Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa is a unique chance for talents to come to the United Kingdom and work in science, engineering, humanities, medicine, digital technology, the arts, and fashion. This blog post is about the main 32 steps to do to get this visa. I wrote it with only digital technology in mind and the soul. However, if you are applying any other kind of Exceptional Talent Visa, you possibly will find some relevant information for you too.
1. Choose the visa route
If you have chosen Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for your visa route to the United Kingdom – that is good. And this also means you made at least a basic research on the topic of UK visas. So, probably, you know that there is plenty of Tier 1 visas. However, most of them require either access to significant investment funds or financial savings as well as limited opportunities to work and live in the UK.
Contrary, Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa has no financial requirements and is mild to many other immigration aspects. For example, the English language test or any visa sponsorship. That is why it gives a chance to work and live in the United Kingdom to discover your talents for the country’s benefits.
2. Read guidelines of Tech Nation and Home Office
If you write in a search engine “Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa guidelines” there are hundreds of search results relevant for this request. However, the most important documents are published by the Tech Nation, which is our Endorsement authority, and Home Office, the governmental body on immigration in the UK. Hence, first of all, an applicant needs to read these two guidelines carefully.
3. First glance: Promise or Talent
It is easy to think but sometimes tricky to decide what route to choose. However, only you are entitled to choose who you are – an Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise. What is the difference?
For Exceptional Talent, you have to be a leader in the field of digital technology. In other words, you are a founder of the Unicorn company.
For Exceptional Promise, you need to demonstrate the potential to become a leader in the field of digital technology. In other words, your company is still not a Unicorn but shows good growth.
Very important to highlight: you cannot choose both options simultaneously. Once you have decided which route is most appropriate to your expertise, you must specify your route. You must choose are you applying as an Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise candidate on the Tech Nation visa application form. Moreover, you cannot change your choice after submission. By the way, when you apply for Exceptional Promise and do not get Endorsement, this does not mean that your application automatically goes to Exceptional Talent route and vice versa. However, there are cases, when Endorsement Panel have changed the route. There are a couple of cases when applicants for talent visa got promises and candidates for exceptional promises got their exceptional talents.
4. Choose between tech & business routes
In Digital Technology, there are two possible ways to go, and the choice has to be based purely on your experience and qualification. For the tech route, you have to be an expert in your field with a stable experience in niche technology. For the business route, you have to be a successful entrepreneur with a proven record of your work as a C-suite manager or any similar position.
5. Think about one key criteria & two qualified criteria
Depending on the choice of Exceptional Promise visa or Exceptional Talent visa, you need to apply a slightly different package of documents. For any of these routes, you must have (1) at least one key criteria, (2) at least two qualifying criteria. However, the content of the criteria is different. I do not want to copy-paste all of them here since you read them in the Guidelines mentioned above. However, what is important – you need to think hard and provide as many proofs of your talent as possible. If you can support two key criteria – do it! It will increase your chances to get Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. That is why – think and dig into your own experience and skills.
6. Write a plan to do
After you have got an understanding of what you need to do to get the visa, put it down and write a plan of your actions. In other words, you need to write a personal plan for the Endorsement stage step-by-step. It is better to place it onto the wall and look at it every day. Also, I recommend making a plan in your Trello or any other productivity app. It will help to track your progress and “eat the big elephant in just small pieces”.
7. Set up Your deadlines
As I have said and done – you can use any project management technique to make your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa application successful. But what has to be met – deadlines. You do not have any obligatory date or time to apply for a visa. However, knowing your life circumstances, you must think about a precise date to do every step of your plan, outlined below. Without this important aspect, you risk to start an application in March and finish it next March or later.
8. Consider Fast Track option
Starting from October 2019, if you are a participant (or, at least, are already accepted) to the tech accelerator, there is a good ground to get your visa application speed up. The list of the accelerators is provided at the Tech Nation Guidelines on page 13. At the same time, you must remember: the pure facts for any of the mentioned reasons are not beneficial. You also must provide a strong Personal Statement and other required documents to prove your unique circumstances.
9. Brainstorm supporting docs
After you have outlined your route and other important aspects of your application, it is the ideal time to think about supporting documents. They are required to prove your key & qualifying criteria and eligibility for Fast Track. What types of documents should it be? Do you need to contact anyone to receive the document? How long (approximately) it will take to get it? Consider the real situations for understanding your chances to obtain what you need for your visa application.
10. Find an example of Personal Statement
As I wrote many times, Personal Statement is the core document in the visa application. It represents yourself in front of the Endorsement Panel. That is why start to draft it as early as possible. For this, you need to read Tech Nation Guidelines on page 25 carefully, find examples of Personal Statements (Talent Via app may help with this problem). Also, you must have a clear plan for what you will do in the UK (also, where exactly and how).
11. Write Personal Statement
Every Personal Statement for Exceptional Talent Visa has to have four main parts. You can find precise 12 questions to answer from the Tech Nation Guideline, however, in general you need to write (1) about your excellent professional past, (2) why you have chosen the UK, (3) why the UK must choose you as a talent (or promise), (4) what unique things you will do in the UK in the short term and long-term perspective. I advise you to make at least a couple of drafts and then choose the best one or mix all of them and create a final version.
12. Proofread your Personal Statement
This document is your silent presentation in front of tech gurus of Tech Nation. So do your best to make it as good as possible. I do not think that you have to go to the professional translators (unless your English is completely poor). Most of the people who sent me their Personal Statements are writing them by themselves. I have done the same. However, the main point is to check grammar using existing programs and apps. Some of them can even suggest a good order of words and other useful ideas. Listen to their advice but keep your eye on the meaning of the words and sentences. Sometimes, after an excellent proofread, you may lose the main thoughts that you put into the text. That is why, after proofreading check is it still showing your initial ideas and thoughts.
13. Find three-four referees
To get your three Letters of Recommendation, you need to have three or two trusted people who know your past and believes in your future. There are some formal requirements regarding them – your referees have to be C-level managers in international companies or prominent scientists in the area of your expertise. They have to write a Recommendation Letter on headed paper, to support your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa application (general letters are not working for this). Also, every referee has to provide his CV and direct contacts (including several mobile phone and email). This information is important to contact him or her about the details of the Recommendation Letter.
14. Prepare an example of Letter of Recommendation
It is easier for your referee to write such a document if he or she has an example or any sample letter. Again, try to find relevant documents that will not harm your visa application. The typical Recommendation Letters for universities, from the previous job, for an internship, will not work! You need only a Letter of Recommendation from the past applicant to see the difference. Also, you can try the Talent Visa app. Now it has two working examples of the Letters of Recommendation and 30+ sample phrases, useful for writing either Personal Statement or Letter of Recommendation.
15. Prepare supporting documents
There are no two similar packages of supporting documents as we all have different life circumstances. Hence, you need to have your unique supporting documents for all criteria. It may be any letters about your project, certificates about course completion, hackathon certificates, magazine articles or screenshot of GitHub contributions. In Talent Visa app, you can find examples of supporting documents and put all required information in one A4 blank paper and not more than ten documents.
16. Apply online for visa
You have to make two visa applications. One – for Home Office (including fee payment), the other one – for Tech Nation (including attachments of supporting documents). By the way, the Tech Nation visa application is a part of the Home Office visa application, so it is better to start them simultaneously.
17. Check all the fields to complete
There are many fields to fill in the visa application. You may be familiar with all of them and know what to write or what option to choose (for Yes / No questions). Anyway, try to check in advance the fields to complete and do a new search for fields that are not clear. If you do not know anything – use the next step and use a proactive approach for this.
18. Ask about help
If you have any questions about the Exceptional Talent Visa process, stages, documents to add, information to write or the e-form of visa application – ask about support from Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa Community. By the way, I am in this network too. Or but more costly – you can hire an immigration adviser or lawyer who will help you with making Exceptional Talent Visa application clearer. If you want to have my recommendation about a legal firm with a solid and positive reputation – let me know, please. They work with any types of talent visas (not only Digital Technologies). Hence, write to me, and in a private message, I will make you an introduction to the legal immigration firm.
19. Check your bank account to pay for the Endorsement Stage
To apply for an Endorsement stage, you need to have 456 GBP in your bank account. The most convenient way to pay is via debit card so please, be ready to provide information about the cardholder, card number, date of issue and CVV code. Double-check the required sum in your account and its availability as well as appropriate limit for on-line transactions.
20. Apply for the Stage 1 online
Fill all the required fields in the on-line forms (both of them, mentioned above in step no. 16). Attach the documents to support your application. Put information about the payment for your Endorsement stage of visa application and submit this application. Done!
21. No paper application
It is better to say one more time: starting from October 1, 2019, there is an official statement in both Guidelines, that “You do not need to send printed hard copies to Tech Nation or the Home Office” (page 16 of the Guidelines). Please, do not waste your time and efforts to print your docs.
22. Wait until the expected Endorsement
You need to wait up to 8 weeks after the confirmation email from the Home Office. Yes, two months period is a quite long time in terms of expected results. But all you need to do is to check your email every day and keep calm. You cannot change the order of things and make your visa application processing faster.
23. Contact Home Office (not obligatory)
If you have any doubt about your submitted application, the date when Home Office has received it or a fact that you do not have your confirmation email (after two weeks of your pressing the button “Submit”) you can contact Home Office via email firstname.lastname@example.org
24. Print your Endorsement letter
It will be The Big Day of your life when you will get your Endorsement letter. It will be sent to you by one of the Home Office experts. And this day will almost start of your new life. I wrote “almost” since there is also the second stage of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa application so-called “Immigration Stage”. However, the hardest part – Endorsement Stage is done!
After you read and re-read your Endorsement Letter, print it out and keep for attaching to the final visa application.
25. Collect the docs for Visa stage
I wrote a detailed post on this question and did not want to repeat the basics. The main point of this stage is to demonstrate for Home Office that you will be a good immigrant. In other words, a person who does not have any massive health issues (I mean the requirement to attach a Tuberculosis test certificate). And who will be in good relations with law and UK policies. All declarations that you will make in your visa application is the proof of this fact. Also, on this stage, you need to select an address where you will collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
26. Double-check your bank account and pay the charge for NHS
Again – the Visa Stage has a financial step to do. Every applicant has to pay not only 152 pounds for applying but also to pay UK healthcare surcharge. You need to calculate it in advance to understand the amount of sum. For example, when you come with dependants, the quantity is growing significantly. For instance, in my case, I have paid almost twice more for health surcharge in comparison with the visa costs.
You must have this money ready to pay out since, without the payment, you will not have a chance to make an appointment at the Visa Center.
27. Print all documents and visa application
Most straightforward step but check it twice or three times – you should not forget anything, the price of a mistake is too high. What other documents to bring with you? Read here, and also I wrote about this question in the Talent Visa app so it may be helpful for you.
28. Book a slot at the UK Visa Centre
After you have paid the required sums and collected all the documents – go to the UK Visa Centre web-page to book a slot for your in-person application. In different countries, there is a variety of unique options for Visa Centre’s work. However, in general, you may go in an ordinary queue or apply in premium.
The price of the last is always quite high. So if you are not in a hurry to come to the UK and can wait for a week or two – use the economy option of using the general queue. But if you do not have this time to wait – be ready to pay an extra charge for premium slots. And don’t forget to print the receipt of payment for this VIP-service! In my case, in Kyiv (Ukraine), the UK Visa Centre did not have my payment. Hence, a printed receipt was constructive, and my visit was less stressful.
29. Apply in person for Visa
On the day you have booked a timeslot, go to the Visa centre with the required documents and apply them for the Second Stage. During this visit be ready to take a photo of your face for future visa vignette and provide biometric information about your person – usually, it is fingerprinted for future Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
30. Wait until the collection time
This waiting drove me crazy but no choice. After you give the document to the officer at the UK Visa Centre, you have to wait again. I know how it is painful. Moreover, there is a different duration of waiting. When living in the UK, you need to wait up to 2 months (8 weeks) again. If you are applying outside the UK – the waiting period is shorter – up to 3 weeks. Keep calm and wait for the change of your application status and text message or email (depending on the option you have chosen in your profile). This notification will inform you about the readiness of the documents.
31. Come to the United Kingdom
When you get your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa vignette in the passport, please, remember that this is not your visa. You have to check the dates – usually, a vignette has its duration of 2 – 4 weeks. You must enter the UK during that period. In other cases, you will not be eligible to go to the UK at all and need to start the visa process from scratch again.
32. Get your BRP and start your UK life
When you come to the UK, you have around ten days to collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) from the Post Office. The branch of this Post Office will be located not far from the address you have put down into your visa application. Hence, think in advance about the convenience of collecting BRP and do not miss the deadline! Your documents will not be kept at the Post Office forever. Moreover, you are the first person interested in having the BRP as soon as possible – with it; you can start any activity and business. In other words, your BRP is proof of your visa and unique status of the Holder of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa.
If you still have questions about this visa route – I am here to help and share my knowledge with you. So I wish you good luck with your Tech Nation Visa application and see you in our regular meetups of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa Holders.