I got a message on my Facebook page from someone today and the message read “Hey bro, Congratulations on your endorsement. Would you be willing to share some information about the process and evidence with me because I’m looking to apply as well. Thanks” That was a message from someone who connected with me on Facebook and maybe because he saw my pinned post about my endorsement or one of my videos where I talked about it. — The guy is from Egypt, so I decided to create this detailed and lengthy post about How I Got and How You Can Get A UK Tech City Exceptional Talent Visa Endorsement.
Before I go into this post proper, I just want to state that I am in no way associated with Tech City or the Home Office in the capacity of paid or non paid employment neither am I an Immigration lawyer. This is my personal blog, the content there in are solely my opinion with aim that it assist someone out there currently about to apply for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for Digital Technology.
You see, I am very proud to have been endorsed by the UK Government as A World Leading Exceptional Talent in Digital Technology and granted the VISA. Its a huge honour, besides the VISA and getting a chance to live, work and create freely in the UK with close to ZERO restrictions on your stay, being endorsed by a country such as the UK is a huge deal and it gives some kind of bragging right.
When I got the message from him and I saw it was related to the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, I replied so fast he said “Wow! So fast?”. I am always willing to answer questions and help other people in Tech who want to apply for the VISA and get the endorsement because I know just how it feels and how eager and anxious I was during my application process.
I gave him some insights and also asked him to send me an email so I can share some screenshots and documents I used as my supporting document. We went back and forth and he said “Your words has awakened my enthusiasm again”, he told me he had been frustrated trying to get the information needed to apply and he almost gave up. That word touched me and this is why am creating this blogpost to share my experience, guide and try as much as possible to help the thousands of other people from around the world who are in the process of, thinking about or have applied for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for Digital Technology.
What Is The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa?
In my own words. its the VISA that allows talented people in Tech from outside of Europe to move to the UK. Live, Work, Create and Innovate on things that will bring about a growth in the Digital Economy in the UK and the world at large. We all know that the major startups like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the likes are all based in Silicon Valley (in the US), So, this is UK’s lowkey strategy to attract talented Techies and Business Minded people in the digital technology space to the UK. This is my definition of the VISA route.
This is the definition by Tech City UK:
The Tech Nation Visa Scheme makes it possible for tech talent from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector, and is part of Tech City UK’s mission to ensure that the UK continues to maintain its position as a globally competitive digital economy.
Tech City UK is the designated competent body for digital technology and has the ability to endorse applications for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. If you receive an endorsement from Tech City UK, then you will be eligible to be to submit your Visa application to the Home Office.
What Are The Advantages Of Being Endorsed?
I believe if you landed on this page by googling “Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for Digital Technology” or “Exceptional Talent UK Visa”, chances are you already know the benefits but I will still list them here incase you find something new or for people who have no idea.
- You get a VISA that allows you to stay 5 years and 4 months in the UK if you apply outside the UK and 5 years if you apply within the UK.
- You can apply to extend this visa for another 5 years.
- You can apply for settlement once you’ve been in the UK for 5 years.
- You have freedom; you can work – for an employer, as a director of a company or be self-employed
- More freedom; you can change jobs without telling the Home Office
- You can bring family members with you (Your partner, wife or child that is under 18)
- You can brag about your endorsement on you CV, LinkedIn Profile, In Conversations and use as a Pick-up line when trying to chat up a girl! (Lool, you get he gist; its an endorsement to be proud of as a person and as a professional! You are endorsed by the United Kingdom as a Leader in your field! That’s HUGE!
How I Got Endorsed by Tech City as an Exceptional Talent in Digital Technology.
I still remember like it was yesterday, I would try to keep it as swift as possible whilst still giving you some solid insights. I came to the UK in 2015 to get my masters in Business Information Systems Management at Middlesex University, I wasn’t been sponsored by my Family or anyone, it was a decision I made once I felt comfortable that my freelancing had brought me enough money to re-invest back to myself and also traveling to the UK should be a big eye opener for me since am in Tech. (even though I was based in Nigeria, I was working with companies based in the US and UK as a freelancer)
Even though I came to the UK to study, I ensured that I made solid connections and friendships, I didn’t get a full-time or part-time job even though my VISA allowed 14hours work per week. As a creative and freelancer, I didn’t feel comfortable looking for menial or 9-5 jobs! I believed my skill would bring me money since it did when I was based in Nigeria. That been said, I was “smart” enough to pick gigs that I knew made sense and would look good on my profile. So, I worked with a company called Qatalyst Global in the revamping of their website, I worked with a Startup company named BrandSnap where I also designed the website and acted as the “Tech Co-Founder”, I worked with my professor in creating a website for a UK / EU committee he is Chairman of and did some projects for some SMEs.
UK was fun until my Masters programme was done and I realized I had just few months left on my VISA. Mind you, my mum relocated to the UK about 13 years ago, she’s re-married and all. Even though she’s my mum – am over 18, so I cannot really get my stay through her plus she’s re-married with a different surname, its a long thing. This means whatever I had to do was on me not anyone else.
Just like anyone who lived in the UK for over 1.5 years, you feel like its now home and obviously since its a much civilized and developed country than Nigeria – I wanted to stay back. So, I started my hunt for information on how to extend my VISA legally. I spoke with my Mentor in London who I met online back in Nigeria as a client, he took me to a solicitor and most of the things they were talking about didn’t resonate with me. (they were talking about having a wife, impregnating a citizen and stuffs along those lines to get my stay). I don’t feel comfortable putting my life in the hands of another person, especially a foreign woman just to stay in the UK – the UK isn’t heaven after all.
My next option was to get a job. I had clients who could “employ me” instantly but as a foreigner, you MUST get a job in a company that has COS from the Home Office. (Certificate of Sponsorship). What this means is that; for any company to employ someone from outside Europe who doesn’t have a valid VISA and the job is the reason he/she is going to get a VISA, they need to “sponsor” the person. This is a crazy thing because most companies don’t have COS, it takes time to get it from the Home Office and they have to run some checks on your company to issue to the COS. What also makes it interesting and annoying is that – they need to show the Home Office that they tried to advertise the role they are willing to give you on the papers or something related to that and they couldn’t find anyone in all of the European Union to fill the space, hence why they are offering it to you. (also, the role cannot be just any type of role. There is a list of roles the UK government published as accepted roles)
I personally didn’t want to get a job because I don’t want to put myself into the 9-5 rat race. This rat-race would be worse since my VISA would be tied to the fact that I would be working for the company or a company and if anything happens say I get fired or I am no longer needed in the company – my stay becomes void! It goes back to my principle of not wanting to put my life into the hands of another person. So, I ruled out the job thing.
I then stumbled on Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa whilst doing some research but the name “World Leading Exceptional Talent” scared me, I read the requirements and documents and said to myself “Dammy, you are not a World Leading Exceptional Talent. What have you done in the space?”, I am a positive minded person but also a realist. The requirements and documents to supply would make almost anyone feel like its out of their league. So, I didn’t even do more research into it, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t overstay my VISA nor get a job where I’ll be unhappy or do the Marriage or pregnancy thing with a citizen. I made up my mind to leave Nigeria 2days before my VISA expired.
I know I promised to keep this swift but I just had to share all that so you get a perspective where I am coming from. Fast forward to being back to Nigeria. After spending close to 2years in London, Nigeria felt like a new place and something in me didn’t feel at home. I wanted to go back to London, where I have found a new life. So, I started digging again on how to get a VISA back to the UK and the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa popped up again. This time, being in Nigeria viewing this made me pay closer attention. I read through the requirements to get endorsed and documents to provide and suddenly I started seeing how I could get the documents from my archive.
The process of getting the documents together didn’t take up to a week since I am a Freelancer and work from home so I have a lot of time in the day to get things done. I reached out to my professor in London for a letter, I reached out to the CEO of a tech company I worked with for a letter, reached out to some of my clients, digged up some of my certificates from Tech and Business courses taken on Lynda, took screenshots of my videos I shot in London where I was sharing valuable business advice and more! The digging was fun, I started seeing things I didn’t know I had or could get that would make me get endorsed as an Exceptional Talent.
My Advice & Bridge.
If after reading the requirements for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for Digital Technology and your heart tells you that its meant for you and you would get endorsed, I believe you will! We as humans cannot lie to ourselves no matter how hard we try. The next step is to ensure that you gather and submit the right / strongest documents you can get.
I strongly advice you read the guide provided by Tech City ( Tech Nation Visa Scheme ) its so helpful. Look closely on the part where they outlined what each document means in plain English. I know the documents or things to show might sound too technical but they have done a good job in simplifying it down in an easy to understand language which is very helpful.
Your PERSONAL STATEMENT part is very important and is your opportunity to give your application a boost. I started it off by talking about how, why and when I got into IT, the things have done to stay informed and relevant in the space, then I talked about some digital startups / projects I’ve played and still play a significant role in – some are even my own personal projects (the project(s) doesn’t have to be a success yet, it can be in its BETA stage), I went ahead to talk about the things I intend to do in the UK when / if I get the endorsement, where I’ll be living (not necessarily the house, just the city e.g London), why the UK will gain tremendously by having me in the country and then sealed it with “I hope and look forward to a favourable response to my application.”.
The personal statement is personal so everyone’s will be different but the guideline above is how I structured mine.
My first application wasn’t successful. In my first application, I guess I was either too confident or too eager to pay close attention to detail. My personal statement had things like “I have family in the UK who I ‘ll stay with when I arrive and some other bull crap”. Looking back now, most of the things I included in my personal statement were not needed, I could have used the space for more productive content. Also, I think my documents / CV didn’t have a lot of strength – like I said earlier, I’ve never really had a job – have always been a freelancer and “worked with” NOT “for businesses”, so its kind of hard to show my roles.
One other mistake I made was using my normal CV in my first application. Don’t do that, you need to revamp your CV for this application. Tech City has done a GREAT work in outlining this in the guide but I guess I had to learn the hard way to get my act together.
When I got the result of my first application, I was really sad! I cannot explain how bad it felt BUT they added a “Per-forma” which showed me why I wasn’t endorsed and things they would have loved to see in my CV and documents which weren’t present. I decided not to apply for a review, instead I started a FRESH application. Its quicker to get result from FRESH application than it is to wait for a review. I took this as feedback and re-applied. The rest is history. The most amazing thing is; my endorsement came 1 day after my birthday! So, it was the best birthday gift ever! I can still remember how I jumped out of my chair when I read the letter in my mail! My hands were shaking.
Who Is The Visa Meant For?
The VISA is 99% of the time instantly granted to any one who has been endorsed as:
- a recognised leader (exceptional talent)
- an emerging leader (exceptional promise)
- … In these fields Science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or the arts
Okay, let me explain the difference between Exceptional Talent & Exceptional Promise. I personally had headaches trying to understand the difference, which one I think I am and which one I should apply for since you can’t thick both in the application process.
Exceptional Talent is mostly for people who are older, people with a lot of experience in the digital technology space, people who have worked with digital tech firms and people who have a lot of experience in the field. Don’t get me wrong though; you can be young and have all those experiences but if you check the example of testimonials published by Tech City UK as people who have been endorsed as an Exceptional Talent in Digital Technology , you will see that majority of them are over 30. So, if you are applying, have this in mind (note: this is just my opinion)
Exceptional Promise is both for young and older people because age has nothing to do with it, its more about your experience in the space. I would say people with less than 5 years experiences would fall under Exceptional Promise. The interesting thing is when you get endorsed; your VISA is still the same as the Exceptional Talent, there are no differences or limitations. I guess it helps the examiners or board who looks over the endorsement application to know how to properly critique your documents and profile. So, if you are reading this rightnow and your mind says you should apply for Exceptional Promise instead of Exceptional Talent, got for it! Your gut is probably telling you the right thing and don’t forget – there are no differences in the VISA. It just lets them know that you are an emerging leader in the space and they will likely look at your documents from that point of view.
So, what skills or individuals is this VISA made for? Below are examples of TECHNICAL SKILLS & ROLES (compiled from the publicly available Tech City Guide of 2017)
- Senior DevOps / SysOps Engineers
- Senior Systems Administrators / Engineers
- Data Scientists
- Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language and Machine Learning Experts
- Senior Cybersecurity Experts
- Technical Analysts
- Hardware Engineers / RFID / Internet of Things
- Senior Front End Developers
- Senior QA Engineers
- Compiler Experts
- Operation Systems Engineers
- Kernel Programmers
- Graphics Programmers / Designers with Experience in Mobile Graphic Engines / DirectX and Open GL
- Senior GPU Developers e.g C++, CUDA
- Experienced published Mobile Developers (Andriod / iOS)
- Back End Developers with Senior Experience in New Technologies (Scala, F#, C Rust, Python, Ruby on Rails, Node.js, GoLand and Clojure etc)
- Information Architecture Strategy / CTO for Business applications with International Operations (ERP, CRM, BI etc)
Below are the BUSINESS SKILLS & ROLES (compiled from the publicly available Tech City Guide of 2017)
- Experience of taking a tech company through IPO
- Experience as a Commercial / Business Lead (P&L, Growth, Sales and Distribution Strategy in a Digital Business)
- Experience of scaling a digital product internationally
- Sector-specific experience e.g Payment infrastructure in FinTech / International expansion in EdTech
- Solutions sales experts
- Data and Complexity Academic
- Experience as a digital product lead (head of product management / development / requirements )
- SaaS or enterprise sales leadership for digital services
- Performance marketing experts
- Track record of leading VC or PE investements in digital businesses
- Experiences as C suite in an SME+ (CEO, CMO, CIO) or head of operations for a digital business.
As you can see above, Tech City has a strict list of skills and roles of people who are more likely to be endorsed. This strict skills ensures that only the best gets endorsed. Remember when I said getting endorsed is a HUGE DEAL? Well, that’s because you are not only expected to be this skilled, you are also competing with thousands of other people around the world who might be more skilled than you are.
Please do not think you need to have ALL the skills above, its just a guideline of the type of skills they expect. You might be someone who only has TECH skills and no BUSINESS skill or vice versa. So, what makes the endorsement interesting is that you don’t have to be a TECHY or be a BUSINESS GURU , you can be either and still get endorsed. I am somewhat both a techy and a business minded person so I was able to provide documents that supports my technical side and my business side.
How Much Does It Cost To Apply?
As of the day of writing, there are two stages and two payments that will be made. First payment is for the endorsement and the second payment is for the VISA application.
You must pay a separate fee for the 2 stages:
- stage 1 – endorsement (£292)
- stage 2 – visa application (293)
You also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.
The Application Process.
(Copied from Tech City on 4/02/2018)
Stage 1: Application for Endorsement
This is your application for endorsement by Tech City UK, who will assess whether you qualify for this visa route.
In order to apply you first need to complete the Home Office application for endorsement, either offline or online, as well as the Tech Nation Visa application form, which you will need to print and include with your application.
You will then need to send the application pack, including your supporting evidence, in hard copy directly to the Home Office; the postal address can be found in the FAQs below.
At this stage, you’ll have to wait to hear back directly from the Home Office on whether you have been endorsed by Tech City UK. This can take approximately 8 weeks.
If your application is not endorsed you have three options:
- Apply for a review (in which case we’ll reassess your application based on the submissions you provide to the Home Office via your review form)
- Send a fresh application with new evidence
- Apply for a different visa route.
Stage 2: Application for the Visa
If you have been endorsed, you are then able to apply for your Tier 1 visa. The documents you need are listed here.
You can apply for a visa duration up to a maximum of 5 years and 4 months if you apply outside the UK or 5 years if you apply inside the UK.
Do not feel daunted by the requirements and documents you need to provide. Its quite straight-forward when you get into it. Ensure that you stay organized, keep your documents to the length advised, write your personal statement and read it to yourself, ask yourself “would I be touched by this?”, if yes – send it, if No, re-align your words so they jump out of the paper into the heart of the reader. Really define tangible skills and value you will be bringing to the UK.
Apply, go for it! Put your heart into it and you will succeed. If you have further questions and would like to reach out, please drop your comment below and I will be happy to help.