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Tier 1 visas for architecture – guidance

This guidance sets out who the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa in architecture is for, the RIBA’s role in assessing applications and the assessment criteria we will use, what holders of a Tier 1 visa can do and how to apply. 

  • today 18 January 2019
  • insert_drive_file FAQs, Guidance

The RIBA has been working with Arts Council England, in partnership with the Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to develop assessment criteria for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa for architecture applicants from outside the EEA and Switzerland.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa application decisions are made by the Home Office (UK Visas and Immigration – UKVI). A number of specialist sector organisations assess applications and make endorsements in partnership with Arts Council England. From 10 January 2019 the RIBA will operate in this role, assessing applications for recognised or emerging leaders in architecture.

This guidance sets out who the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa is for, the RIBA’s role in assessing applications and the assessment criteria we will use, what holders of a Tier 1 visa can do and how to apply. This guidance is provided for general information and explanatory purposes only – if you wish to make an application for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, you should consult the Home Office’s guidance for applicants for more detailed guidance on your own individual application and circumstances.

More information on other visa routes available can be found on the UK Visas & Immigration website.

Who is the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa for?

The visa is an immigration route into the United Kingdom designed for those from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Applicants may apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa if they have been endorsed in their field as either:

  • a recognised leader (Exceptional Talent); or
  • an emerging leader (Exceptional Promise)

Architecture applicants of Exceptional Talent will have established themselves as producing work of outstanding quality which has been published, presented or exhibited internationally and have won international awards for excellence in architecture.

Architecture applicants of Exceptional Promise will have exhibited a developing track record of work of outstanding quality and may have won or been nominated/shortlisted for national or international awards for excellence in architecture.

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa is subject to an annual limit (from 6 April to the following 5 April) of 2,000 endorsements. The first 1,000 places are allocated between the different participating sectors, including arts and culture, engineering, science and technology – the arts and cultural sector (including architecture) has 250 places. The remaining 1,000 places are unallocated and available to applicants from any participating sector, with priority given based on the date of application.

What criteria do I need to meet?

The RIBA has worked in partnership with the Home Office and Arts Council England to develop a set of specialist assessment criteria for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas for architecture applicants. These criteria are designed to be consistent with Arts Council England’s broader criteria for arts and culture applicants and have been agreed by the Home Office.

If you wish to be considered as an Exceptional Talent applicant in architecture, you must be able to demonstrate that you are established as a leader and/or an internationally recognised expert in the field, including evidence such as:

  • significant international media recognition such as features, reviews or articles in at least one country other than the applicant’s country of residence
  • proof of having won or made a significant contribution to winning international awards for excellence in architecture
  • having produced work of outstanding quality which has been exhibited, presented or published internationally

If you wish to be considered as an Exceptional Promise applicant in architecture, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the potential to become a leader and/or an internationally recognised expert in the field:

  • media recognition such as features, reviews or articles in at least one country, which may be the applicant’s country of residence
  • proof of having won, been shortlisted or nominated for, or having made a significant contribution to winning or being shortlisted for, international or national awards for excellence in architecture
  • having produced work of outstanding quality which has been exhibited, presented or published nationally or internationally

Applicants can provide up to 10 pieces of supporting evidence to demonstrate they meet these criteria.

The Arts Council, who are the primary designated competent authority for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas in the arts, advise that it is unlikely that a recent graduate or architect at the outset of their career would be able to demonstrate a track record of appropriate range and quality to meet the required level of criteria for Exceptional Talent/Promise.

All applicants – for either Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise must also provide three letters of endorsement from organisations or individuals that are well-established nationally and/or internationally and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in architecture, detailing your achievements and the contribution you could make to cultural life in the UK.

The full assessment criteria are available at the bottom of this page.

What can I do on a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa?

Once an application has been accepted, holders of a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa can:

  • Work – either for an employer, as a director of a company or be self-employed
  • Change jobs without telling the Home Office
  • Do voluntary work
  • Travel abroad and return to the UK
  • Bring family members to the UK, if they meet the requirements

Holders of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas can stay in the UK for up to 5 years, if they apply from inside the UK, or up to 5 years and 4 months if they apply from outside the UK – applicants can choose how long they wish to stay for up to the maximum period, and must pay a UK healthcare surcharge of £200 per year for the amount of time they choose to stay.

Applicants can also apply to extend this visa for up to another 5 years – further endorsement by the RIBA or another competent body will not be required but architecture applicants will be required to prove they have earned money in the UK as a result of employment or self-employment in architecture during their initial stay. Further information about extension applications is available here.

Holders of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas will not be able to some receive public funds such as housing benefit or tax credits.

Holders of this visa can apply for permanent settlement – also known as indefinite leave to remain – in the UK after:

  • 3 years with an Exceptional Talent visa
  • 5 years with an Exceptional Promise visa

Please note: In order to practise using the title ‘architect’ in the UK, you must first register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). More information on registration can be found on ARB’s website.

How do I apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa?

Information and guidance for all individuals applying for a Tier 1 visa, as well as the application form can be found on the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) website.

Applying for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa in architecture is a two-stage process:

  • Stage 1: The RIBA assesses your skills, abilities and achievements in line with the criteria outlined above to decide whether an applicant should be endorsed for an Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise visa.
  • Stage 2: The Home Office will consider the immigration aspects of the application and determine whether a visa will be granted.

The RIBA will aim to send our recommendation back to UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) within approximately four weeks from UKVI sending us an application. UKVI will then notify the applicant of the recommendation and how to progress to Stage Two, or what to do next if endorsement is not recommended. We envisage the total turnaround time for both stages of an application to be around eight weeks – more information on processing times is available here.

There are separate fees for each stage of the application – all applicants must pay a fee to get an endorsement when applying for the first time or switching to this visa category. Please note that applicants will not automatically receive a visa if they have been endorsed and will not be reimbursed if their application is turned down at stage 2.

The application fees can be found on GOV.UK here.

If you intend to make an application, we recommend you consult the Home Office’s guidance for applicants for more detailed guidance on your own individual application and circumstances.

What if I don’t meet the criteria?

Applications for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas in architecture will be assessed by the RIBA against our published eligibility criteria, which relies on an evidence-based application process. If your application or the evidence provided fail to meet the criteria we are unable to recommend endorsement. All applicants are therefore advised to read the full eligibility criteria before applying.

If an application for endorsement is unsuccessful and the applicant thinks that a mistake has been made, they can ask for a review of this decision (known as an ‘endorsement review’). Full guidance on endorsement reviews can be found in the Home Office’s guidance for applicants.

If the Home Office refuses a stage 2 application, the applicant can request a review of this decision (known as an ‘administrative review’). More information about administrative reviews can be found on the GOV.UK website.

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa is not the only way for architects to be granted visas – if an application for endorsement is unsuccessful or you do not believe you will meet the criteria for endorsement, you may be able to obtain a visa to come to the UK through another route, if you meet the criteria for that route.

More detailed information on other routes available can be found on the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) website.

What is the RIBA’s role?

Arts Council England is the Designated Competent Body which advises the Home Office on whether applicants in the field of arts and culture meet the eligibility criteria to be endorsed for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. Arts Council England also partner with specialist sector bodies who provide specialist assessment for certain sectors.

The RIBA has agreed a memorandum of understanding with Arts Council England, setting out how we will work together on architecture applications for entry under Tier 1. Arts Council England will receive all applications from individuals working in architecture in the first instance but will refer applications of this nature to the RIBA for a specialist assessment. The RIBA will then assess these applications in line with the published criteria (detailed below).

Applying for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa is a two-stage process. Following assessment by the RIBA, Arts Council England will advise UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) on whether an applicant can be endorsed as possessing exceptional talent or promise. UKVI will then decide whether or not to grant entry to an applicant following a Stage Two application. Endorsement from the RIBA is dependent but not decisive as to whether a visa is granted.

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