Global Talent - the immigration category for attracting international talent to the UK

The Global Talent category is for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, medicine, engineering, humanities, digital technology, research, and arts and culture who wish to work in the UK.

The Global Talent category replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category for initial applications submitted to the UK Home Office on or after 20 February 2020. The Global Talent category retains virtually all of the elements of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and is essentially an expansion of this category.

Overview

The Global Talent category involves a two-stage application process.

Applicants who work in a qualifying field must first apply for an endorsement from a designated endorsing body. They must either be a leader showing exceptional talent, an emerging leader with exceptional promise, or have received an award or grant from a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) endorsed funder.

Provided an endorsement is granted, applicants can then submit their UK visa application to the UK Home Office.

Stage 1: endorsement application

Applicants must submit an endorsement application to the Home Office who will then forward the application to the endorsing body selected by the applicant. The exception is for endorsement applications made to Tech Nation, which must be submitted to the endorsing body directly.

The endorsing bodies and their relevant fields are:

  • the Royal Society for science and medicine;
  • the Royal Academy of Engineering for engineering;
  • the British Academy for humanities;
  • Tech Nation for digital technology;
  • UKRI for research applicants in disciplines in science, engineering, humanities and medicine; and
  • the Arts Council England for arts and culture. Depending on the qualifying field, the Arts Council England will pass on the application for review to its associated bodies:
    • the British Fashion Council for fashion design;
    • the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA) for architecture;
    • Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) for film and television – this body will only grant endorsements to individuals with exceptional talent.

Each endorsing body has its own individual criteria for endorsement under the exceptional talent route, exceptional promise route or UKRI funder option.

Endorsement applications are currently being processed within eight weeks.

There are fast-track options for applicants who:

  • are accepted onto a recognised UK accelerator programme if applying for endorsement from Tech Nation;
  • hold an approved peer-reviewed fellowship or award if applying for endorsement from the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering or the British Academy;
  • have accepted a job as a professor, associate professor, reader or equivalent position such as senior group leader at an approved UK higher education institution or research institution if applying for endorsement from the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering or the British Academy; and/or
  • will be hosted or employed in an approved UK research organisation and will provide critical contributions to work supported by a research grant or award from an approved endorsed funder if applying for an endorsement from UKRI.

If the endorsement application is successful, the applicant will receive an endorsement letter which they will need for the visa application.

Stage 2: visa application

Applicants who are already in the UK under Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange) on an exchange scheme for sponsored researchers, Start-up or Innovator categories may switch in-country into the Global Talent category.

All other applicants must apply from overseas in a country of which they are a national or where they hold permission to live in the country for at least six months.

All applicants must show that they meet the maintenance requirement by holding funds of at least £945 for 90 consecutive days prior to the date of the application. Furthermore, depending on the country of application, the applicant may need to provide a tuberculosis test certificate.

Visa applications are currently being processed within three weeks. However, depending on the country of application, there may be an option to expedite the processing of the application for an additional fee.

Applicants can extend the visa as many times as they like provided the organisation that endorsed them has not withdrawn its approval.

In order to extend the visa, the applicant must provide evidence that they earned money in the UK in their expert field, although, there is no minimum level of earnings they need to show. They must also meet the maintenance requirement mentioned above.

Conditions of grant

The Global Talent category is very flexible in that:

  • there is no requirement for an individual to hold an offer of employment before arriving and they are not tied to one specific employer or self-employment;
  • there is no minimum salary requirement;
  • there is no English language requirement (although the organisation that employs/hosts them may require this separately);
  • dependent family members can join the main applicant; and
  • it is possible to obtain indefinite leave to remain (also known as permanent residence or settlement) after three years.

Indefinite leave to remain

Applicants are normally eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after three years. However, applicants endorsed as having exceptional talent by the Arts Council or Tech Nation must wait five years before they are eligible to apply for ILR. Dependent family members will also have to wait five years before they are eligible to apply for ILR.

In order to be granted ILR, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • provide evidence that they earned money in the UK in their expert field, although, there is no minimum level of earnings that they would need to show;
  • must not have had their endorsement withdrawn by the endorsing body;
  • meet the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement by passing a Life in the UK Test;
  • meet the English language requirement; and
  • meet the residence requirement by not being outside of the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-months which make up the three or five year qualifying period for ILR. However, for those endorsed by the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of engineering, the British Academy and UKRI, absences outside of the UK will be waived if they are due to undertaking research activities overseas.

Naturalisation as a British citizen

Once an individual has held ILR for at least 12 months, they may be eligible to apply for British citizenship, provided they have remained in the UK for at least five years. This means that, for those under the three year ILR route, they will qualify for citizenship after five years, whereas those on the five year ILR route will have to wait six years before they become eligible for naturalisation as a British citizen.

Their dependants would be entitled to apply for British citizenship after living in the UK for five years, including at least one year with ILR, which, again, normally means that they will become eligible after six years of living in the UK.

There are stricter residence requirements for British citizenship compared to ILR. The applicant and their dependants must demonstrate that they have not been absent from the UK for more than:

  • 450 days in total in the last five years before applying for British citizenship;
  • 90 days in the 12 months before applying for British citizenship; and
  • six consecutive months in the last five years before applying for British citizenship.

It is possible for UK Visas and Immigration to waive excess absences in certain circumstances, for example, if absences beyond the prescribed limits were due to business travel for a UK-based employment or self-employment role.

After obtaining British citizenship, the applicant, and their dependants, may subsequently apply for their first British passports.

Conclusion

The Global Talent category is largely a rebranding of the Tier 1 (Exceptional) Talent category although it does expand the previous route.

For those who qualify, the Global Talent category is a good alternative to the Tier 2 work sponsored routes, which require the applicant to be sponsored by a UK employer to fill a role that meets certain skills and salary thresholds. However, the Global Talent category is only available to highly skilled individuals in certain fields.

For those who can obtain an endorsement and subsequently a visa under the Global Talent category, it is an extremely flexible route that can lead to ILR in three years in certain circumstances.

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