April 2, 2016

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, Tech City UK

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, Tech City UK

I’ve always wanted to expand my horizons. I have a deep interest in finance and technology, and my projects stand testament to that. As far as fintech goes, London (and the greater UK) are leading the charge. As a result, I’ve been looking at ways to make a move there and make something great.

I’m incredibly excited to announce that I have been awarded an endorsement for the covetedTier 1 Exceptional Talent visa. Every exceptional talent endorsement needs a designated body to do the endorsement, and for technology the endorsement body is Tech City UK.

In this post I’ll detail the application process for anyone looking for more information on this visa and how to get involved.

Exceptional Talent

The UK government has set aside 1,000 visas per year for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent. This is spread between five designated bodies, each giving them a 200 visa per year quota. As a result, the bar for these visas is high.

In the technology sector, it’s difficult to quantify an “exceptional talent”. In engineering, law and sciences there are various awards given to individuals who have excelled. In the technology sector these awards are either informal or intersect with the fields previously mentioned. This may be largely due to so many people in this sector being self-taught, or the lack of formal bodies around it.

Tech City has only fairly recently been deemed one of the bodies allowed to give endorsements, and has been ramping up their exposure and reach. Late last year, the the criteria of “exceptional promise” was added. This would allow a greater number of talented individuals to be accepted into the UK on this visa. Find out more about the visa.

The Criteria

When I found out about the visa by chance through a random blog post, I did more digging and pored over the qualifying criteria. I felt that I could meet the criteria and went to work. I reached out to Tech City to confirm a few things and they were incredibly helpful.

The qualifying criteria is as follows:

Mandatory Criteria

An applicant must fulfill one of the following:

  • Have a proven track record of innovation in the digital technology sector as a director, founder or employee of a digital technology sector company
  • Proof of recognition for work outside your immediate occupation that has contributed to the advancement of the sector.

Qualifying Criteria

An applicant must then also satisfy at least two of the following:

  • 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
  • Have been recognised as a world leading talent in the digital technology sector
  • Have undergone continuous learning / mastery of new digital skills (commercial or technical) throughout your career
  • Have demonstrated exceptional ability in the field by making academic contributions through research

When I submitted my application, I decided to provide evidence for as much of the above as follows, and as a result submitted evidence for both mandatory criteria, and three of the qualifying criteria (I have not made any contributions through academic research).

As to my actual application details, it involved my public work (my open source software, my writing, public dealings with industry professionals) as well as offline information (previous employers and colleagues, work done in companies that I do not own or have not shared).

I ended up submitting seven letters from previous colleagues and industry leaders, as well as further evidence, including:

  • Proof of significant contribution
  • Recognition of work outside of employment
  • Scaling a digital product internationally
  • Heading several high profile digital products
  • Experience as a CTO

Fast Track Options

There are also several options for your application to be fast-tracked:

  • Empowering the North (working in the North of the UK)
  • Bridging the gap (in possession of skills deemed as a shortage)
  • Relocating teams (teams wanting to move over together)

If you qualify for the fast track, your application is processed in 18 working days, as opposed to the usual ~3 months.

Documentation

Once you decide you want to apply, you have to gather all the documentation. There is detailed guidance available here(pdf) which lists everything you need, giving examples and advice.

I ended up submitting 20 or so pages of supporting documents in my application pack. Gathering the documents and putting everything took probably around 40 working hours.

The Process

During a visit to London I met with the Policy Manager of Tech City who helped answer a few questions on the process, and gave me insight into the organisation as well as the mandate from the UK Government.

As I qualified for the fast track, I received an answer back within the 18 working days. There were no queries after submission, and once approved I received an email with a letter attached stating that:

Tech City UK has advised that you meet their criteria for Exceptional Talent and I am therefore satisfied that you can be endorsed under Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).

Next Steps

Once the endorsement is received, you apply for the visa. The visa is generally accepted smoothly as the endorsement is a “pre-approval”, and will only be denied for reasons like failing to disclose any criminal convictions, having been deported from countries before, etc.

Conclusion

Needless to say, I am incredibly happy to have received this endorsement and can’t wait to get over to the UK. I’ll be landing in May and look forward to getting involved.

If you have any questions about the process or the criteria, please feel free to get in touch.