Exceptional Talent Category of Tier 1 Visa under the Points Based System of UK Immigration Process


Any person who wishes to go to the UK from a country that is not in the European Economic Area (EEA) will go through the immigration process that the Home Office (which is responsible for handling immigration related cases in the UK) has regulated with the help of a certain number of laws that have been passed over the last few decades. These laws help the UK define procedures for all the number of reasons any individual might be coming to the country for. Permission is granted by the Home Office in the form of a document known as the ‘visa’. The UK has divided the visa into 4 functional (and 1 non-functional) categories that are the Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 visas. Each category acts to define laws and procedures for a wide range of reasons a person might want to come to the UK for. All of these laws and procedures are laid out in the Immigration Rules of the UK, a compilation of immigration related laws with the rules for each visa category carefully defined.

Each visa category has different subcategories that serve as rules for each scenario. Such as, the Tier 1 visa type is divided into 5 categories i.e. Exceptional Talent, Entrepreneur, Investor, General category and the tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa. The Tier 2 visa type is divided into 4 categories i.e. general, minister of religion, sportsperson and the intra-company transfer category.

The ‘Points-Based System’ is a scoring system set up by the Home Office that serve as a qualifying measuring system for the applicant’s requested visa. An applicant is awarded a certain number of points for every visa requirement that is fulfilled. The number of points varies from category to category and the nature of the requirement. Such as, a Tier 4 Student (General) category requires a total of 40 points to qualify for the visa while the Tier 2 (General) category requires a total of 70 points to qualify.

The following article looks at the points based system by examining the Tier 1 visa and the different requirements and points awarded in each subcategory. The Tier 1 visa is covered in the Parts 5, 6 and 6A of the Immigration Rules. Commonly, the Tier 1 visa is referred to as the ‘High Value Migrants Category’ because of the influx of business persons on the entrepreneur visa, investors on the tier 1 investor visa UK and innovators in this visa type. The subcategories are listed below:

  • The Exceptional Talent category visa is for individuals who are recognized and have established figures in the field of arts and sciences.
  • Applicants can apply on the Entrepreneur category for coming to the UK to start a business or take part in setting up one. Also, they are committed in running one or more businesses depending on the nature of their career.
  • Any person who wishes to come to the UK to invest within the country will apply on the tier 1 investor visa UK and fulfill the UK investor visa requirements.
  • The General category exists for any person whose nature of work categorizes him/her as a highly skilled worker. In this manner, the applicant applying for a visa on this category will not need a sponsor or a sponsorship letter and can declare themselves to be self employed. However, this category is currently non-functional for applicants applying from outside the UK or who wish to switch to this category from any other category.
  • A visa category exists for recent graduates from a higher educational institution in the UK who are categorized as innovators and who possess well established entrepreneurial skills. If they meet these criteria, the UK will grant them a visa and even extend the period of stay if the reason is to start a new business. This is termed as the tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa.

Applicants should note that a recent change in the immigration rules of the UK affected the Tier 1 visa by adding more places for graduates with MBS degrees from a British Higher Educational institution on the Graduate Entrepreneur category of the Tier 1 visa.

Furthermore, the fee submission process for the Exceptional Talent category of Tier 1 was revised so that applicants applying on this category would not have to submit their passport to the Home Office and pay the full fee up front while their application was still under process. To elaborate, this means that while the Home Office is still reviewing the endorsement of the applicant by an established body of the related field, only a portion of the fee has to be submitted. Additionally, the government also introduced new application forms for the Exceptional Talent category of Tier 1 visa for Endorsements and the VAF 9 (Appendix 4) form for the Graduate Entrepreneur category of the Tier 1 visa.

For any further clarification, you can visit the Home Office’s official website www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/working/tier1

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category examines any person as exceptionally talented under a microscope with specific criteria in mind. This includes the person being endorsed by a competent and well established body in the related field. This means that this organization must state that the person is an internationally talented figure and with promising talent who has proved exceptional capabilities in the past and will continue to do so in the future. The endorsement can also read that the individual in question might not be a world leading talent as of yet, but his capabilities reflect a promise of reaching there.

Applicants should note that the number of visas issued for this category is very limited. Between the 6th of April, 2013 and the 5th of April, 2014, only a total of 1000 endorsements could be accepted by the Home Office. And out of this limit of a 1000, only half of these endorsements were available between the 6th of April, 2013 and the 30th of September, 2013. The rest were available again for a limited duration between the 1st of October, 2013 and the 5th of April, 2014. For a total of 1000 endorsements, the four bodies that award these endorsements divided them in the following manner:

  • The Royal Society could give out 3000 endorsements
  • The Arts Council England could give out 300 endorsements
  • The British Academy could give out 200 endorsements
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering could give out 200 endorsements

How does the Points Based System play a role in the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category?

Applicants from this category require a total of 75 points to qualify for this visa. These 75 points are broken down to several requirements that need to be fulfilled with each requirement varying in the number of points depending on its nature. Applicants can score an entire 75 points by securing an endorsement from one of the four established bodies depending upon the nature of the applicant’s field.

Furthermore, if the applicant is already enrolled in this category and wishes to extend his/her stay in the United Kingdom, he/she will need to secure a total of 85 points. An entire 75 points can also be secured for applicants who wish to extend their stay, if the applicant can prove to the Home Office that he/she is economically active in their field as previously stated by the competent body at the time of the previous application (given the endorsement has not been cancelled by the body). The rest of the 10 points out of the 85 can be secured by proving your English language skills to the Home Office. To elaborate this point, your English language skills can be proved by the following:

  • If the applicant under this category is a national of a country where English is an official language and the common tongue.
  • The applicant can take part in an English language test recognized by the UK. However, a minimum of CEFR level A1 must be secured in all of the four compulsory sections i.e. speaking, listening, reading and writing.
  • The applicant must have a bachelor’s degree that was taught in English. The degree must be the equivalent of a UK bachelor’s degree and have this equivalence proved by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the UK (UK NARIC). Also, it should be worth noting that the applicant’s bachelor’s education must have been to a standard that can equal a level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR).

It should be noted that all three of the above mentioned requirements are necessary to be fulfilled. The applicant is allowed to apply on this visa category while his/her English language test result hasn’t been announced or the test has yet to be taken. However, a maximum of 10 (business) days are given to submit the relevant details of the test applied for after the application submission date. And, a maximum of 5 days are allowed after the application submission date for the results to be submitted. The application will only be processed and a visa granted after the certificate showing the test results are submitted.

How can a person secure an endorsement for the Tier 1 Exceptional category?

The endorsement is requested from one of the four bodies of the UK during the time of the application. A separate application form for this exists which is known as the ‘competent body application form’. Applicants should note that criteria vary between arts and sciences.

If the individual skills are related to the field of arts, the UK will demand a professional career history from the person which establishes him/her as a well recognized figure in his/her own field. The past work and skills that are demonstrated by the applicant must also be of an exceptional nature that distinguishes them in their field. The arts usually encompass dance, theatre, literature, music and the visual arts. Additionally, the fields of art also include museums, galleries, post production, animation, the visual effects industry, film and television.

Furthermore, it is also necessary to show that you are currently engaged in your work and have not taken a significant leave of absence or retirement from it. The UK will also consider the merits of the work, only granting the limited endorsements to work that is of exceptional quality. The work of the artist must have been published, presented, displayed internationally, distributed or performed for it to be considered. This means showing at least 10 documents of your work to prove to the Immigration Officers that the work is exceptional and internationally acclaimed. This means the work must not only be famous in one country but must cater to an international audience. The evidence that is submitted can be showed in the following ways:

  • The work has been recognized and mentioned in the media as articles, in the form reviews from a national publication, or in a broadcasting organization other than country the applicant holds the nationality of.
  • The artist’s work has been awarded an internationally recognized prize such as the Man Booker Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, a Grammy award or the award can also be domestic such as the Tony Award.
  • The artist’s work could also be a live performance or an exhibition or appearance which is of great value in the field of art and holds a significant audience.