UK Government opens up Tier 1 Visa for Architects
Little over three months remain until Article 50 meets its deadline. Yet with Parliament in consistent dispute over the finalities of the UK leaving the EU, businesses up and down the country have been waiting anxiously for clarity over the UK’s future trade deal and immigration policies. The months leading up this pivotal moment have seen many recruiters fearful over their already shrinking talent pools. Architects have been at the forefront of this concern since a ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean the mutual recognition of qualifications across the Channel would no longer apply. Many firms have been encouraging staff to register with the Architects Registration Board in a bid to curb the 60% of working EU architects that claimed they have considered leaving the UK.
Fuelling concerns that Brexit could spell a stand-still for the industry, a survey conducted by Dezeen Magazine gathered data from 20 architectural firms around the UK and found that an average total of 45% of workers are recruited from overseas. In some London practices, this number rises to as high as 80%. According to The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), every one in five working architects in the UK are EEA nationals. It’s this cross-collaboration of international creative brains that have contributed to the success of the sector: architecture brings in £4.8bn to the British economy every year.
Additional options for Architects after Brexit
However, positive news emerged for architecture this month just as the much-awaited immigration White Paper soured many businesses and sectors across the UK this week: the ‘skills’-based system would exempt many qualified and hardworking migrants for reasons such as failing to earn over £30,000 a year. Fortunately, architects have the alternative option of applying for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa which had previously only been open to migrants working in digital technology, science, engineering, humanities and the arts. Fashion designers were recently added to the list this year and now architects can begin applying as soon as the 10 January 2019.
Benefits of the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa
The major benefits of working under this visa type is that migrants can enjoy much more freedoms. Unlike the Tier 2 Work Visa that most EU architects would be required to apply for post-Brexit, the Exceptional Talent route does not dictate applicants earn a certain amount. Additionally, EEA and international architects will not need to pass an English Language test, obtain a job or seek a sponsorship from a UK Sponsor. Not only can architects work in any job of their choosing, but successful architects can work entirely independently through volunteering, freelancing, being self-employed or even starting their own business without having to inform the Home Office and without jeopardising their immigration status. Successful candidates can work and live in the UK for up to five years and then either renew or switch their visa for a further five years, amounting enough time to be eligible for settlement in the UK such as Indefinite Leave to Remain.
RIBA chief executive, Allan Vallance said the move will allow the architecture industry to attract the international talent it needs and hopes that “architects across the world will seriously consider looking at applying to work in the UK on this route.”
How to apply for as an Architect
Only 2,000 Tier 1 visas are granted every year with even fewer (250) reserved just for Arts Council England applicants (including architects). It’s easy to see how the application process for this visa can be complex and highly competitive.
Fortunately, applicants can choose whether to apply for Exceptional Talent or for Exceptional Promise in their application. These options offer minor differences in the criteria and documentation stage of the application since Exceptional Talent seeks the ‘best and brightest’ who are renowned leaders in their filed while Exceptional Promise seeks applicants who can demonstrate that they are an emerging or up-and-coming leader.
All applications made onto the Tier 1 visa must first be endorsed by an approved endorsing body. For architects, applications must be made via Arts Council England (ACE) during which all candidates are assessed by the artform specialists – the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
What is the eligibility of Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise?
The criteria both ACE and RIBA are looking for under Exceptional Talent rules include at least two examples from within the last five years that demonstrate the applicant has received significant and international media recognition. Evidence can range from online to print, including features, articles, broadcasts, architectural periodicals or journals and reviews. However, at least one piece of evidence must be sourced from a country outside the applicants’ country of residence.
The second part to successfully achieving a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa dictates that applicants must have either won or made a significant contribution to winning an internationally recognised award for excellency in architecture. Arts Council England display a long list of the awards RIBA approve.
For those opting for the Promise route, applicants still need to submit two examples of evidence but they can be sourced from within their own country of residence. ‘Promise’ architects only need to demonstrate that they have been nominated or shortlisted for an award too rather than having won one.
Only once ACE and RIBA are convinced that their applicant showcases Exceptional Talent or Promise do they recommend the applicant to the UK government for the second part of their application: the visa itself. By opening up this additional route for architects, industry-wide experts will undoubtedly be celebrating that amid the Brexit chaos, at the very least the UK’s worldly reputation as an innovative architectural hub will not be stifled or diluted.
This author of this article, Olivia Bridge, is a specialist content writer and political commentator who writes on a wide range of immigration news for the UK’s leading Immigration Advice Service | @IASimmigration