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.  

Applications must be made by applicants themselves, although the Staff Immigration Team can answer straightforward enquiries and signpost to the relevant guidance where necessary. Applicants under this route will not need to be sponsored by an employer, but their application must be endorsed by a ‘Competent Body’ which is expert in the relevant field.

There are five designated Competent Bodies (the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, Arts Council England, and Tech City UK) whose role will be to vouch to the Home Office that in their opinion the applicant is exceptionally talented.

The total number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas available will be limited to 1000 each year from April. The 1000 available visas will be split across two phases; there will be 500 visas available during the first phase (6 April to 30 September) and a further 500 available during the second phase (1 October to 5 April). Each of the five Competent Bodies will only be permitted to endorse a pre-determined limited number of applicants during each phase (which, in total, will amount to the 500 visas available). If all 500 visas available during the first phase are granted before 30 September, the Home Office will stop accepting applications until the next phase opens.

The application process for initial applications for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent, and for those switching into Tier 1 Exceptional Talent from other permissible immigration routes (see below), as detailed in the Home Office Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa guidance, consists of two stages:

Stage 1 - Request for endorsement

First, you will need to obtain an endorsement from a designated 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.

For those switching into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) from within the UK, please note that stage 1 of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) application does not extend any existing 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.

Each Competent Body has set criteria which it will operate to select those who qualify for endorsement. Further information on the eligibility criteria relevant to each Competent Body, as well as the Home Office’s Policy Guidance which gives more detail on the application requirements can be found on the Home Office website.

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 £574
In-country leave to remain (visa) applications for nationals of Turkey and FYR Macedonia £519
In-country Dependant applications - partner, spouse, child under 18 as dependant of the main applicant £574
Out of country leave to enter (visa) applications £574
Out of country leave to enter (visa) applications for nationals of Turkey and FYR Macedonia £519
Out of country Dependant applications - partner, spouse, child under 18 as dependant of the main applicant £574

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent main applicant fee is payable in two parts - £287 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 £287 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.

From 6 April 2016 the NHS Surcharge also applies to nationals of Australia and New-Zealand coming to the UK for more than six months. Previously nationals of these countries were exempt due to reciprocal healthcare arrangements between the UK and their countries.

The NHS Surcharge will not apply to the Visitor visa categories (such as Business Visitor, General Visitor (tourist), and Academic Visitor - even if over 6 months). However, this means that Visitor visa holders will be charged for any NHS treatment they receive (charged at 150% of the cost of treatment from April 2015) 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.