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Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa Open To Architects

On 10 January 2019, the Immigration Rules were updated to allow Architects to apply for endorsement and a grant of leave in the Exceptional Talent category. This represents further expansion of the Exceptional Talent route, which is essentially the only category of the Immigration Rules to have increased in capacity and become less restrictive in recent years. While Architects have had the option to come to the UK in the Tier 2 category for some time, this change in the Rules will allow Architects to take advantage of the more flexible rules and requirements of the Exceptional Talent route. This article will look at the advantages of the Exceptional Talent Category over Tier 2, who can make an application and what evidence will be required in support.

Why Exceptional Talent?

The Exceptional Talent category allows a significant amount of flexibility for migrants. In the Tier 2 category an individual would need to find a sponsor who holds a sponsor licence and who wants to offer them employment before applying to come to the UK. Unless one of the exemptions applies, for example the job is paid £159,600, the migrant may have to meet the Resident Labour Market test as well. On the contrary, in the Exceptional Talent category, a migrant does not need to have a sponsor or any kind of employer in place before making their application and is less reliant on third parties in their move to the UK.

Secondly, in the Tier 2 category, while there are some circumstances in which supplementary employment is permitted, in general, if a migrant wants to take on additional work or change their employer, it will require a new application to the Home Office, with all the costs and inconvenience that this brings. Someone in the Exceptional Talent category, on the other hand, is able to take on projects on an employed, or self employed basis. They can have multiple jobs, a single job or take some time not to work at all – all within the same grant of leave.

Thirdly, for those granted an endorsement as Exceptionally Talented (but not those exceptionally promising) there is a quicker route to settlement. While those in the Tier 2 (General) category have to spend five years in the category before they can settle in the UK, those in Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category can potentially settle after three years in the UK, subject to being able to meet the requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain.  

Who can apply for Endorsement as an Architect?

Appendix L of the Immigration Rules refers to individuals whose ‘field is within architecture’. They will be assessed by The Royal Institute of British Architects and must:

‘(a) be professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been published, presented or exhibited internationally;

(b) show recent (within the last 5 years) and regular activity of being engaged professionally as a practitioner in their field; and

(c) show a substantial track record in more than one country (if applying under Exceptional Talent criteria) or a developing track record in one or more countries (if applying under Exceptional Promise criteria).’

What evidence do architects need to provide?

The evidence required is similar to other endorsing bodies, such as the Arts Council and the British Fashion Council. Applicants are invited to present up to ten items of evidence in support of their claim covering at least two of the following three points:

  1. Evidence of UK or international media recognition for the applicant’s work in the field of architecture;
  2. Proof of having been nominated for (promise) or having won awards in the field of architecture;
  3. Proof of having work published or exhibited in contexts which are recognised as internationally significant in the field of architecture.

The difference between promise and talent is the significance of the evidence needed. For example, media recognition for exceptional promise should be from at least one country, whereas exceptional talent requires significant international media recognition for the applicant’s work which is from at least one country other than the applicant’s country of residence.

The awards in Exceptional Talent should have been won, whereas for exceptional promise a shortlist or nomination will be sufficient. There is a non-exhaustive list of awards given, which is longer for those in exceptional promise, comprising:  Aga Khan Award for Architecture, RIBA International Prize, Pritzker Prize, Venice Biennale of Architecture Award, World Architecture Festival Award, RIBA Silver or Bronze Medals (international student awards), AIA Young Architects Awards. Whereas the example awards given for Exceptional Talent include: Aga Khan Award for Architecture, RIBA International Prize, Pritzker Prize, Venice Biennale of Architecture Award, World Architecture Festival Award or another relevant major award.

Finally, the proof of having work published or exhibited is similarly split by the significance of the achievement. Exceptional Talent applicants need to show work from at least one country other than their residence and this should be internationally significant in the field of architecture. Exceptional Promise applicants can rely on published work in one country which can be their country of residence.

The example publications given in the rules include: monographs published by recognised international publishing houses, exhibitions at international exhibitions/festivals such as the Venice Biennale of Architecture and World Festival of Architecture, or in international galleries with curated architecture exhibitions, such as the RIBA Gallery, Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance regarding an application for endorsement as an Exceptional Talent or Promise, contact our immigration barristers & lawyers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.


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