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Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas for Media and Arts Professionals

Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) is for people who are internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts, and who wish to work in the UK.

The UK Border Agency has limited the number of applications that can be made under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route. Between 6th April 2012 and 5th April 2013 there is a limit of 1,000 endorsements available. The endorsements were issued in two phases of 500, and as from 1st October 2012 the second phase is now open. The allocation between the ‘Designated Competent Bodies’ is as follows:


Royal Society 150
Arts Council England 150
British Academy 100
Royal Academy of Engineering 100


The requirements for leave to enter the United Kingdom are set out within the Immigration Rules. As with most applications, the applicant must not fall to be refused under the general grounds for refusal under paragraph 320, for example for having used deception in an earlier application. Paragraph 245BB requires the applicant to have scored 75 points under Appendix A (attributes) of the Immigration Rules.

An applicant will be awarded 75 points once they have become ‘endorsed’ by their designated competent body. For applicants in the Arts, Appendix L of the Immigration Rules lists the criteria for endorsement. Paragraph 5 of Appendix L states that, unless the applicant's work is in the film, television, animation, post production or visual effects industry, evidence must be provided that the applicant’s work is of exceptional quality and has international recognition.

In order to satisfy this requirement the applicant must produce no more than ten documents in total demonstrating two or more of the following:

(1) examples of significant media recognition, articles or reviews from national publications or broadcasting companies in at least one country other than the applicant’s country of residence;

(2) international awards for excellence e.g. The Booker Prize, Grammy Award; and/or domestic awards in another country e.g. Tony Award. It remains for the Arts Council to decide whether a particular award provides appropriate evidence of international recognition in his field;

(3) evidence of appearances, performances or exhibitions in contexts which are recognised as internationally significant in the applicant’s field and/or extensive international distribution and audiences for his work;

For applicants involved in film, television, animation, post production and visual effects the applicant must have either:

(a) Received a nomination for an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe or Emmy Award within the last five years; or

(b) At any time, have won an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe or Emmy Award.

If the applicant has been nominated or has won an award, the applicant must then provide full details of the production which was nominated or awarded (including the category and year of nomination/award), provide evidence of involvement if the nomination was part of a group and set out the credit the applicant received for the nomination/award.

All applicants must provide two letters of endorsement from established arts or cultural organisations, institutions or companies with a national or international reputation. One of the institutions should be from a UK body which works with many international artists each year and who are widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in their field. Each letter of endorsement must meet the requirements of paragraph 8 of Appendix L:

(a) The letter must be written on headed paper by an authorised member of the organisation, such as the Chief Executive or Artistic Director;

(b) Include the details of the author’s credentials, e.g. a CV, and how they know the applicant;

(c) Set out the applicant’s achievements in their specialist field, and how in the author’s opinion the applicant exhibits exceptional talent;

(d) Describe how the applicant would benefit from living in the UK and the contribution they could make to the cultural life of the nation; and

(e) Include the author’s direct telephone number and personal email address in order that contact can be made.

The Arts Council will then consider the application for endorsement according to these criteria.

Film, television, animation, post production and visual effects applications will be referred to Pact (the UK trade association for independent feature film, television, digital, children's and animation media companies), for review and recommendation.

Once an applicant receives endorsement from the Arts Council, the UK Border Agency in the country of application will be notified of this fact. The UK Border Agency will then consider granting Entry Clearance to the UK.

Upon Entry Clearance being granted, the applicant will be allowed to remain in the UK for 3 years and 4 months initially. During this time, conditions of stay will be attached, prohibiting the applicant from accessing state benefit or public funds, and cannot work as a doctor or dentist in training, or as a professional sportsperson. It is possible to apply for an extension of stay in this category which will be granted for a further 2 years. It is possible to apply for settlement after 5 years.

It is possible to switch into the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route if you hold leave to remain in the UK either as a Tier 2 (General) migrant, or a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Migrant. If applying to switch in country, it must be demonstrated that the applicant is economically active in their expert field and that the designated competent body has not withdrawn its endorsement. If the applicant is not a national of a majority English-speaking country, the applicant must pass an approved English language test at CEFR level B1 in all four components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) or hold a degree that was taught in English and is equivalent to a United Kingdom bachelor’s degree or above.

If you would like any further information or advice about applying for leave to enter the UK under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, or are considering switching into this category then please contact our immigration barristers in Covent Garden, London direct on 0203 617 9173 or by email


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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