Tier 1 Exceptional Talent

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route is designed for ‘exceptionally talented’ individuals in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, the performing arts and digital technology. Those using this route must be internationally recognised at the highest level as world leaders in their particular field, or recognised as having already demonstrated exceptional promise and are likely to become world leaders in their field.  

Applicants under this route will not need to be sponsored by an employer, but their application must be endorsed by a ‘Competent Body’ in the relevant field.

Applying for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa is a two stage process.

Stage 1 - Request for endorsement

First, you will need to obtain an endorsement from a Competent Body to use as part of your visa application. This is an organisation that can judge whether you are internationally recognised in your field as a world-leading talent, or have demonstrated exceptional promise and are likely to become a world-leading talent.

There are five designated Competent Bodies:

  • the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society
  • Tech City UK
  • Arts Council England

Whose role will be to vouch to the Home Office that in their opinion the applicant is exceptionally talented. Each Competent Body has set criteria which it will operate to select those who qualify for endorsement.

The British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society (Research and Innovation Talent visa)

The Academies cover disciplines in the areas of science, medicine, engineering, social science and humanities for active researcher in academic, industry or government research institutions.

Detailed information on the eligibility criteria, process and FAQs can be found on the Academies respective websites; the British Academythe Royal Society , the Royal Academy of Engineering. Additionally the Home Office's Policy Guidance provides further details on the application requirements.

Applications can be made against one of three criteria for endorsement:

Holder of recognised Peer-reviewed Fellowship

The Academies provide an accelerated route for those awarded specific peer-reviewed fellowships from the Research Councils UK, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Wellcome Trust and the Academies.

A full list of eligible fellowships can be found on the Royal Society website here.

If you hold a fellowship named on this list you will be able to submit a simple Stage 1 online application via the Home Office website with the assuarance that your application will be endorsed in approximately 5 weeks.

Please note: Eligible fellows who already have permission to stay in the  UK under Tier 2, Tier 5 (GAE- Sponsored Researcher) or Tier 1 visa can consider switching into Tier 1 Exceptional Talent from within the UK.

The awarding body of your fellowship may provide you with guidance to support your application, please also contact the Staff Immigration Team if you have specific questions.

Appointment to Professor or Associate Professor at a UK HEI

The Academies provide an accelerated route for academic appointments to Associate Professor, Professor or Reader at UK Higher Educational Institutes (HEI).

A statement of guarantee from the HEI must confirm the recruitment process undertaken met the following criteria:

  • the position was advertised and an open competition was held;
  • at least three references were required and received;
  • at least four senior academic representatives from the host institution were present on the interview panel;
  • at least one senior external expert in a relevant field, who is not employed by the HEI participated in the interview, or provided written input;
  • the job offer has been made and accepted.

The employing department, division or college will need to complete a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent internal application form (58kb) and return this to the Staff Immigration Team along with the required supporting documentation. It is advised this is submitted no less than twelve weeks before the applicant is due to commence employment.

With the suport of the Staff Immigration Team, a simple Stage 1 online application and letter of support to address the above criteria will be submitted. The Academies provide assurance that the application will be endorsed in approximately 5 weeks.

Full criteria of Exceptional Promise or Talent

This requires a full application which undergoes a peer-review assessment of your career, achievements and standing in your field, along with assessing your future plans and the impact this will have on UK research excellence. This assessment is undertaken by at least two fellows from the Academies who are aligned to your specialism.

The following table details the qualifying eligibility criteria which must be met before your application is put forward for the peer-review assessment.

Exceptional Talent Exceptional Promise

Mandatory

- Active researcher in a relevant field, typically within a Univeristy, research institute or within industry;

- Have a PhD or equivalent research experience;

- Provide a dated letter of personal recommendation suppporting the Tier 1 application from an eminent person resident in the UK who is familar with your work and your contribution to your field, and is qualified to assess your claim to be a world leader in your field;

- Meet one of more of the following Qualifying Criteria

Qualifying

- Be a member of your national academy or a foreign member of academies or other countries (in particular any of the UK national academies);

- Have been awarded a prestigious internationally recognised prize;

- Provide a written recommendation from a reputable UK organisation concerned with research in your field. The dated letter must be written by an authorised senior member of the organisation, such as Chief Executive, Vice-Chancellor or similar, on official paper.

Mandatory

- Active researcher in a relevant field, typically within a Univeristy, research institute or within industry;

- Have a PhD or equivalent research experience (including industrial research);

- Provide a dated letter of personal recommendation suppporting the Tier 1 application from an eminent person resident in the UK who is familar with your work and your contribution to your field, and is qualified to assess your claim that you have the potential to be a world leader in your field;

- Be at an early stage in your career;

- Have been awarded, hold or have held in the past five years, a prestigious UK-based Research Fellowship, or an international Fellowship or advanced research post judged by the competent body to be of equivalent standing.

Meeting the qualifying criteria does not guarantee endorsement, please refer to the second page of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Overview (244kb) for further guidance on the peer-review assessment undertaken.  The Academies also publish detailed information on the eligibility criteria, process and FAQs on their respective websites: the British Academy, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering.

If the department, division or college would like to request the Staff Immigration Team to assist an applicant with the submission of a Tier 1 Stage 1 endorsement application they will need to complete a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent internal application form (58kb) and return this to the Staff Immigration Team. It is advised this is submitted approximately five months before the applicant is due to commence employment.

With the support of the Staff Immigration Team, a Stage 1 online application, short CV, letters of personal and organisational support to meet the above criteria will be submitted.

Tech City UK

Tech City UK's endorsement critera is designed for individuals within digital technology and business skills. 

Full details of the application process, criteria and examples can be found at the Tech Nation Visa Scheme website additionally the Home Office's Policy Guidance provides further details on the application requirements.

Arts Council

Arts Council England, liaising with the three national arts bodies covering Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, consider endorsement applications in the fields of arts and culture (encompassing dance, music, theatre, combined arts, literature and visual arts - including museums and gallaries).

Full details of the application process and criteria can be found on the Arts Council England website additionally the Home Office's Policy Guidance provides further details on the application requirements.

Stage 2 - Apply for a visa

Once you have applied for endorsement you will need to apply for a visa (also known as 'entry clearance') or leave to remain (if you are switching visa categories) in the UK under Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) of the points-based system. Once you have your endorsement you must use it within 3 months to make your Stage 2 application. Please note that Croatian nationals are not required to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa and should instead at this stage apply for a Blue Registration Certificate using form CR2.

For those switching into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) from within the UK, please note that it is stage 2 of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) application, the actual visa application, which can extend any exitsing leave to remain in the UK while this is being considered, hence the visa application [stage 2] must be submitted before your current leave (visa) expires.

Only those who already have permission to stay in the UK under the following categories can apply under (or switch into) Tier 1 Exceptional Talent from within the UK:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) in order to extend their leave
  • Tier 2 (any category)
  • Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange - Sponsored Researcher)

There is no need to apply for endorsement again when applying to extend a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa as long as the original endorsing organisation has not withdrawn its approval.

Please note that it is crucial that the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa application [stage 2 of the process] is submitted before the expiry of the applicant's current leave (visa) in order for them to retain their right to remain in the UK under the terms of their existing visa while the application is being considered.

Those given permission to enter the UK under Tier 1 Exceptional Talent can stay for 5 years and 4 months. Those switching into Tier 1 Exceptional Talent can stay for 5 years. It is possible to apply for an extension to stay for another 5 years. When applying under Tier 1 Exceptional Talent the length of visa required can be specified in order that the NHS Surcharge is only charged for the length of time requested rather than the full five years permissible.

The following table shows the cost of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent, visa and leave to remain applications for both the main applicant and dependants. Please note that those applying under Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent), and their dependants, will have to pay the NHS Surcharge in addition to the relevant visa application fees when submitting their visa application(s).

In-country leave to remain (visa) applications £608
In-country leave to remain (visa) applications for nationals of Turkey and FYR Macedonia £553
In-country Dependant applications - partner, spouse, child under 18 as dependant of the main applicant £608
Out of country leave to enter (visa) applications £608
Out of country leave to enter (visa) applications for nationals of Turkey and FYR Macedonia £553
Out of country Dependant applications - partner, spouse, child under 18 as dependant of the main applicant £608

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent main applicant fee is payable in two parts - £456 when making the request for endorsement and the remainder of the relevant fee when applying for leave to enter (visa)/ leave to remain. The Home Office warn that you will not automatically be granted a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa if you have been endorsed and that the £456 endorsement fee will not be reimbursed if your application is refused.

Please note that there is no fee for Croatian nationals when making the request for endorsement and in the event that they receive endorsement they should apply for a Blue Registration Certificate using form CR2 instead of applying for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa.

NHS Surcharge

What is the NHS Surcharge and how much is it?

The UK government introduced an immigration health surcharge, also referred to as the NHS Surcharge, with effect from 6 April 2015. The NHS Surcharge is a charge of £200 per year for each year of the length of the visa and must be paid in full when the visa application is being submitted in addition to the relevant visa application fee. Having paid the NHS Surcharge the visa holder will be entitled to receive free health services under the National Health Service (NHS).

If the visa period includes part of a year that is 6 months or less, half the annual amount (£100) will be payable for that part year. If the period includes part of a year that is more than 6 months the full annual amount (£200) is payable for that part year.

The NHS Surcharge will not apply where a visa to enter the UK (application submitted overseas) is issued for less than six months duration, however, where a visa to remain in the UK (application submitted in the UK) is issued for less than six months duration the surcharge will still apply.

Who has to pay the NHS Surcharge?

From 6 April 2015 applicants from outside the EEA must pay the NHS Surcharge whether they are applying for a visa from within the UK, or from overseas. The NHS Surcharge must also be paid for each dependant applying. The NHS Surcharge will not be applied retrospectively to those who currently hold a visa, however, it will apply when they go to extend their visa or apply under another category.

The NHS Surcharge does not apply to the Visitor visa categories (such as Business Visitor, General Visitor (tourist), and Academic Visitor - even if over 6 months) nor Tier 5 visits of less than six months. This means that Visitor visa holders, and Tier 5 visa holders coming for less than six months, will be charged for any NHS treatment they receive (at a rate of 150% of the cost of treatment) and should therefore ensure that they have adequate travel and health insurance.

How is the NHS Surcharge paid?

The NHS Surcharge must be paid as part of the visa application and is charged as a separate sum additional to the relevant visa application fee. The NHS Surcharge is mandatory for those that have to pay it, hence, even if they have, or take out, private medical insurance they will still have to pay the surcharge.

The NHS Surcharge to be paid is calculated based on the length of visa being applied for. In a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) application the number of years is specified, but in a Tier 2 or Tier 5 application the 'Start date' and 'End date' found in the 'Work dates' section on the second page of the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) details must be listed.

Dependant visas should be issued for the same length of time as the main applicant's visa. Where the period applied for is shorter than the maximum period permitted under the visa category in question, an NHS Surcharge for the maximum period may be charged for Dependants. In this circumstance a partial refund should automatically be paid of the charge for the additional years over the main applicant's visa length. For example, an application for 2 years under the Tier 2 'up to 3 years' category would attract an NHS Surcharge of £400 for the main applicant, however, Dependants may be charged £600 (£200 x 3 years) with the extra £200 refunded after the applications have been decided.

If a visa application is refused or rejected the NHS Surcharge will be automatically refunded, however, there is no refund if the applicant obtains a visa and then decides not to come to the UK, if they leave the UK earlier than the end of their visa, or if their visa is curtailed by the Home Office; nor is there any refund if they do not use the National Health Service.

Is there further information about the NHS Surcharge?

For further information please see Home Office guidance in relation to Paying for UK healthcare as part of your immigration application. Please note, however, when applying for a visa from outside the UK the NHS Surcharge is paid as one of the steps of the online application so payment should not be made through this Home Office website.