From Entrepreneurs Visa to Exceptional Talent Visa to Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK

In 2016, just after the announcement of Brexit, I was one of 200 applicants to receive a new visa introduced in the UK. The Exceptional Talent Visa allows highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and talent in digital technology with exceptional talent to work in the UK either as an entrepreneur or as an employee working in the field of digital technology.

At the time I applied, I was already based in the UK with an Entrepreneurs Visa and the CEO of Made With Glove, Co-founder of Women of Wearables and a STEM Ambassador. I had immersed myself in the Manchester and London tech ecosystem by speaking at and organising events, delivering wearable tech workshops and after receiving my Exceptional Talent Visa, I became the Tech Nation Visa Ambassador and started a blog series by interviewing fellow Exceptional Talent Visa recipients. In 2 years, I assisted over 100 fellow entrepreneurs with their Exceptional Talent endorsement applications and made a positive impact on their goal of living and working in the UK.  

When I was endorsed under the Exceptional Talent category by Tech Nation in 2016, it meant that in just 3 years, I could apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) visa in the UK.

The (ILR) or permanent residency (PR) is an immigration status granted to a person who does not hold the right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK), but who has been admitted to the UK without any time limit on his or her stay and who is free to take up employment or study. And this person can then be on their way to apply for British Citizenship provided they meet the criteria for naturalisation.

So, in March 2019, I applied for the ILR and using the super priority 24 hour service, I became a successful recipient.

ILR Process

The ILR process was actually alot easier than I anticipated and the most challenging part for me was studying for the Life in the UK Test. 

Life in the UK Test

The Life in the UK test was introduced to ensure applicants have a good knowledge of British customs, traditions, laws and the political system, as well as the English language. The test is computer based consisting of 24 multiple choice questions.  To pass the test, applicants must receive a score of at least 18/24 = 75% and the cost is £50.

The test can be taken multiple times however, each time the test is taken, the £50 fee applies.  I didn’t want to fail nor did I want to pay the £50 fee again so I prepared for the test by:

  1. downloading a free Life in the UK test app which consisted of mock test questions, practice questions and learning material;
  2. Buying the official practice test questions book and completing all the practice test questions; and
  3. using any opportunity to tell my friends and family about the test.  It was a great way to engage them, compete with them and share the test questions with them.  Some who were UK citizens admitted that they didn’t know the answers to some of the questions so it was great to educate them too.

My Tips

Upon reflection, having watched a brilliant TV series The Tudors previously and touring Hadrians Wall in the North East helped me answer some of the questions. I also recommend visiting tourist spots such as the Tower of London, Stonehenge, London Museum, National Portrait Gallery, V&A Museum, Imperial War Museum, Churchill’s War Rooms just to name a few.  

Testing the different cuisines of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England is also a great learning experience!  As a foodie, here is the list:

  1. England: Roast beef, which is served with potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings (batter that is baked in the oven) and other accompaniments. Fish and chips are also popular.
  2. Wales: Welsh cakes — a traditional Welsh snack made from flour, dried fruits and spices, and served either hot or cold.
  3. Scotland: Haggis — a sheep’s stomach stuffed with offal, suet, onions and oatmeal.
  4. Northern Ireland: Ulster fry — a fried meal with bacon, eggs, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, soda bread and potato bread.

I am pleased to report that I passed the test the first time and the results provided was a pass (or fail). I don’t know how many or which questions I answered incorrectly but I was relieved to know I succeeded after a month of studying for the test. I must admit, I struggled with UK artists and sporting questions.

Other Evidence

The other evidence for the ILR application also required proof that I earnt income in the field of digital technology during my 3 years so I provided evidence in the form of payslips and a letter from my employer.  Because my start up is pre-revenue, pre investment and pre trade, I worked at a University by covering a maternity leave position as an employee in the field of digital technology.

There were other criteria including an English Language requirement but because I am an Australian citizen, I was exempt.

Legal Advice

I also sought legal advice from a reputable immigration solicitor to ensure all my questions were answered to reduce my risk of completing an incorrect or incomplete application. This is because the ILR fee plus the super priority service fee, the UKVCAS appointment fee and biometric fee meant that in total, my ILR application fee was in the vicinity of £3000.

Relief!

I am extremely relieved that I was advised by the Home office almost immediately that my application was successful and I now have an ILR.  (The decision was made in 48 hours rather than the speedy 24 hour super priority service so I received a refund of £610 which was a welcome relief).

The ILR is like a permanent residency which means that I can stay in the UK under no restrictions (other than restricted and recorded travel outside of the UK if I want to apply for British Citizenship) but it also means that I am free to work or study in any field (even though I will continue to work in the field of Digital Technology).  I am also a step closer to becoming a British Citizen so that I can have the true freedom and flexibility that entrepreneurs who are British citizens have by default. The cost, the stress, the challenges that foreign entrepreneurs and talent who have visa restrictions and the need to record the amount of travel outside of the UK for x number of days means that these challenges have an impact on our personal and professional lives too.  Also, the application fee for British citizenship is in the vicinity of £1300.

Being an entrepreneur is hard. Being a foreign entrepreneur in any country is even harder. My journey to the UK started in 2012 and I’ve had the visa cloud hanging over my shoulders for the past 7 years.  It is unsettling to know that time is limited, employment is restricted and all travel must be recorded so in addition to all the challenges of running a start up, foreign entrepreneurs are under a different kind of pressure.

My Top Tips

  1. Record all travel on an excel spreadsheet, update it regularly and keep within travel limitations outside of the UK.
  2. Start studying for the Life in the UK Test early.  It doesn’t have an expiry date and make sure you don’t lose the sheet with your results because it will be very difficult to seek a new one.
  3. Consider how you will generate income while you are on your Exceptional Talent Visa if you are the founder of a start up that is pre-revenue.
  4. Check to confirm if you are exempt from the English language requirement criteria.
  5. Check to confirm when you can actually start applying for your Indefinite Leave to Remain.
  6. Upload all your documents yourself before your appointment at UKVCAS as it will save you alot of time.
  7. Before you leave any employment during your Exceptional Talent Visa, check the evidence required by the Home Office from your employer.
  8. Seek legal advice before you start.

How I Can Help With the Exceptional Talent Endorsement process

I am truly inspired by all the foreign entrepreneurs and exceptionally talented people that I have met and have assisted from around the world who want to realise their dream of living and working in the UK.  And because I completely understand the journey, I have developed some tools and resources for those who also want to apply for the endorsement from Tech Nation so they too can apply for the Exceptional Talent Visa in Digital Technologies.  Once they receive the endorsement, they can confidently apply for the Exceptional Talent visa and be well onto their way to apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain visa and then British citizenship.

I feel so rewarded when I receive these emails from my fellow exceptionally talented endorsement recipients that I have helped. This is why I continue to help foreign entrepreneurs and people working in digital tech with their endorsement applications.

“I’m writing to tell you some amazing news! I just got the endorsement! =) Very happy about it! I appreciate all the help and thank you for all the very valuable info you gave me, I’ll be forever grateful!”

“Hi Michelle.  Today I received endorsement letter from the Home Office. It’s totally a big surprise for me. I real appreciate you and would like to say thank you very much for your guidance!”

Hi Michelle. I wanted to let you know I just got word that I received my Exceptional Talent endorsement from Tech Nation. Thank you so much for your site, templates and your time to discuss. If I hadn’t chatted with you, had your templates or read your blog of others’ experiences, I think the process would have been very challenging and ended up with an unsuccessful result or I might not have taken this route at all”.

 

I am now working on my British citizenship application so that I can finally relax and enjoy being an entrepreneur, travel the world with no restrictions and make a positive impact to not only the UK Tech ecosystem but also the international tech ecosystem. With my Vietnamese heritage, Australian experience and soon to be a British citizen, my international experience can grow and reach new levels so that the world can truly be my oyster.

 

This blog was written by Michelle Hua, Speaker, CEO & Founder of Made With Glove. In 2016, Michelle was the recipient of the Exceptional Talent Visa and is the former #TechNationVisa Ambassador.  Michelle consults for highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and people working in digital technologies on how they can receive the endorsement for exceptional talent. Read Michelle’s other blogs on the #TechNationVisa here and Michelle’s own journey here.

Contact Michelle at techvisa@michellehua.co.uk

 

 

***This blog is about my own experience and while I consult on the Tech Nation Endorsement application process, I am not an immigration solicitor and I highly recommend anyone considering any visa route to seek legal advice.***

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