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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
***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.***