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How to apply for the UK’s Global Talent visa
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The UK’s Global Talent visa went live in February 2020, replacing the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route. Far more flexible than its predecessor, and with no cap on the number of people who can enter with this visa (why restrict talent!), it has fast secured its place as a badge of honour for those deemed talented enough to obtain one. And with many applicants able to obtain indefinite leave to remain after only three years, and not being tied to an employer, it’s far more attractive than the Skilled Worker route.
It’s also probably the most interesting type of visa for immigration lawyers to advise on. We’ve helped a wide range of individuals, from high-end fashion designers to cutting-edge tech entrepreneurs and truly ground-breaking scientists, obtain visas under the route [yeah yeah yeah, that’s enough bragging — Ed.].
Another plus is that the Immigration Rules for this route, found in Appendix Global Talent, are relatively easy to follow and understand.
Who is the Global Talent visa for?
The scheme is open to anyone aged 18 or over who has exceptional talent or exceptional promise in the fields of:
- social science
- digital technology
- arts and culture
- film and television
“Talent” applicants will already be leaders in their specific field, whereas those with “promise” will have the potential to become leaders.
Whilst certain roles are clearly classic fits under the route — renowned tech entrepreneurs, say — we are also finding that other more technical and less high profile roles can meet the requirements. For example, in the context of scientific research, some technical specialists can use this route as well as the lead scientists.
Step 1: getting endorsed
Undoubtedly the most complex part of the process is the first stage: obtaining endorsement from a Home Office approved endorsing body.
In much the same way as the Home Office moved a large part of the responsibility for assessing the eligibility of skilled workers to the sponsoring employer, third party endorsing bodies must approve Global Talent applicants before they can apply for a visa.
The approved endorsing bodies for the Global Talent route are:
- Arts Council England – for arts, culture, architecture, fashion, film and television
- The British Academy – for humanities and social science
- The Royal Academy of Engineering – for engineering
- The Royal Society – for natural sciences and medical science research
- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – for science and research
- Tech Nation – for digital technology
Each endorsing body has very different criteria and some offer fast-tracking in certain scenarios. It’s crucial that anyone thinking of making an application reads the guidance from the specific endorsing body in detail and ensures that they include all the information needed.
The fee to make an application to an endorsing body is £456. Because this is relatively affordable for many applicants, I’m often asked if there is merit in submitting a quick basic application to see if the endorsing body might accept that. I would caution against that approach — it’s always best to spend time preparing the strongest possible application from the start. If the endorsing body refuses the first attempt, it’s almost always harder to try and persuade them to approve a second application.
There is guidance on applying for a review if the endorsement is refused.
Step 2: the visa process
Once endorsed, the actual visa application process for Global Talent is one of, if not the, most straightforward around.
There’s no English language requirement and no financial requirement.
Most applicants simply need:
- confirmation that they’ve been endorsed;
- a valid passport; and
- a tuberculosis test result if from certain countries
Anyone who has had an award or scholarship covering both fees and living costs for study in the UK in the 12 months before the date of application will also need written permission from the agency or government that granted it.
The main risk of refusal under this route arises from the grounds of refusal contained in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules. Before putting a client through the often intensive process of gathering evidence needed for the endorsement stage, I’d strongly recommend checking at a very early stage that there is nothing in the applicant’s past that may trip them up.
Previous overstaying, criminal offences, alleged deception and even innocent mistakes may all be problematic. At the very least, they’ll likely need to be explained in some detail in the visa application.
Those applying from overseas must use an online application form which can be accessed via this section of the Home Office’s guidance (the green button saying “apply now”).
An in-country application can be made if the applicant has valid permission to stay in the UK in any immigration category, other than:
- as a Visitor
- as a Short-term student (general student visas are fine)
- as a Parent of a Child Student visa
- as a Seasonal Worker
- as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household
- because they were given permission to stay outside the Immigration Rules, for example on compassionate grounds
If any of the above applies, the applicant will need to leave the UK and apply from overseas.
There is a different application form for extension applications.
Once the application form is completed, it can be submitted online and the relevant fees paid. It’s only then that any supporting evidence needs to be uploaded.
How long does the visa application take?
According to the Home Office, standard applications made from inside the UK should be processed within eight weeks.
Standard applications made from outside the UK should be processed within three weeks.
Depending on where the application is processed and subject to any effects of the coronavirus pandemic, there may also be a five working day or next working day fast-track service available. If so, the option to apply for this will be found at the point of payment for the visa.
In addition to the endorsement fee, the visa application fee, for both in-country and overseas applicants, is £152 for most applications at time of writing.
It drops to £97 for anyone from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.
Importantly, though, the Immigration Health Surcharge is also payable. At £624 per year, this will far outweigh the headline fees.
Can family members come to the UK?
Partners and children of the main applicant, including children over 18 who are currently in the UK as a dependant, can apply under Global Talent as well. The fee for them is currently £608, plus the health surcharge.
I’ve dealt with a case before where the scientist I was advising was of such exceptional importance to the specific field of medicine they were working in that the Home Office exceptionally allowed their elderly father to accompany them. The scientist would not have come to the UK otherwise — Canada and other countries had already extended invites — and this may very well have seriously hindered the UK’s progress in combating the particular disease the scientist was working on. It’s extremely rare to be allowed to bring adult relatives, even for highly skilled migrants such as doctors, which goes to show how much the Home Office values those with a Global Talent endorsement.
What can you do with a Global Talent visa?
One of the main attractions of the Global Talent visa is that holders can work freely (other than they may not work as a doctor or dentist in training, or as a professional sportsperson or coach). They aren’t tied to an employer and can be employed or self-employed as they wish; in fact they don’t even have to work (unless they want to extend their stay or settle in the UK). They can also study on a full or part-time basis.
Visa duration and extensions
There is no limit on how long a person can stay in the UK with a Global Talent visa.
Each period of stay can be up to five years. If someone only wants to come to the UK for a short period of time — say a year to work on a specific project — they can apply for a visa for only a year. This reduces the health surcharge costs.[application]
In order to extend the visa, the applicant must show that they have earned money in the UK during their last period of permission and that this was earned in the field their endorsement relates to.
For example, an engineer who was endorsed by The Royal Academy of Engineering but who subsequently decided to earn a living in the UK from buying and letting property in London would not qualify for an extension. This is unless they had also derived at least some income — there is no specific threshold — from engineering work.
Qualifying for indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
If the applicant wants to apply for indefinite leave to remain, in addition to meeting the extension requirements, this is also the point at which they must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language and also take a Life in the UK test.
They will be eligible to apply for ILR after three continuous years in the UK if their last endorsement was:
- under the exceptional talent criteria from any endorsing body;
- under the exceptional promise criteria for the endorsing bodies in science, engineering, humanities and medicine; or
- under the UKRI endorsed funder fast track criteria.
Those endorsed under the exceptional promise criteria for Arts Council England or Tech Nation must have spent a continuous period of five years in the UK.
It is possible to rely on time previously spent in these categories:
- Global Talent; or
- Innovator; or
- Skilled Worker; or
- T2 Minister of Religion; or
- T2 Sportsperson; or
- Tier 1 Migrant, other than Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur).
Applicants must meet the rules on absences and continuous residence contained in Appendix Continuous Residence.