The Exceptional Talent Route for Tech Experts
In recognition of the expanding tech sector and to further the government policy of encouraging the best tech talent to come to the UK, in April 2014 the Immigration Rules were amended to allow digital technology to be included in the Exceptional Talent category.
This category is for those who are already internationally recognised leaders in the field, or who are emerging leaders, and so the scope of who can use the category is limited. There is also a cap of 200 places per year, which further ensures that the category is restricted to only a select few.
What does the Exceptional Talent visa allow me to do?
For those who are successful, the Exceptional Talent route is very flexible and is specifically designed to help tech talent flourish in the UK, being much less restrictive than other categories.
The visa is now granted for a period of five years, or five years and four months if you apply from outside of the UK. This means that unlike other categories, you do not need a make an extension application prior to applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
If you are not able to meet the Indefinite Leave to Remain criteria after five years, it is possible to extend your stay for a further five years in the category. This could be because, for example, you have spent too long outside of the UK during the first five years and are unable to meet the residential requirement. In these circumstances, you can simply extend your stay, providing Tech City have not withdrawn your endorsement.
Once in the UK you can work for whoever and however you like. You are not limited to working for a specific employer or limited to your own business, but can do either – or both – if you wish to. This gives a greater degree of flexibility than other categories, as it allows individuals to take advantage of opportunities as they arise without having to switch visa category.
When you come to extend your stay, either in the same category or under the Indefinite Leave to Remain provisions, you will need to show that you have worked in your field during your stay in the UK, however, the requirements are still flexible. You do not need to show that you have worked a specific amount, or maintained earnings at a particular level.
How do I get an Exceptional Talent visa?
If this sounds like the right category for you, the next thing to consider is whether you can meet the requirements to enter the category.
The initial application is made in two parts. At first, you will need to apply for an endorsement from Tech City UK, and then you make your application to the Home Office.
Part 1 – Tech City
Tech City is a body appointed by the government, who have more expertise in the field than the general immigration officers, to consider digital technology exceptional talent applications. They will first review whether to endorse your application.
Tech City have published guidance on how they will approach endorsements.
It is necessary to have experience in the field; this is not a category for those who have recently graduated and who are looking to gain experience in the tech industry. There are other more appropriate categories for people in this situation.
Tech City are looking for those who have a proven track record of innovation in digital technology – but this doesn’t necessarily need to be as a company founder or director. Those who have been employed may also be able to meet the criteria.
They are however, looking for significant commercial success or prestigious international awards or leadership in technology development.
Part 2 – Home Office Application
If you are successful in this part of the process, you will then make your application to the Home Office. This is the more straight forward part of the application and is focused on whether you meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules. Your credentials as digital technology talent have already been confirmed by this stage of the process and won’t be re-tested.
The Home Office will consider your immigration history, verify the information that you have provided, and ensure that all the specified documents have been included in the application.
If you have included any dependants, such as a partner or children, on your application their applications will be considered by the Home Office at this stage.
This application process might sound daunting. However, with careful preparation, it is possible to make a successful application in this category. For an initial assessment of whether you are likely to meet the criteria, please contact one of our specialist immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.