Fashion designers have been able to apply under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route since 2018. In this article Nick Gore takes an in depth look at the requirements to be met for endorsement under the ‘exceptional promise’ criteria.
The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa
The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa is for those who are highly skilled in the fields of science, humanities, the arts and technology. As part of this route, applicants must receive an endorsement from the relevant Designated Competent Body in their field confirming that they meet the Exceptional Promise (for potential leaders in the relevant field) or Exceptional Talent (for leaders in the relevant field) criteria.
In general, meeting the exceptional promise criteria is easier than meeting the exceptional talent criteria. The exceptional promise route is ‘for applicants who may be earlier in their careers but have already shown the potential to make significant contributions as a future leader in their field.’
Those who have received an endorsement can go on to make an immigration application. If approved they can be granted leave in the UK for up to five years and four months.
The mandatory criteria and evidence
The term ‘fashion designer’ has not been expressly defined in relation to this route, something we considered here.
Providing the applicant can be defined as a fashion designer, they must meet all of the mandatory criteria listed under Appendix L of the Immigration Rules (HC395, as amended) and also the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) policy guidance.
Applicants must demonstrate that they:
- are professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been sold or exhibited internationally, either through catwalk presentation or exhibitions (if applying under Exceptional Talent criteria) or which has had recognition with leading industry players (if applying under Exceptional Promise criteria);
- 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 the Exceptional Talent criteria) or developing track record in at least one country (if applying under the Exceptional Promise criteria), one of which can be their country of residence.
In order to demonstrate that they have met the mandatory criteria, applicants must provide evidence covering at least two of the below points:
- two or more examples of recent (in the last five years) evidence of UK or international media recognition;
- proof of having received, within the last five years from the year of application, support and sponsorship from a number of specified bodies;
- evidence of one or more orders placed by UK or international luxury retailers and boutiques; or
- evidence of recognition by leading industry players (within the last five years) – for example internationally renowned fashion designers, fashion media, retailers, brands, Graduate Fashion Week – of an exceptional graduating collection.
In many of the other fields, the Designated Competent Body specifies that graduates are often not applicable for an endorsement under exceptional promise.
However, fashion designers who are attending or who have recently finished university should be encouraged by the phrase ‘Graduate Fashion Week’ in point 4 above. This indicates that they can use their university experience within their application and may be eligible for an exceptional promise endorsement.
But if university students and graduates can apply, how can they meet the requirement of being ‘professionally engaged’ when Tier 4 (General) students are not allowed to undertake ‘business activities’ or be self-employed? Thankfully, the Arts Council have confirmed that:
…by professionally engaged we and the British Fashion Council mean that for Talent; proof of international distribution and sales (within the last five years) through internationally renowned retailers and boutiques, or through applicant’s own physical retail outlets or their ecommerce platform.
Then for Promise; evidence of recognition by leading industry players (within the last five years) – for example internationally renowned fashion designers, fashion media, retailers, brands, Graduate Fashion Week – of an exceptional graduating collection.
So, ideally they would need to show evidence as in sales but in Promise there is the part about an ‘exceptional graduating collection’. You would need to evidence that though – not just show that you have a graduate show but evidence that it was considered exceptional.’
Therefore, the first of the mandatory criteria can be met by point 4 of the evidence types, listed above.
Applicants should also be aware that if they currently have, or recently have had, leave under Tier 4 (General) then providing evidence to support point 3 above could suggest that they were breaching the conditions of that leave. This should therefore be approached with caution.
Recognition of ‘leading industry players’
Point 4 also refers to ‘leading industry players’. Applicants should consider which industry players to choose and provide some evidence as to how they can be regarded as such.
If this person is providing a letter to evidence that they know the applicant and their work, it should be separate from the three letters of support that are required to be on behalf of an organisation.
Although evidence of winning or being nominated in competitions is only included as applicable evidence of the exceptional talent criteria, it can be a great way of demonstrating how an exceptional promise applicant meets the mandatory criteria.
For instance, being nominated in a competition that was reviewed by experts and included a catwalk show may demonstrate all three of the mandatory criteria. Of course, evidence of the awarding process, the number of entries and confirmation of who the judges were should also be provided.
In many cases leading industry players have come to recognise applicants because of their role in competitions. If possible, this should be linked in the evidence they provide, as the Arts Council have also confirmed:
Graduating collection is only used as an example of something which could provide evidence of recognition by leading industry players – and in the case of a graduating collection, as this is part of your applicant’s study, this isn’t enough on its own and needs additional evidence of being exceptional to meet the criteria.
So when the British Fashion Council conduct their independent assessment of the evidence, they would not be looking at whether the work could be classed as a graduating collection, but whether the evidence provided appropriately and adequately demonstrates recognition by leading industry players.
How we can help
Applicants must also provide three letters of support from recognised experts that must meet certain criteria. We are experienced in preparing successful Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) endorsement and immigration applications for individuals spanning a range of industries and sectors, including fashion, digital technology and science. We currently maintain a 100% success record.
If you need further information about the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, please contact us.