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Government introduces the new Global Talent Visa Scheme

Four days before Brexit day, the Government announced a new "Global Talent" visa which will be available from 20 February 2020.

But to say that the Global Talent Visa “replaces” the existing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent / Exceptional Promise) route for highly skilled non EEA citizens without job offers, in the true sense, might be over stating things, with the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules published on 30 January 2020 making no substantial changes to existing eligibility requirements under this route.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and (Exceptional Promise) visas

In 2017, the Government doubled the annual cap for this type of visa (assessed between 6 April to 5 April of the following year) to 2,000.

People from outside the EEA and Switzerland without a job offer can apply for this type of visa if they work in a qualifying field by:

  • applying for endorsement as a “recognised leader” (exceptional talent) or an “emerging leader” (exceptional promise)  by one of five designated competent bodies; namely:
    • the Royal Society (for science and medicine),
    • the Royal Academy of Engineering (for engineering),
    • the British Academy (for humanities),
    • Tech Nation (for digital technology) and
    • the Arts Council England (for arts and culture)


  • within three months of the date of their endorsement letters, applying to the Home Office for the visa.

“Fast-track” endorsement processes are available from The British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society for international awardees of recognised peer reviewed UK based fellowships, and senior academic or research appointments, providing applicants can meet the mandatory and qualifying criteria. Tech Nation will also fast track endorsements in the digital technology sector where the applicant has been accepted onto  one of a few recognised UK accelerator programmes.

This month’s annual report from the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”)

The annual report of the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) published on 28 January 2020 (and which interestingly rejects a “full shift” to an Australian–style points based system promoted by the Prime Minister) has been critical of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and (Exceptional Promise) visas.  It noted that the number of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and Tier 1 (Exceptional Promise) visas issued has never come close to the annual cap.

MAC’s view is that the skills bar for entry is too high and potentially eligible applicants were likely to get job offers anyway, and enter the UK under other immigration routes (such as Tier 2).

MAC’s report also suggests how the route might be modified, promoting an “expression of interest system in which those who want to come to the UK can register that interest and a monthly invitation to apply drawn from that pool, though subject to a cap.”  MAC suggests a selection process using a “tradeable points-based system” which could assign points to characteristics such as age, qualifications (with a rigorous process to assess the quality of qualifications), having studied in the UK, and priority areas, with language skills being an essential requirement.

Introduction of the new Global Talent category

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules published on 30 January 2020 introduces the Global Talent category, effective from 20 February 2020, for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, digital technology and arts and culture wishing to work in the UK. From this date, the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route will close to applicants.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has been added to the existing five designated competent bodies responsible for endorsement, and will consider applications from individuals operating in the scientific community who will be hosted or employed at a UKRI approved UK research organisation and supported by a substantial research grant (of not less than £30,00 for a period of 2 years) from a UKRI endorsed funder.  Qualifying applicants will be fast tracked to the entry clearance / leave to remain application stage with minimal evidential requirements, where they meet the individual eligibility criteria.  At the point in writing, there will be no “peer review” alternative which is available from other competent bodies for endorsement.

One benefit to come from the new rules is that those individuals who are endorsed under The Royal Society, The Royal Academy of Engineering or The British Academy criteria for “exceptional promise”, will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to settle permanently in the UK after holding this visa for three years, as opposed to five years.  Previously this option was only available for those endorsed under “exceptional talent”.

MAC’s suggestions have not yet been adopted.  In fact, there are no significant changes from the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and Tier (Exceptional Promise) visas, as the eligibility requirements are unaffected.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

Our specialist immigration team have significant expertise in Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise endorsement applications and can advise on the impact of the changes introduced, the application procedure, eligibility, cost and timescale.  Please just get in touch.

Contact a specialist

Flora Mewies

Partner | Employment & Head of Immigration

+44 (0) 330 137 3156

+44 (0) 752 522 5480

Email Flora Mewies

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Gillian Burns

Managing Associate | Employment

+44 (0) 330 137 3152

+44 (0)773 846 2372

Email Gillian Burns

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