What is a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa?

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa*Note: making initial applications under this route is no longer available – prospective applicants will have to make an application under the Global Talent Visa. Follow the link for more information on how we can help you meet the new requirements.*

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa is for exceptionally talented individuals in the fields of science, engineering and fashion amongst many other fields. This visa allows such individuals to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years and 4 months. After this time they can apply to settle.

Unlike the Tier 2 visa, this visa gives the holder the freedom to work for any employer, or even to start their own business.

Get in touch for an initial consultation on tel: 0203 5245439.

The application process for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa

You can apply for this visa if you work in a qualifying field and have been endorsed as either a recognised leader (exceptional talent) or an emerging leader (exceptional promise).

Qualifying fields include digital technology, humanities, science, medicine, engineering, fashion and architecture, to name a few.

You must also be from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The application process for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa contains two stages. The first stage requires you to apply to the Home Office for endorsement as a leader or an emerging leader in your particular field.

Apply for your endorsement (stage 1)

Exceptional Talent

This category is for applicants who have already demonstrated that they have made a significant contribution as a leader to their field. In order to showcase this, you must demonstrate a proven track record of success.

Exceptional Promise

The Exceptional Promise category is for those who are proven emerging leaders. It is for applicants who may be early in their careers, but have already shown the potential to make significant contributions as a future leader in their field. You must demonstrate growth as part of your application.

You must apply to be endorsed online. Your application will be reviewed by an organisation related to your field called a ’Designated Competent Body’. Examples of such endorsing bodies include The Royal Society (for science and medicine), The British Academy (for humanities), Tech Nation (for digital technology), Arts Council England (for art and architecture), and The Royal Academy of Engineering.

If your field is architecture, fashion or film and television, The Arts Council will forward your application onto Royal Institute of British Architects, British Fashion Council, and Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, respectively.

Moreover, the government’s new Tech Nation Visa Scheme allows the body to endorse applications for the exceptional talent visa. This is because the government wants to encourage the immigration of talented individuals, from all over the world, to further build this sector in the UK.

It usually takes about 8 weeks to receive a decision. Once you are successful you will receive an email from the Home Office with a copy of your endorsement letter. You can then move onto stage 2 of the process and apply for a visa. However, if your application is refused, you can request an endorsement review.

It is important to note that simply by securing an endorsement you are not guaranteed a visa. Assessments for visa eligibility will be made separately and on its own grounds (see below).

Applying for your Exceptional Talent Visa

At this stage, the Home Office will consider immigration aspects of your application including whether General Grounds for Refusal apply and if you are in the UK already, whether you can switch into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).


  • You must submit a copy of the endorsement letter emailed to you at stage 1.
  • You must apply within 3 months of gaining endorsement or else your immigration application will be refused.
  • If you are already in the UK you should apply before your current leave to remain ends – ideally a month before it ends.
  • If you are applying from outside the UK, you must provide your Tuberculosis test results if you are from a country where you have to take the test.

General Grounds for Refusal

Your application may be refused if you have been involved in criminal activity, breaching immigration laws, or deceptive activity. These grounds are automatically applied to each applicant before their application is considered.


Stage 1 of the application process costs £456. Stage 2 costs £152 generally, and £97 if you are from Turkey or Macedonia. Application costs for all dependants are £608.


If you are already in the UK and have leave to remain status as either a Tier 1 Migrant, Tier 2 Migrant (sole-representative or Investor), Tier 5 (Temporary worker) Migrant, a Start-up Migrant or as an Innovator, you are able to switch into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).

However, if you do not have leave to remain in any of the above-named categories but want to switch into Tier 1, you will have to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance.

If you are switching into Tier 1 from inside the UK, your length of stay will be 5 years. However, if you apply from outside the UK, your length of stay will be 5 years and 4 months.

Switching from Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer (ICT)

Migrants with a Tier 2 ICT visa can switch to a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, this will allow them to by-pass the 12-month cooling-off period.

Migrants who hold a Tier 2 ICT visa are generally granted leave of up to 5 years in the UK. Once this leave is exhausted, migrants are required to adhere to the cooling-off period. The cooling-off period lasts for 12-months and requires migrants to leave the UK for this period before they can apply to extend their stay.

However, if you decide to switch to the exceptional talent visa, this period can be by-passed. This visa is designed for highly skilled individuals. This visa is ideal for migrants who are currently working within the technology sector under a Tier 2 ICT visa. Migrants are required to be endorsed by a relevant endorsing body in order for them to switch to a Tier 1 Visa. Tech Nation is one of the endorsing bodies that endorse migrants on a Tier 1 visa.

Extend your visa

This process is similar to the initial application process. To be approved you must meet the following criteria:

• The Designated Competent Body that originally endorsed your stage 1 application has not advised the Home Office that this has been withdrawn; and

• During your most recent period of leave as a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) migrant, you have earned money in the UK as a result of employment or self-employment in your field of expertise. This is the field in which the Designated Competent Body endorsed you.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

If your endorsement was given under exceptional promise criteria, you can apply for settlement once you have completed 5 years continuous leave in the UK in a qualifying route.

However, if your endorsement was given under the Designated Competent Bodies’ Exceptional Talent criteria you are eligible to apply for settlement after 3 years on an accelerated basis.

In both cases, leave accrued under the Tier 1 Migrant route, the Tier 2 Migrant route or the Innovator route will count towards you 3 or 5-year continuous leave.

Requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain

  1. You must not fall under general grounds for refusal (see above)
  2. You must show that since your last grant of leave in the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category you have earned in the expert field for which you were endorsed. In addition, the endorsing body must not have withdrawn their endorsement. This is proven through various documents that are dependent on the circumstance of each applicant.
  3. During the relevant period, you must not have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 month period.
  4. You must show you have knowledge of the English language, either by an English language test, by being from an English speaking country or by having a degree taught in English.
  5. If you have worked outside of your expert field, this is allowed as long as it is an addition to your main work.
*Note: The Exceptional Talent visa has now been replaced with the Global Talent visa. Follow the link for more information on how we can help you meet the requirements.*


How can NA Law Solicitors help you obtain a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa?

We are a niche immigration law firm with a successful track record to prove our expertise in UK and EU migration law. We can assist with applications for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas from the very beginning (even if you do not yet have an endorsement) until the submission of your application.

Moreover, we can carry out the whole process for you, or simply help you with specific parts of the application – our aim is to simplify the process as much as possible to provide you with peace of mind.

Get in touch today to discuss any of the points raised in this article or to get an assessment on whether you are eligible to make an application under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route.

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