2019 — UK Tier One Exceptional Talent Visa
Disclosure: I’m now an ambassador for TechNation. You can find me on the alumni page.
I’ve spent the first half of my life in Asia, second half in America on all three coasts, and decided that it is time to further satisfy my curiosity of Western Europe & Scandinavia using certain key cities as a home base. Even though I already hold one of the most powerful passports in the world and can travel visa-free to 189 countries at the time of writing this, I want to spend more time beyond the three month period that my passport privilege grants me so that I can explore more deeply some of these captivating places that I’ve grown so fond of. Besides, having options to roam this world safely, freely, lavishly and legally with warm welcome from popular and affluent destinations, with minimal restrictions, is liberating, invigorating and joyous. A looming deadline and traveling on a budget often reduces the magical experience of a new charming place.
Fortunes favors the bold, but it is one thing to get out of the Ivory Tower with reckless abandonment and endanger yourself as a solo female in the international playground, and another to be in an empowered position with armors and safety nets so you feel confident enough to play in the global jungle.
Ever since I’ve successfully gotten the UK Tier One Exceptional Talent Visa, which allows me to work and live in the UK for 5 years 4 months and an invitation to apply for settlement thereafter, I have gotten a lot of questions about it so I’ve decided to condense it in a post once and for all. I hope by writing this, it helps demystify the process in some way. The application and approval process was seamless to me after my first and only try. I did everything on my own and did not hire or consult any attorney or agency which could add up to 5 figures if you’re not stringent with no guarantees and mostly for Tier 2 visas.
It was only after I had a bombardment of questions, that I realize that there is a demand for this coveted visa. A quick search revealed that the people who wrote about successfully getting the Exceptional Talent Visa actually went through a lot of second-guessing and self-doubt when they first looked at the sky-high expectations laid out in the TechNation requirements. The UK home office has allocated only 200 places at that time for TechNation to endorse world class talent in the technology and digital space. UK prime minister Theresa May has increased this number for highly skilled tech talent.
“Tech startups are international, borderless and have an insatiable need for talent. The Tech Nation Visa Scheme is a great example of government stepping in to give Britain’s digital economy — which is growing 32% faster than the wider UK economy — a head start when it comes to competing on the world stage. It is encouraging to see that the criteria changes have seen an uplift in applications, as the scheme is set to become ever more important in the near future” — Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK
I’m just so used to shooting for the stars and having this feeling of being tiny in a world filled with titans of the industry that I was able to just jump right in and power on.
The Exceptional Talent visa is a great alternative to the more traditional visa routes of going back to school, getting married or investing in a business. I believe this prestigious visa scheme places you in the most optimal position because unlike other types of visas such as the working visa, whereby you not only need to have talent that cannot be found locally, you also need to earn above a certain annual income, be exclusive to your sponsoring employer and you also cannot launch your own businesses. The business or student visa prohibits you to work. You may even have to cough up hefty sums of financial investment which could range from low six figures to over seven figures. The investor visa is the other Tier One visa but you have to pump in £2 million investment and £10 million if you want to apply for settlement after 2 years.
However, the Exceptional Talent Visa allows you to:
1. Work for any company and in any role or sector— without the approval from the Home Office
2. Launch your own business
4. Extend it as many times as you wish as long as the endorsement is still valid and you could proof income
6. Apply for settlement (permanent residency) after 3 to 5 years if you could demonstrate contribution to the UK economy
7. Bring family and/or other dependents in the UK.
The name of the visa is self-explanatory. However, I do not possess any sort of technical wizardry. I fall more towards the business side of things in tech outlined in Table 2.
You need to demonstrate, with up to 10 supporting documents as evidence that you have the following criteria:
The mandatory criteria
In order to be eligible for endorsement you must be able to satisfy at least one of the following mandatory criteria:
- You have a proven track record of innovation in the digital technology sector as a director, founder or employee of a digital technology sector company.
- You can prove recognition for work outside of your immediate occupation which has contributed to the advancement of the sector.
The qualifying criteria
Once you are confident that you can satisfy at least one of the mandatory criteria, you should ensure that you meet at least two of the following qualifying criteria:
- You have made significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions in the digital technology sector as either a director, founder, or employee of a digital technology company.
- You have been recognised as a world-leading talent in the digital technology sector.
- You have undergone continuous learning/mastery of new digital skills (commercial and/or technical) throughout your career.
- You have demonstrated exceptional ability in the field by making academic contributions through research.
- be able to secure at least 2 recommendation letters from renowned industry experts of two separate organizations (such as a CEO/COO, Senior member of a company, or a Senior-level Professor of a prestigious university). The experts must be from two different organizations.
The salaries advertised for digital roles are 44% more than the non-digital average in the UK. The UK tech sector pays more than the non-tech sectors and are predominantly white British male. The UK is also leading in the number of billion dollar unicorns in Europe. Unicorn is a misnomer because these companies are real, built on grit and is so much more than some mystical creation.
So there you have it. The reasons listed as clear as crystal as to why I want to go where I want to go. It is never for some boy, family or/and friend. It often baffles me how people would move just for relationships because my best relationships were never restricted by geography. We’re still on planet earth, not Mars. Advancements in technology and travel have make it so easy to maintain relationships from a million miles away. If someone cites geographical distance as a cause for the dissipation of a relationship, then it means that the foundation of the relationship was not strong to begin with and will crack under any sort of pressure not just because of physical distance. The founder of Zoom founded Zoom precisely because he was in a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend at that time, now wife. The distance didn’t hinder his desire to continue the relationship but instead motivated him to found a company to stay close to her. I have experienced feeling closer to people across the continent and known for a shorter time than I do with some people I face daily and known for much longer. The world is a wonderful place and I get along best with people who wish to enjoy it with me. Deep impact and lasting impressions linger on in our hearts and minds more than any superficiality ever will.
The next commonly asked question I get asked a lot whenever I accomplish something of significance, such as paying for expensive further education, owning luxury products (shoes, bags, clothes, jewellery) or real estate, attending VIP events (galas/conferences), dining in fancy places, or traveling luxuriously is whether a boyfriend, parent or powerful friend helped me. Even though the people around me has graciously offered to support me unconditionally, I have mostly attained what I want through my own merit, and this time especially, it is evident that my appearance and gender had nothing to do it. In fact, those very characteristics stack the disadvantages against me. I have ZERO debt either and never taken any kind of loans. I’m quite a super saver. I did everything myself not for respect and admiration because you cannot eat respect and admiration, especially not from people who have no influence over your life, but I depended on myself entirely for my own personal satisfaction, and that is something no one can take away from you. There’s a kind of inner strength and peace you see when you look into the mirror and not only love what you see on the outside, but very proud of who you are on the inside.
Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. You should consult a registered immigration adviser or a licensed attorney for any questions you may have related to the immigration laws or your application.