Fashion designers have been able to apply for a UK visa since 2018, initially under the old Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and, more recently, the Global Talent route. In this article associate solicitor Nick Gore takes an in depth look at the requirements to be met for endorsement under the ‘exceptional promise’ criteria.
The Global Talent visa
The Global Talent visa is for those who are highly skilled in the fields of technology, science, humanities, architecture, the arts, film, and television. The visa was previously known as Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).
As part of the Global Talent visa application process, applicants must receive an endorsement from the relevant Endorsing Body in their field confirming that they meet the Exceptional Promise (for emerging leaders in their relevant field) or Exceptional Talent (for recognised leaders in their relevant field) criteria.
The relevant Endorsing Body for fashion designers is the Arts Council, who receive applications for which the British Fashion Council make assessments.
In general, meeting the Exceptional Promise criteria is easier than meeting the Exceptional Talent criteria. The Arts Council’s supporting guidance sets out that Exceptional Promise is for those who ‘have the potential to become leading practitioners or recognised experts 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 requirements of the Global Talent route are slightly tougher than the previous Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route.
The term ‘fashion designer’ is defined strictly under Appendix W7.5.3 of the Immigration Rules (HC395, as amended) as those within the ‘fashion design industry and they are involved, or have been involved, in a leading design role within a fashion business.’
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).
- have recent and regular activity of being engaged professionally as a practitioner in their field in the last five years.
- have 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).
In order to demonstrate that they have met the mandatory criteria, applicants must provide evidence covering at least two of the below points:
- At least two examples of recent UK or international media recognition for work in the field of fashion, online or in print such as features, articles and reviews, of the applicant’s collections.
- Proof of having received support and sponsorship through specific support schemes in the field of fashion.
- Proof that one or more orders has been placed by UK or international luxury retailers and boutiques.
- Recognition by leading industry players such as internationally renowned fashion designers, or media or Graduate Fashion Week – of an exceptional graduating collection.
In many of the other fields, the relevant Endorsing Body specifies that graduates are often not eligible 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 international students are not allowed to undertake ‘business activities’ or be self-employed?
Under the previous Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, the Arts Council 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.
Applicants often rely on media recognition, and it is often the easiest requirement to demonstrate.
Event listings or advertisements should not be used to meet this requirement and any evidence relied on must be from an independent source.
Exceptional Talent applicants can rely on evidence from social media to meet this requirement, providing the articles are by ‘prominent bloggers or key opinion leaders’.
The media recognition must be about the applicant’s collections, rather than the applicant themselves. If the applicant has given an interview talking about their background and achievements, there must be some discussion on their design work for this to be counted as media recognition.
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 roles 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 Global Talent endorsement and immigration applications for individuals spanning a range of industries and sectors, including fashion, digital technology and science.
If you need further information about the Global Talent route, please contact us.