Tier 1 immigration

The Exceptional Talent Tier 1 visa is a way of allowing recognised researchers with exceptional talent and emerging researchers with exceptional promise to work in the UK.

Each year, the UK Border Agency welcomes up to 2000 people who are internationally recognised as world leaders in the fields of science and the arts, and who wish to work in the UK. The UKBA works with five ‘designated competent bodies’ (The Royal Society, The Royal Academy of Engineering, the Arts Council, Tech City and the British Academy) to carry out peer review on the applications in their fields. The designated competent bodies help to identify the very best applicants, and also those with exceptional promise. Although the Academy of Medical Sciences is not itself a competent body, it helps the Royal Society with applications for clinical researchers.

In January 2018, a Research and Innovation Talent Visa was introduced as part of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route by the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society.

The Research and Innovation Talent Visa comprises two streams, one for applicants who are leaders in their field and another for those who have the potential to be future leaders. Under the new process, applicants who have received a senior job offer at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) or eligible research institute will apply through a simplified process (avoiding duplication of paperwork) and be guaranteed an endorsement of their application, providing they meet all criteria and submit relevant evidence. The eligible positions are Professor, Associate Professor and Reader at a HEI or equivalent positions at a research institute, such as Senior Group Leader.

At the same time, the list of peer-reviewed research fellowships that are eligible for the accelerated process for ‘Exceptional Promise’ was expanded to include fellowships awarded by the Research Councils UK, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust, as well as the Academies.

There are some benefits to holding a Research and Innovation Talent Visa compared to holding a regular Tier 2 visa. Tier 1 visas are provided from a different pool from Tier 2 visas, and may offer an alternative route into the UK at times when Tier 2 visas reach their cap level. Tier 1 visas also offer greater flexibility, allowing recipients to change jobs and employers without reporting it to the Home Office, and to start a company without need of changing visa type. Similarly to Tier 2 visas, Research and Innovation Talent Visa holders can bring family members to the UK with them, but with the added benefit of being able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 3 years. Finally, holding a Talent visa is considered a marker of prestige in its own right.

To find out more details on Tier 1 visas, as well as the criteria for each of the designated competent bodies, please visit the UK Border Agency website. For further information about the Research and Innovation Talent Visa, please visit the Royal Society website.

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