The Arts Council has been appointed as a Designated Competent Body by the Home Office and will assess applications from artists applying for Tier 1 visas to enter this country on the basis of their exceptional talent. From 1 October 2013, artists who have exceptional promise will also be able to apply for Tier 1 visas assessed by Arts Council. We will make recommendations to the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which will remain the decision making body for the allocation of all visas, including Tier 1.

Demonstrating exceptional talent

In line with the Home Office guidance, arts applicants must demonstrate that they are exceptionally talented in their field - either as an established, world class artist or an internationally recognised expert.

Demonstrating exceptional promise

Applicants can demonstrate exceptional promise through letters of endorsement from established cultural organisations and individuals with recognised expertise. They must also provide examples of international media recognition, nominations for international awards, or appearances, performances, publications or exhibitions in internationally recognised contexts.

How to apply

Applicants will be asked to fill out a standard Tier 1 visa form and to submit evidence of exceptional talent or promise to support their application.

Up to 10 documents covering at least two of the following types of evidence should also be submitted for exceptional talent:

  • significant media recognition
  • international awards for excellence
  • proof of appearances or exhibitions in recognised international contexts

Applicants must also provide two letters of endorsement from established arts or cultural organisations, one of which must be based in the UK.

Up to 10 documents covering at least two of the following types of evidence should be submitted for exceptional promise:

  • two or more examples of media recognition in at least one country other than that in which you are resident
  • nominations or shortlistings for international awards for excellence
  • proof of appearances or exhibitions in recognised international contexts and/or evidence of international distribution and audiences for your work

Applicants must also provide three letters of endorsement, at least two of which must be from established arts or cultural organisations and one of which may come from an eminent individual with recognised expertise in their field. At least one of these letters must come from a UK body or individual. 

Read the full criteria and FAQs.

Assessment process

All applications will be assessed by artform and other sector specialists within the Arts Council who will review all documents submitted and judge the extent to which they provide clear evidence that the application meets the published criteria.

Following the assessment, the Arts Council will advise the UK Border Agency (UKBA) on whether an applicant can be defined as possessing exceptional talent. The UKBA will then decide whether or not to grant entry to an applicant.

Applications from the film, television, animation, post production and visual effects sectors will be assessed by the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) in accordance with the process and guidance set out by the Arts Council.

Alongside Tier 1 visas, artists can also continue to apply for Tier 2 and Tier 5.

One year pilot

Arts Council England and PACT have been assigned a total of 300 visas to allocate for this route of entry for the current financial year. The scheme will operate as a pilot with a mid-point review in order to assess whether criteria, quotas and processes are working in an appropriate way or need adjustment. The alternative routes through which artists can presently enter the UK will remain open.

Applicants seeking entry to the UK through Tier 1 will still be expected to abide by UKBA regulations and criteria for entry to the UK. 


Artists approved for entry will be required to support themselves when they have entered the UK, in accordance with UKBA regulations. International artists are currently able to apply for funding through Grants for the arts if the work is deemed to be of benefit to other English artists or audiences.