Jump in applications for Exceptional Talent visas as Brexit stokes fear of rule changes

  • Jump comes following years of under-use
  • Biggest rise in Digital Technology applicants, reflects buoyancy of sector

The number of applications for Exceptional Talent visas increased by 200% last year, to 487* up from 162 in 2015, as people act ahead of potential visa restrictions post-Brexit referendum, says law firm Collyer Bristow (see full data below).

However, the firm say no indication has been made as to how the immigration system will work once Article 50 is triggered and Brexit negotiations begin.

Collyer Bristow says the Digital Technology category saw the highest increase in applications last year, rising to 227 up from 20 in 2015, reflecting the buoyancy of the sector in the UK.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas were first introduced in 2011 and are available to talented overseas individuals across the fields of Digital Technology, Science and Medicine, Engineering, the Arts and Humanities.

There are 1,000 visas made available each year but in the past this quota has not been reached. The Tech sector has taken greatest advantage of the scheme, achieving a relaxation in the eligibility criteria in November 2015 to better meet the industry’s needs. Tech City UK’s annual quota has recently been increased from 200 to 250.

Applicants must apply for endorsement from the relevant ‘competent’ body prior to submitting their application to the Home Office. The endorsing bodies are the Tech City UK, Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, the Arts Council and the British Academy.


Collyer Bristow says the fact that Digital Technology represented nearly half (227) of all endorsed applications (487) last year demonstrates how the UK has become an international hub for technology, partly driven by the dramatic growth of the UK’s fintech and broader software industry.

The firm argue that the UK’s status as a leading centre of technology innovation needs to be protected and that Exceptional Talent visas are one way of ensuring UK start-ups still have access to top talent even after the UK leaves the EU.

James Badcock, Partner and Head of Private Client team at Collyer Bristow, says:

“Fears that Brexit will result in rule changes may have helped trigger the surge in visa applications from talented individuals. Tech businesses are frustrated that there is no visibility over where we are going over visa rules. There will now be pressure on the Government to further increase the number of visas available.”


“The Exceptional Talent visa has become better known but it is still underused. As Brexit looms large on the horizon there are several measures that could be introduced to ensure this route is utilised for other sectors. For example, the visa could be actively promoted abroad.”


“Overseas talent helps fuel growth, which in turn creates high quality jobs for the UK workforce and it’s vital the Government keeps the door open.”


Author: Editor

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