Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): How do you qualify?

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa category allows highly skilled non-EU individuals in the field of science, humanities, engineering, the arts (including film, fashion design and architecture) and digital technology to live and work in the UK. It is normally granted for up to 5 years. Migrants can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) once they have resided in the UK for 3 or 5 years under this scheme. Please note that the Tier 1 (ET) visa is subject to a limit of 2,000 endorsements by the Home Office every financial year.

Applicants can switch from the Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 5 (Temporary Worker), Start-up or Innovator visa categories into the Tier 1 (ET) visa scheme in the UK.

Tier 1 (ET) migrants are allowed to bring their dependants if they can meet the relevant requirements.

Compared to other work visa categories, a huge benefit of the Tier 1 (ET) visa route is that migrants are allowed to work in self-employment, or for any employer without sponsorship, in any sector and at any level of employment. However, if migrants wish to extend their leave or apply for settlement, they will also need to demonstrate that they have accrued earnings in their specialist field. Additionally, a Tier 1 ET migrant cannot work as a doctor or dentist in training or as a professional sportsperson/sports coach.

Application process for the Tier 1 (ET) visa

To apply for a Tier 1 (ET) visa, migrants will need to apply to be endorsed by the relevant designated body competent as a leader (exceptional talent) or emerging leader (exceptional promise). There are two stages of the visa application.

Stage one: apply for an endorsement

Migrants need to apply for endorsement in their particular field. This stage is meant to assess the applicants’ skills, abilities and achievements and enable the Designated Competent Bodies (DCBs) to decide whether they should endorse to the application.

Migrants have to submit their online application form on the following website:


Applications will need to obtain the endorsement letter from one of the following recognised Designated Competent Bodies:

  • Arts Council England – for arts, culture, fashion, architecture, film and television applications;
  • The British Academy – for humanities and social science applications;
  • The Royal Society – for natural sciences and medical science research applications;
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering – for engineering applications; and
  • Tech Nation – for digital technology applications.


The DCBs have two sets of criteria:

Exceptional Talent

This criterion is for applicants who have already demonstrated that they have made a significant contribution as a leader to their field. In order to evidence this, applicants must provide a proven track record of success.

Exceptional Promise

This criterion is for those who are at the stage of their careers but have shown the potential to make significant contributions as future leaders in their area of expertise. Migrants must demonstrate growth as part of their application.

Applicants will receive an email with a copy of the endorsement letter if their application is successful. Migrants will then need to apply for leave to enter or remain as a Tier 1 (ET) holder.

Stage two: apply for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa

At this stage, the UK Visa and Immigration will consider the applicants’ immigration history including whether any general grounds for refusal might apply, and if they are in the UK already, whether they can switch into the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).

Requirements of the Tier 1 (ET) visa application:

  • Applicants must submit a copy of the endorsement letter, which was emailed at stage one;
  • Migrants must submit their visa application within 3 months of gaining their endorsement.


Please note that if the applicants are applying in the UK, they must submit their visa application prior to the ends of their current leave.

Contact Our Immigration Team

For expert advice regarding any aspect of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa application, please contact our immigration team on 0203 384 3075.




The content of this article is for general use and information only. Since each case should be prepared on its own merit and in light of the constant amendments to the Immigration Rules, it is important to note that the information provided must not be relied upon unless Migra & Co has either given written consent or has been officially engaged in relation to a specific immigration matter. As a result, Migra & Co will take no responsibility for any damage, cost or loss resulting from relying on the information contained in this article, blog and website.