I often get inquiries about the topic, since I got this five year UK working visa successfully in 2017. If you really want to work in the UK as an artist (or scientist), don’t give up before trying. People said to me ‘You want to work in the UK? That’s impossible! Just find someone here and get married.’ I want to say to you now, ‘it’s not impossible at all!’ I’ll tell you what you need to do to get the Exceptional Talent Visa, based on my experience. You don’t need to hire a lawyer. It’s fairly simple if you follow the instruction written on the guidance. (Italic parts are copy from the guidance on the Home Office website)
1. Read through the guidance on the website of Home Office.
It’s long, but all information you need is in there.
There are two stages in the process. Stage 1 is to get an endorsement letter form Arts Council (if you are an artist), and Stage 2 is application for the visa.
2. Find out if you meet the criteria.
There are two types in this visa. Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise. Both are called ‘Tier1 (Exceptional Talent)’. I applied for the Exceptional Promise. And I applied to the Arts Council for the endorsement.
The criteria to get the endorsement letter from Arts Council is;
You must be able to demonstrate that you:
· are professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been published (other than exclusively in newspapers or magazines), performed, presented, distributed or exhibited internationally;
· can show recent (within the last five years) and regular activity of being engaged professionally as a practitioner in your field; and
· can show a substantial (if applying under the Exceptional Talent criteria) or developing (if applying under the Exceptional Promise criteria) track record in at least two countries, one of which can be your country of residence.
3. Collect evidence documents, and select the best ten.
You must provide evidence to support two or more of the following (they don’t have to be all three, means, you don’t need to have award nomination!):―
· Two or more examples of recent (in the last five years) media recognition such as articles and/or reviews from national publications or broadcasting companies in at least two countries, one of which can be your country of residence. Event listings or advertisements are not acceptable. Media recognition must provide a critique of your work.
· Proof of having won or been nominated or shortlisted for international awards for excellence in the past five years, for example the Booker Prize, a Grammy Award; or domestic awards in another country, for example a Tony Award. By ‘awards’ Arts Council England mean, rather than monetary awards such as grants or bursaries, which are not applicable.
· Proof of appearances, performances, publications or exhibitions in the past five years in contexts which are internationally recognised in your field or evidence of international distribution and audiences for your work. Proof must come from at least two countries, one of which can be your country of residence.
For references, the documents I submitted were (I received an honorable award in Russia, but that was just after I had made the application, so it didn’t count.);
Evidence 1 ‘Hamlet!’ review on Leaming Spa Courier
Evidence 2 ‘Hamlet!’ invitation letter from Alexandria International Festival for Contemporary Theatre
Evidence 3 ‘Hamlet!’ invitation letter from Arghya International Theatre Festival in Kolkata
Evidence 4 ‘Hamlet!’ production booklet
Evidence 5 ‘Crazy God’ review on Plays to See International Theatre Reviews
Evidence 6 ‘Crazy God’ review on Gazeta Wyborcza with English translation
Evidence 7 ‘Crazy God’ review on Culture Pl
Evidence 8 ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’ review on TSOTF
Evidence 9 ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’ review on A Younger Theatre
Evidence 10 ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’ production booklet
The documents don’t need to be ten. A friend of mine submitted only eight documents, and he got the visa successfully. Also the documents don’t need to be original. All I submitted were photocopies except one production booklet. Online article must be printed out with the URL revealed on the page. Article in foreign language must be translated by a certificated translation company.
4. Contact three people for a reference letter.
You must provide three letters of support:
· The first letter must be from a UK based arts or cultural organisation, institution or company which is well-established nationally and/or internationally and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in its field.
· The second letter must be from another arts or cultural organisation, institution or company which is well-established nationally and/or internationally and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in its field. This second organisation may be UK or overseas based.
· The third letter may be either from a third arts or cultural organisation, institution or company (UK or overseas based) which is well-established nationally and/or internationally and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in its field or from an eminent individual with internationally recognised expertise in your specialist field.
Letters of support must:
· be dated
· if from an organisation, be:
· written on headed paper; and
· signed by the author who must be a senior member of the organisation such as a member of the senior management team or board, the Chief Executive, Artistic Director, Principal or Chair.
· include details of the author’s credentials (for example, a CV/resume) and how they know you (personal relationship or reputation)
· detail your achievements in your specialist field and how, in the opinion of the author, you have either:
· demonstrated that you are a world leader in your field (Exceptional Talent); or
· demonstrated that you have the potential to become a world leader in your field (Exceptional Promise).
· describe how you would benefit from living in the UK and the contribution you could make to cultural life here. They should also provide details of any of your future professional engagements in the UK that the author is aware of; and
· include full contact details of the author, including personal email address and direct telephone number, so that personal contact can be made by Arts Council England if required.
You have to keep in mind that these eminent people are busy! They don’t have time to write strong and shining letters for you. You’d better write the three different drafts by yourself. Don’t forget to ask a reliable friend to check the grammar and objectivity. Then ask the recommenders to correct your drafts and sign.
5. Fill the application form for Stage 1 online and print it out.
Print out all the pages. The payment happens when they received the posted form, since there is a section where you write your credit card number.
6. Make the package and send.
In one big envelope, enclose the application form, ten evidence documents, three enveloped reference letters, and cover letter with a list of contents written on it. It’s going to be a thick package. Don’t send it to the Arts Council! Send it to the Home Office. The address is written at the end of the application form.
You can do nothing now, just wait. In my case, it took five weeks to receive the result.
8. Receive an email from the Home Office.
If you successfully get the endorsement letter, go to the Stage 2.
9. Fill the application form for Stage 2 online, and print it out.
What you need in this process differs depending on your nationality.
10. Make the package and send it.
The envelope is much thinner this time. Enclose the application form, printed endorsement letter and cover letter.
It was three weeks in my case.
12. Receive an email form the Home Office.
In Summary, you need ten or less evidence documents from at least two countries, three reference letters from established organisations and/or individual, and your strong will and patient. Please keep in mind that the immigration rules can be changed time to time. So please read through the guidance carefully when you make the application. Good luck!!