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The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category is for non-EEA nationals who are internationally recognised as world leaders in their field (Exceptional Talent) or recognised as having the potential to become world leaders in the future (Exceptional Promise).

PACT can endorse applications for individuals within the field of film, television, animation, postproduction and visual effects. Applicants to PACT must show that they have Exceptional Talent and cannot apply on the basis of exceptional promise, making this category more difficult for those in these specific fields. 

Endorsements by PACT come under the ambit of The Arts Council which is able to endorse 250 applications per year.  These 250 endorsements are shared between those applying in Arts, Fashion, Architects and Film. Of these, half are allocated between 6 April and 30 September each year with the remaining unused endorsements allocated between 1 October and 5 April. A further 1,000 applications per year can be endorsed by any endorsing body.

Requirements for endorsement by PACT

For those applying in film and television, the criteria all essentially relate to recognition by awards. There are three different options depending on your circumstances:

Option 1: Within the last 10 years you have received, been nominated for or made a direct and significant contribution to an award or nomination, where the relevant award is an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe or Emmy.

This list of awards is exhaustive.  Under option 1 there is no scope to argue that you have a similarly prestigious award or nomination. 

Option 2: Within the last 15 years, you have received at least two nominations for the above awards.

You must have won or received nominations for the awards personally, rather than having made a direct and significant contribution to someone else winning or being nominated. 

Option 3: You can demonstrate notable industry recognition by providing evidence of:

  • International distribution sales and recognition; and
  • One of the following:
    • Winning two awards;
    • Winning one award and having been nominated for another within the last six years;
    • Having received three nominations in the last six years;
    • Within the last three years, making a significant and direct contribution to winning two or being nominated for three awards. 

The list of potential awards for option 3 can be found here and is updated from time to time. There are almost 200 awards on this list so it is important to check thoroughly to see if you can meet the criteria. It is also notable that when you rely on these awards, you also need to show that the work has international distribution, so unlike applications under options 1 and 2 above, having the awards alone is not enough. 

To discuss your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our immigration lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

Who should my referees be for a PACT endorsement?

You will need to provide PACT with three letters in support of your endorsement application. 

One letter must come from a UK based organisation, institution or company, which is well established and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in your specialist field. 

The second letter must also be from an organisation, institution or company, which is well established and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in your specialist field. However, this letter can come from either the UK or abroad.

The third letter can be a further letter from an organisation, institution or company, or it can come from an eminent individual. 

The referees you choose should be familiar with your work and able to comment on your achievements. They should be people who consider that you meet the criteria for Exceptional Talent, as they will have to say as much in their letters.

How do I make an Exceptional Talent visa application if I am endorsed by PACT?

Once you have your PACT endorsement, you will have a period of three months from the date of the endorsement letter to make your application to enter or remain in the UK. 

You can only make your application from within the UK if your last grant of leave was in Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange or Sponsored Researcher), Start-up or Innovator categories. 

Anyone who does not have leave in the UK, will need to ensure that they are abroad when they make their visa application. However, the application can be made from anywhere in the world, so you do not necessarily have to travel to your home country to make the application. 

In addition to showing that you have been endorsed, the Home Office will assess your character and immigration history to ensure that you do not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal. 

There is no maintenance or English language requirement in this category. 

Leave will be granted for the period that you request (in full year periods) up to five years. The amount of time that you request makes no difference to the application but will affect the amount that you need to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge. 

As you will have been endorsed as Exceptionally Talented, rather than Exceptionally Promising, you may be eligible to settle after just three years in the UK. However, there are residence requirements for settlement so in the event that you will need to travel often, you may wish to apply for a period of longer than the three years needed. 

What work can you do in the UK in the Exceptional Talent category? 

When you enter the UK in this category, you will have a full right to work, subject only to restrictions on work as a Doctor or Dentist in Training and no work as a professional sportsperson or coach. 

There is no requirement that you complete a certain amount of work, though you will need to do some, if you intend to settle in the UK permanently. 

You will also have a right to study in the UK, if you wish to. 

Can a person in the Exceptional Talent visa category bring family members?

You can bring with you a Spouse, Civil Partner or an unmarried partner with whom you have lived for a period of two years. You can also bring children with you, providing they are under the age of 18 when they make their first visa application to enter the category. 

When should I apply for an Exceptional Talent Visa? 

Your visa application must be made within three months of the date that you get your endorsement, and can be made up to three months before you intend to travel. You should therefore plan ahead to the date that you intend to arrive in the UK and work backwards. 

If you intend to get to the UK as quickly as possible you can use priority services at most application centres to get a quick decision on your application. You should work on the basis that the Home Office processing will take around a month, but with priority services it can take around a week to get a decision. At some application centres there is a 24 hour processing service. 

You should bear in mind that before the visa application is processed, you will need to wait for a decision on your endorsement application from PACT. 

How much does an Exceptional Talent visa cost? 

The current fee for the endorsement application is £456 and in most cases the visa application will be a further £152. 

On top of this you will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £400 per year of leave being applied for. 

Any Dependants applying with you or to join you will need to pay £608 for their application, plus £400 per year for the Immigration Health Surcharge. 

How long will it take for my endorsement application to be decided? 

PACT usually take between six and eight weeks in total from submission to make a decision on the endorsement. 

How can I extend my Exceptional Talent Visa? 

If you decide that you want to stay in the UK for longer than you anticipated, or if for any reason you are not able to apply for settlement following your initial grant of leave, for example due to excessive absences, then it is possible to extend your stay in the UK. There is no maximum number of years that you are able to remain in the UK in this category. 

In order to extend your stay you will need to show that PACT have not withdrawn their endorsement and that you have completed some work in the UK within your specialist field. Again, the Home Office will check your character and immigration history to check that you do not fall for refusal under the general grounds. 

How can I settle in the UK in the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category? 

If you are assessed by the Arts Council as being Exceptionally Talented, you can apply for settlement after you have spent a period of three years in the UK. 

You are permitted to have up to 180 days’ absences from the UK in any 12 month period, without interrupting the continuity of your residence. 

How our immigration barristers can help in making your Exceptional Talent application 

Our immigration barristers have experience in assisting actors, directors and those working in production of film and television to obtain Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas. Our barristers are experts in the immigration options and will guide you through the complex Home Office rules and policies.

We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to clients as part of a professional and friendly service.

We can also assist with

  • Applications for extension of stay for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa holders

    Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas may be extended for up to 5 years.

    In order to extend your stay, your endorsement must not have been withdrawn and you will need to provide evidence that you are currently working in your expert field.

  • Applications for settlement for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa holders

    After spending a continuous period of either three years in the UK as a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa holder you may be eligible to settle in the UK.  A continuous period does not require you to have been in the UK every day; you can have had up to 180 days absent from the UK per year.

    In order to settle, your endorsement must not have been withdrawn and you must have earnt money in the UK as a result of work in your field of expertise.

  • Fresh applications, Endorsement reviews and Judicial reviews for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent migrants

    If your application for entry clearance, leave to remain or settlement as a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent migrant has been refused, our immigration barristers can advise on the merits of making a fresh application or challenging the decision.

    If you believe that an error has been made in a decision on your endorsement, we can assist you in applying for an endorsement review.

    If the decision to refuse your application was unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper, our immigration barristers can apply for Judicial Review and provide representation at Judicial Review hearings.

  • Applications for Tier 2 General visas

    The Tier 2 General category is for individuals who have a job offer in the UK from a licensed Tier 2 Sponsor. You will need to have a job offer before applying for a visa.

  • Applications for Tier 5 Temporary Worker visas

    The Tier 5 Temporary Worker category is for certain types of temporary worker whose entry to the United Kingdom will help to satisfy cultural, charitable, religious or international objectives, including volunteering and job shadowing.

  • Applications for Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visas

    If you are aged between 18 and 30 and a citizen of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea or Taiwan then you may be eligible to live and work in the UK for up to 24 months under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. You can also apply if you are aged between 18 and 30 and a British overseas citizen, a British overseas territories citizen or a British national (overseas).

  • Applications for Permitted Paid Engagement visas

    If you intend to come to the UK for up to a month to take part in a paid performance, then the Permitted Paid Engagement route may be appropriate. 


To discuss your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa team on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form.



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