Tier 1 Exceptional Talent scheme to open 9 August 2011

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Tier 1 Exceptional Talent scheme to open 9 August 2011

Starting 9 August 2011, exceptionally talented leaders in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, and arts will be able to immigrate tothe UK under a new Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) immigration category.

The new scheme will not only allow those who are already recognized as leaders in their field, but also those who potentially may become leaders in their field to emigrate to the UK. The scheme will be limited to 1,000 places during the first year of operation. 500 places will be available between 9 August and 30 November 2011, and a further 500 places will be allocated from 1 December 2011 to 31 March 2012. A review will take place on the number of places that should come under the scheme in future at the end of March 2012.

Those admitted under the Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) scheme will be granted a visa for an initial period of 3 years and 4 months. They will be able to extend their stay for an additional period of 2 years. After 5 years residence in the UK, a Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa holder will be able to apply for settlement.

World-renowned "competent bodies" will oversee who is eligible for a Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa. These bodies can nominate a certain number of places each year:

  • the Royal Society, a fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists, will be able to nominate up to 300 places
  • Arts Council England, the national development agency for the arts, will also be able to nominate up to 300 places
  • the Royal Academy of Engineering, Britain's national academy for engineering, will have up to 200 places to nominate
  • the British Academy, the national academy for the humanities and social sciences will be able to nominate up to 200 places

The competent bodies will also be able to transfer unused places to other competent bodies.

Non-EU migrants seeking entry to the UK under the new Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) scheme will not be required to have a job offer. However, recommendation by one of the competent bodies listed above is required.

"The UK is a global leader in science, humanities and engineering and we are a cultural centre for the arts: we will continue to welcome those who have the most to offer and contribute to our society and economy," said UK Immigration Minister Damien Green.

"Our new exceptional talent route, available for up to 1,000 applicants, will ensure that we continue to attract the brightest into the UK and keep the UK a global leader," he added.

He said that introduction of this new scheme comes at a time when the UK is trying to reduce net immigration to the "tens of thousands".

However, critics say that recent immigration restrictions will ultimately hurt the UK economy. The educational sector in particular is concerned about recent changes to UK student immigration that make it more difficult to qualify for a visa. Moreover, they say the planned removal of the Tier 1 (Post study work) route will make the UK less attractive for overseas students. Tier 1 (Post study work) allows non-EU graduates of UK educational institutions to remain in the UK temporarily after graduation to live and work in the UK.

In addition, it will be very difficult to qualify for a Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa, as compared to the previous Tier 1 (General) visa which it essentially replaced. Still, leaders of the competent bodies are enthusiastic about the UK's decision to implement the Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa route.

"We welcome the launch of this special visa scheme, which will enable the very best artists of international standing to live and work in the UK," said Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England.

"The international exchange of artists enriches their art, and I'm sure audiences will welcome the opportunity to experience the finest artistic talent from across the world," he added.

"The Humanities and Social Sciences are flourishing in the UK and attract many excellent scholars from overseas," said Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy.

"The British Academy is ready to play its part in identifying those outstanding scholars for whom Tier 1 is the appropriate visa category," he went onto say