstrate an applicant meets the mandatory criteria they must provide at least two of the following:

  • Two or more examples of recent (in the last 5 years) significant international media recognition in at least two countries, one of which can be their country of residence. Events listings or advertisements are not acceptable. Significant media recognition must be for their own work as an individual.
    • Exceptional promise applicants must also provide two or more examples of UK or international media recognition which can be for their own work as an individual or as a contributor to work attributed to a group or other individual. Event listings or advertisements are not acceptable.
  • Proof of having, within the last 5 years from the year of application, won or made a significant and direct contribution to winning at least one international award for excellence.
    • Exceptional promise applicants can be nominated or shortlisted for or made a significant contribution to wining or having been nominated/shortlisted for at least one international award for excellence.
  • Proof of appearances, performances, publications or exhibitions in the last 5 years in contexts which are recognised as internationally significant to the applicant’s field or evidence of extensive international distribution and audiences for their work. Proof must come from at least two countries; one must be their country of residence.
    • For exceptional promise applicants, the proof must come from one or more countries; one of which can be your country of residence.

Letters of recommendation for Arts and Culture, Film and Television and Architecture applicants

All applicants must provide three letters of endorsement, which must comply with specific Home Office guidelines.

  1. The first letter must be from a UK based organisation, institution or company which is well established nationally and/or internationally and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in the specialist field.
  2. The second letter must be from another organisation, institution or company which is well established nationally and/or internationally and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in the specialist field. This second organisation may be UK or overseas based.
  3. The third letter may be either from a third institution or company (UK or overseas based) which is well-established nationally and/or internationally and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in the specialist field or from an eminent individual with internationally recognised expertise in the specialist field.

In order to apply under for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, an applicant would firstly need to obtain an endorsement from the relevant Designated Competent Body (DCB).

Stage 2 – Visa Application

It is important to remember that the endorsement alone does not provide an applicant with the right to reside in the UK alone. Once an applicant receives an endorsement, they will be required to make a visa application to the Home Office. Applicants should also note that an endorsement does not guarantee a Tier 1 visa. This is because the Home Office can ultimately refuse an application on their general grounds of refusal, for example an applicant can be refused on the basis of criminal convictions.

Conclusion

It is highlighted that each discipline will have its own separate guidance in relation to the endorsement criteria and therefore it is essential that an applicant refers to this before applying.

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Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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