Since January 2019, Architects have been able to apply to enter or remain in the UK under Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent). In order to apply, applicants must receive an endorsement from the Designated Competent Body, in this case, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), on behalf of the Arts Council. Associate solicitor Nick Gore reviews the legal and evidential requirements for this application.
The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa
The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa is for those who are highly skilled in the fields of technology, science, fashion and other arts. The visa allows individuals to have flexibility in choosing employers, in establishing their own businesses and in some cases an accelerated route to Indefinite Leave to Remain.
To make a successful application, individuals must first receive an endorsement from the Designated Competent Body (DCB) setting out that they are exceptionally talented (a recognised leader in their field) or exceptionally promising (an emerging leader in their field). Once the endorsement is issued, applicants can then go on to make an immigration application.
As part of the endorsement application Architects must meet the mandatory criteria and provide no more than ten documents of specified evidence.
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): Architecture endorsements – The mandatory criteria and evidence
The mandatory criteria are listed under Appendix L of the Immigration Rules (HC395, as amended) and reflected in the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) policy guidance.
To meet the mandatory criteria applicants must demonstrate that they are:
- professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been published, presented or exhibited internationally;
- can show recent (within the last five years) and regular activity of being engaged professionally as a practitioner in their field; and
- can show a substantial track record in more than one country (if applying under Exceptional Talent criteria) or a developing track record in one or more countries (if applying under Exceptional Promise criteria).
Applicants must also provide evidence demonstrating two or more of the following:
1) Two or more examples of recent UK or international media recognition in at least one country, which can be their country of residence. For the exceptional talent category, this must be ‘significant’ international media recognition and must be in at least one country other than their country of residence.
2) Proof of having won or made a significant and direct contribution to winning (or for exceptional promise, being nominated/shortlisted for) at least one international (or national for exceptional promise) award for excellence. This must have been within the last five years from the year of application.
3) Proof of having work published or exhibited in the last three years (five years for exceptional talent), in contexts which are recognised as internationally significant in the field. This must come from at least two publications or exhibitions in at least one country, which can be their country of residence (for exceptional talent, this must be one country other than their country of residence).
In our experience, this is often the most straightforward criteria to meet. The media recognition can be online or in print, including articles and reviews from national publications or broadcasting companies as well as international architectural periodicals or journals.
In many cases, applicants are not named specifically in the article but their practices are. It is important to show the applicant’s direct involvement. The evidence may therefore need to be strengthened by providing letters of support from the applicant’s practice setting out the work they have personally performed, how it was integral to the project and how their contribution led to media recognition. This can also help demonstrate how they have been professionally engaged and how they have a substantial track record.
An international award for excellence
Demonstrating that an applicant has won, contributed to winning or been nominated for an award is often one of the more difficult requirements to be met. As well as actually winning/being nominated for the award, the award itself has to be ‘significant’ enough. Examples given include the RIBA International Prize, Pritzker Prize and Venice Biennale of Architecture Award. Exceptional promise applicants can rely on the AIA Young Architects Awards and the RIBA Silver or Bronze Medals (international student awards), which may provide students or those recently graduated with some opportunity of meeting this criterion.
In addition, the evidence provided must detail the award, including its category and year of nomination, detail the credit received and, if the award was part of a practice or group further evidence is required from the organisation named on the award.
Work published or exhibited
This criterion is also relatively popular, although the question of what is ‘significant’ can cause complexity. The examples provided include monographs published by recognised international publishing houses, exhibitions at international exhibitions/festivals and international galleries with curated architecture exhibitions. Each example would have to be assessed on its merits as to whether it is ‘significant’.
The evidence provided for this criterion must demonstrate a minimum of two publications or exhibitions. Letters from the galleries/exhibitions may be of use as they can provide further information as to how the work is exceptional, and publications covering the exhibitions may be a useful way of ‘combining’ evidence in the 10 supporting document limit.
How we can help: Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): Architects Visa
In addition to the above, applicants must also provide further documents such as referee letters. We can provide assistance to those who wish to make an endorsement application. We are experienced in preparing successful Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) applications for individuals spanning a range of industries and sectors.
If you need further information about the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, please contact us.