Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa guidance –endorsement criteria and evidence required for Fashion Designers

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa category has been expanded to include fashion designers. The usual 2-stage process for Exceptional Talent visa category applies: stage 1 – endorsement application and stage 2 – visa application. Applicants can apply under the Exceptional Talent (world leader) category or Exceptional Promise (emerging world leader) category.

You must be able to demonstrate that you:

  • are professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been sold or exhibited internationally, either through catwalk presentation or exhibitions (if you are applying under Exceptional Talent criteria) or which has had recognition with leading industry players (if applying under Exceptional Promise criteria)
  • can show recent (within the last five years) and regular activity of being engaged professionally as a practitioner in your field; and
  • can show a substantial track record in more than one country (if applying under the Exceptional Talent criteria) or developing track record in at least one country (if applying under the Exceptional Promise criteria), one of which can be your country of residence.

Endorsing Body

Applications for endorsement are assessed by the British Fashion Council under the endorsement remit of Arts Council England.

When preparing applications for endorsements, applicants should bear in mind that endorsing bodies are strict in applying the Home Office immigration rules and guidance. It is therefore crucial that applicants focus in detail on the requirements listed by the Home Office and ensure that all the required specified evidence and information are submitted with applications.

Exceptional Talent:

You must provide two or more of the following:

1) Two or more examples of recent (in the last five years) evidence of significant international media recognition, online or in print, such as features, articles and/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;

2) Proof of having, within the last five years from the year of application:

  • won; or,
  • having received a nomination or been nominated for; or
  • having made a significant and direct contribution to winning or being nominated for international awards for excellence. For example, The Fashion Awards, Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Fashion Awards, Elle Style Award, GQ Award, LVMH Prize, ANDAM Prize, Hyères Prize or another relevant major award or nomination. Awards must be awards of merit, rather than monetary awards such as grants and bursaries.

3) Proof of catwalk shows, presentations and/or exhibitions in the past five years in contexts which are recognised as internationally significant in your field, or evidence of extensive international distribution and sales of your collections.

4) Proof of international distribution and sales (within the last five years) through internationally renowned retailers and boutiques, or through your own physical retail outlets or ecommerce platform.

Exceptional Promise:

You must provide two or more of the following:

1) Two or more examples of recent (in the last five years) evidence of UK or international media recognition, online or in print such as features, articles and/or reviews from national publications or broadcasting companies, or on social media of your collections. These must be from independent sources, and social media articles must be from prominent bloggers or key opinion leaders. Event listings or advertisements are not acceptable;

2) Proof of having received, within the last five years from the year of application,

  • support and sponsorship through the British Fashion Council’s support schemes; or;
  • support and sponsorship through the Fashion East support scheme; or
  • support and sponsorship through the Sarabande Foundation; or
  • support by Centre for Fashion Enterprise; or
  • similar support from an international counterpart to the British Fashion Council.

3) Evidence of one or more orders placed by UK or international luxury retailers and boutiques.

4) Evidence of recognition by leading industry players (within the last five years) – for example internationally renowned fashion designers, fashion media, retailers, brands, Graduate Fashion Week – of an exceptional graduating collection.

The evidence you supply must consist of no more than ten documents in total to support the above. Please note: a ‘document’ is defined as a single piece of evidence (article, review, letter etc). If more than the permitted ten documents are submitted, only the first ten documents listed will be looked at and the additional evidence will be disregarded.

To demonstrate you meet the requirements in the Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise categories:

  • if you are providing evidence of having won or being nominated for an international award for excellence, this must include:
    • full details of the nomination or award, including category and year of nomination or award;
    • evidence of your involvement if the nomination or award was as part of a group;
    • evidence of the credit you received for the nomination or award. o if you are claiming you made a significant and direct contribution to winning or being nominated for international awards for excellence, evidence is required from the named person on the award(s) or nomination(s) which demonstrates that you significantly influenced or directly resulted in the award or nomination to the named person;
  • if you are providing evidence of having been given support or sponsorship, this evidence must include full details of the support or sponsorship including:
    • the name and details of the scheme;
    • the dates the support or sponsorship were received; and
    • the organisation that awarded it.
  • if you are providing evidence of a catwalk, presentation or exhibition, evidence of participation in one or more reputable UK-based or international trade show or commercial showroom must be cited. The British Fashion Council will judge whether a particular trade show or commercial showroom provides appropriate evidence of recognition in the applicant’s field;
  • if you are providing evidence of international distribution and sales, evidence must be provided regarding:
    • the current number of outlets or stockists of the business’s products,
    • the top five stockists and when these sales were achieved; and
    • where you have sold through your own retail channels, a breakdown of sales and when these sales were achieved.
  • if you are providing evidence of orders placed by UK or international luxury retailers, evidence must be provided naming the buyer or stockist and stating when the order was placed. The British Fashion Council will conduct independent assessment as to whether the evidence you provide appropriately and adequately supports your claim that you meet the relevant requirements.

Letters of support

You must provide three letters of support from established organisations, institutions or companies with a national or international reputation and recognised expertise in fashion. If applying under Exceptional Talent criteria, at least one of these letters must be from a UK organisation.

Acceptable organisations would be those which are well established nationally or internationally, work with many international designers and industry experts each year and are widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in fashion.

Your letters of support must:

  • be written on headed paper, dated and signed by the author who must be a senior member of the organisation:
  • for fashion industry applications) such as the Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer, Creative Director, Buying Director, Fashion Director/Editor or, for Exceptional Promise applicants who have commercialised their graduating collections only, a Head of Course;
  • include details of the author’s credentials (for example, a CV/resume) and how they know you (personal relationship or reputation);
  • detail your achievements in your specialist field and how, in the opinion of the author, you have either:
    • demonstrated that you are a leader in your field (Exceptional Talent); or
    • demonstrated that you have the potential to become a leader in your field (Exceptional Promise).
  • describe how you would benefit from living in the UK and the contribution you could make to cultural life here. They should also provide details of any of your future professional engagements in the UK that the author is aware of; and
  • include full contact details of the author, including personal email address and direct telephone number, so that personal contact can be made by Arts Council England, PACT or BFC if required. Letters of endorsement must be written specifically for this purpose, must reference your application for Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise and must include all of the information detailed above. A general all-purpose reference letter is not acceptable. The type of letters you must provide will differ different dependent on your discipline.

The information contained in the article reflects legal position on 3rd April 2019 and is for general information purposes only and does not aim  to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. We accept no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please do not hesitate to contact Carter Lemon Camerons immigration team. The specialist team at Carter Lemon Camerons Solicitors can assist you with all immigration and business-related matters. Our years of expertise in these areas mean that we can provide tailored solutions for you. For more details, please contact our immigration team at immigration@cartercamerons.com or +44 (0)20 7406 1000.