Note: for the most up to date (October 2013) version of the eligibility criteria, please download this document.

The Arts Council was recently appointed as a Designated Competent Body by the Home Office, and is therefore able to assess applications from artists for Tier 1 visas and recommend whether an applicant merits a visa.

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route covers applicants working in the fields of science, engineering, humanities and the arts.  

An arts applicant for a visa under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route must demonstrate that they are internationally recognised in their field and can demonstrate this to the satisfaction and understanding of a UK Competent Body. 

The following criteria apply only to arts applicants who will be assessed by the Arts Council. These criteria will apply to all applicants making a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) application in the current financial year, 2012-13. They are subject to annual review and may consequently change for applicants applying in future years.

Eligibility criteria

In order to enter the UK through the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route you must be established as a world-class artist and/or an internationally recognised expert in your field within the arts (encompassing dance, music, theatre, visual arts and literature), museums, galleries, film or television, animation, post production and visual effects industry. You must be able to demonstrate that you are professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been published (other than exclusively in newspapers or magazines), performed, presented, distributed or exhibited internationally.

Successful applicants will be currently engaged professionally as leading practitioners in their field and able to demonstrate a substantial track record at a high level in more than one country.  We expect applicants to demonstrate recent and regular international activity. 

It is unlikely that a recent graduate or practitioner at the outset of their career will be able to demonstrate enough of an adequate track record to qualify. 

Applicants to the scheme must provide the following documents to support their application:

  1. Evidence of exceptional talent in their field (see details below); and
  2. Two letters of endorsement (see details below) 

How to provide evidence of exceptional talent

To demonstrate exceptional talent within the fields of arts, museums, galleries, film and television you must meet the following criteria.

1. Provide evidence that your work is of exceptional quality and has international recognition (this is different from being known in one country). 

This must consist of no more than ten documents in total (such documents can include for example, web links) to support two or more of the following (except film, television, animation, post production and visual effects industry see iv below):

(i) examples of significant media recognition, articles or reviews from national publications or broadcasting companies in at least one country other than your country of residence. Event listings or advertisements are not acceptable.
(ii) international awards for excellence e.g. The Booker Prize, Grammy Award; and/or domestic awards in another country e.g. Tony Award. It remains for the Arts Council to judge whether a particular award provides appropriate evidence of international recognition in your field
(iii) proof of appearances, performances or exhibitions in contexts which are recognised as
internationally significant in your field and/or extensive international distribution and audiences for your work
(iv) film, Television, animation, post production and visual effects industry applicants must meet the following compulsory criteria: 

Within the last five (5) years from the year of application received a Nomination for an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe or Emmy Award. (Please note, you are not eligible to apply if outside the five-year time frame if you only received a nomination). 

If an applicant has won an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe or Emmy Award there is no time frame allocated to the meeting the criteria. Please provide:

(a) full details of the production nominated/award including category and year of nomination/ award
(b) evidence of your involvement if the nomination/award was as part of a group
(c) the Credit you received for the nomination/ award

2. Provide two letters of endorsement from established arts/cultural organisations, institutions or companies with a national or international reputation. At least one of these should be from a UK body and both should be on headed notepaper and signed by the author. Acceptable organisations would be those which work with many international artists each year and are widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in their field.

Letters of endorsement must: 

(a) Be written on headed paper by an authorised member of the organisation such as the Chief Executive, Artistic Director or Chair
(b) Include details of the author's credentials (eg CV/resume) and how they know the applicant (personal relationship or reputation)
(c) Detail the applicant's achievements in their specialist field and how in the opinion of the author they exhibit exceptional talent
(d) Describe how the applicant would benefit from living in the UK and the contribution they could make to the cultural life of the nation
(e) Include full contact details of the author including personal email address and direct telephone number so that personal contact can be made

Documents should be provided to the UK Border Agency along with your visa application form in hard copy. Authorised English translations must be provided for all documents which are not originally written in English.

Any applicant submitting false or fraudulent evidence will be ineligible for consideration through this scheme. If evidence submitted is subsequently found to be false or fraudulent the UK Border Agency will be informed immediately and will take action accordingly.

Assessment process

The Arts Council's artform and other sector specialists will review the documentation and letters of endorsement provided and make an assessment of the extent to which they provide clear evidence that your application meets the stated criteria. Film, television, animation, post production and visual effects applications will be referred to Pact (the UK trade association for independent feature film, television, digital, children's and animation media companies), for review and recommendation.

In accordance with the memorandum of understanding between the Arts Council and Pact, Pact will review all relevant information/documentation and supporting letters of endorsement, and verify all declarations of fact made by the applicant. Pact will then, based on the evidence, assesses that the applicant has met the minimum standards to qualify under criteria IV of the Exceptional Talent route. 


After assessing applications against the criteria the Arts Council will advise the UK Border Agency (UKBA) accordingly and they will consider each application, taking into account our advice and the requirements of the Immigration Rules. The decision as to whether or not to grant entry to an applicant will at all times be made by the UK Border Agency.

If the UKBA refuses an application for entry clearance, leave to enter or remain under the 'Exceptional talent' route, he/she may still apply for UK entry through other routes.

Applicants who are successful in obtaining an Exceptional Talent visa with an endorsement from Arts Council England may contact the Arts Council directly once in the UK to explore opportunities for engagement.