Since receiving my UK Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visa in Digital and Technology in July 2016, I have been contacted by people from around the world showing amazing support and asking questions about their applications.
I love listening to their stories and why they want to apply to settle in the UK.
To help with making the process easier and less daunting, I would like to share some common questions that I am often asked about my experience and my answers after being through the process and speaking with other applicants.
And don’t worry, it is a common theme for applicants from outside the UK and within the UK that the process, the application and the words “leading talent” are daunting.
Hopefully these FAQs will ease your concerns, allow you to focus on your achievements in digital and tech and help you to confidently start your application to apply for the Tech Nation Exceptional Talent endorsement and visa in Digital and Tech. These FAQs are about my experience and not endorsed by Tech Nation or the Home Office. For more information a link to their guidelines can be found here.
1.What is the Exceptional Talent Visa in digital technologies?
The Exceptional Talent Visa is a special visa introduced to allow highly skilled entrepreneurs and talent in digital technologies the ability to apply for the right to live and work in the UK for up to five years. It is a two stage process where the applicant must be endorsed by Tech Nation, a Government organisation initiated in 2011 to help the UK tech sector to grow through a range of programmes and support entrepreneurs in digital technology. Since it is an exceptional talent visa, an applicant must be endorsed with exceptional talent or exceptional promise by meeting the strict criteria set by Tech Nation before they can apply for the visa.
2. Do I apply under an exceptional talent or exceptional promise category?
This is a very common question. The guidelines are clearer now since I applied.
It states that
Applicants who choose to apply under the Exceptional Promise criteria are likely to be earlier in their career, typically with 5 years or less commercial experience and therefore have yet to establish a track record in innovation. This means that they might not have had the same levels of experience or commercial impact as those expected to apply via the Exceptional Talent criteria, however they will need to be able to demonstrate the potential to be a leader in digital technology through their skills and achievements thus far. If you have 5 years or more commercial experience you should apply for the Exceptional Talent route rather than Exceptional Promise (unless there has been a recent career change into the digital technology sector or other differentiating factor). Tech Nation experts will establish whether your skills and achievements meet the necessary criteria and whether you should be endorsed for Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise.
If you are a graduate with less than 5 years experience, you would apply under the exceptional promise category.
3. How do I know what pieces of evidence I should submit?
Look at the application in its entirety and work your way through all the Mandatory and Qualifying criteria. Look at all your evidence for all the criteria and decide which criteria puts you in the strongest light. In addition to the 10 documents you have to submit, you also need to submit 3 x letters of recommendation, your CV, and your personal statement.
As part of your 10 documents, you may wish to include letters of support. These are different to letters of recommendation by experts in that the people you choose to write letters of support don’t have to be C suite executives or be experts. Their letters would need to help you satisfy the Qualifying or Mandatory criteria that you select. Try to keep your application balanced with letters of support and other evidence. In other words, don’t overload your application with too many letters of support and ensure they are all from different organisations.
I provide a checklist to help applicants through my consultancy package to help applicants sort through all their documents which helps them determine which documents fit under which criteria. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
4. I have more than 2 pages as part of my evidence that I want to submit. Shall I submit it anyway?
There is a strict 2 page limit per document. I went over the 2 page limit and the Home Office emailed me to give me an opportunity to re-submit my documents. Note that emails from the Home Office may go into your junk/spam inbox so check all inboxes regularly.
5. Which is harder, the application for endorsement or the visa application?
In my experience, the application for the endorsement was more challenging because of the amount of evidence and documents I needed to gather, sift through and decide which ones to use and which ones to leave out. Recommendation letters of support also took time because my experts were busy so for me, it took me about 2.5 months to gather all my documents, submit it to the Home Office and receive the endorsement.
The application for the visa was a formality for me and after passing the criminal record check, submitting my passport and biometrics at the post office, my visa process was very quick i.e. about 2 weeks.
6. I already have a current visa but I want to switch to the Exceptional Talent visa. When should I apply?
Seek legal advice to discuss your options and start the application process as soon as possible. This is because gathering documents, evidence and requesting letters of recommendations takes time.
7. I am afraid of the words “leading talent”. I don’t see myself as a leading talent. Should I still apply?
No one ever believes that they are a leading talent. Focus on your specific achievements which has led you to where your career in digital tech is now and how you and your specific skills will add value to the UK digital and tech sector.
If you need help in deciding your eligibility, complete this questionnaire and I can answer your questions.
8. What is the benefit of applying for the Exceptional Talent Visa?
In my experience, I had the option of applying via a spousal visa route, renewing my Entrepreneur’s visa (this is now no longer available) or applying under the exceptional talent visa. The Exceptional Talent Visa route was the best option for me because it gave me a potential 5 years to remain in the UK to continue to work on my business. It also helped with any contracts I would negotiate for my business because it gave me a certainty of term i.e. 5 years.
The exceptional talent visa route also gave me the flexibility to work in other organisations alongside my start up so when I was offered to work as a Community Manager for an IoT accelerator in Newcastle for 2 months, I was able to accept the position without any approvals from the Home Office. I also worked as a Client Relationship Manager in Digital Technologies at Northumbria University for a short term project. When it came time to apply for my Indefinite Leave to Remain Visa, I submitted documents to evidence that I had earnt income in the field of digital technologies.
The exceptional talent visa also provided me with the confidence to continue to work on my business, to continue to add value to the UK digital and tech community and be part of an emerging industry that will help push the UK to compete globally.
Since receiving my exceptional talent visa, in 2019, I successfully applied for an Indefinite Leave to Remain and then British Citizenship! I was able to use some of my time from my Entrepreneur’s visa and the Exceptional Talent Visa to make up the 3 years. Read my story on how I achieved my British Citizenship here.
There are now 2 new visa routes, the Start up Visa and the Innovator’s Visa which does not provide as much flexibility as the Exceptional Talent Visa.
9. What kind of experts are they looking for? Are my experts good enough?
Your experts should be senior leaders in your field who can vouch for your skills, convince and explain why they think you are exceptionally talented and why you should be endorsed by Tech Nation.
They also should have a public facing profile and are experts in your field. Keep in mind that the experts you choose must provide all contact details in case Tech Nation wish to contact them. They are also usually very busy so the earlier you contact them and ask them for support, the better.
It is tricky asking experts to help you so I provide templates to help you ask them to support you and what they need to do. Email me at email@example.com.
10. When should I write my personal statement?
In my experience, I found it easier to write my personal statement after I gathered all my documents and decided which Mandatory and which Qualifying criteria I would submit my application under.
After collating all the documents, I was able to write my personal statement in a logical, consistent and structured manner because I was clear in the direction of my application for endorsement.
I understand it is overwhelming. When I started my application for the endorsement, my biggest problem was starting the personal statement and asking my experts to write a recommendation for me.
If you would like guidance and help on the Exceptional Talent Endorsement process or appeals, I help highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and talent increase their chances and succeed in their application for endorsement. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for my packages of support.
If you would like me to assess your eligibility and answer your specific questions, please complete my questionnaire here.
This blog was written by Michelle Hua, Consultant, CEO & Founder of Made With Glove. In 2016, Michelle was the recipient of the Exceptional Talent Visa and is the former #TechNationVisa Ambassador. Michelle is Vietnamese-Australian and consults highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and talent working in digital technologies on how they can receive the endorsement for exceptional talent and promise. In 2019, Michelle successfully received her UK citizenship. Read Michelle’s other blogs on the #TechNationVisa here and Michelle’s own journey here.