How I got Tier-1 Exceptional Talent Visa and how can you get it too. - Little Big Extra Skip to main content

How I got Tier-1 Exceptional Talent Visa and how can you get it too.


Recently, I was granted the Tier-1 Exceptional Talent visa by Home Office UK and many people have asked me how I got this visa and if they qualify for it. Please note that I am not an immigration expert and this is just a personal experience and not professional advice of any sort. As I  have been working in the Digital sector for over a decade, I applied through Tech nation and  I am just sharing my experience for stage-1 of this visa which is applying to Tech Nation.

Why did I apply for this Visa?

If you know about Tier-1 Exceptional talent visa, you might be familiar that unlike any other visa program this is the one of most coveted yet most desirable visa available. On this visa, you can start your own company, work for any employer, renew this visa as many times as you want and will also be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after 3/5 years depending on which visa (Talent/Promise) has been given.

However, after the HSMP/Tier-1 programme was closed back in 2011(I believe) the visa routes have become narrower and challenging. Being in the UK for nearly a decade has helped me to get deep insight into UK Business, Technology and culture. I wanted to contribute to the UK economy by the knowledge I have gained during these years and hence I thought of applying for this visa.

Is this Visa for me?

The first thing which you will need to do is go to – and have a read in detail and see if you are a good fit. I am sure by the name of this visa type and the list of documentation needed you may feel a bit overwhelmed and might get a thought that this visa isn’t for you or you won’t qualify for it. My strong advice is to read the documentation at least 2-3 times and let it sink in. This way you might be able to identify the gaps between what is required and what you have to offer and what needs to be worked upon.

What documentation do I need?

All the documentation you need for this visa is available on  web site (check for latest documentation), you will need to keep in mind that this is a subjective visa and documents which may have worked for one person may not work for others. It is difficult to even advise someone on what exactly the documents are required. However, you will need at least

  • 2 recommendation letters from people with whom you have worked and must be in higher/authoritative position.
  • Your CV
  • At least 1 evidence which satisfies your key criteria.
  • At least 2 evidence satisfying your qualifying criteria.

You can refer to this  ( updated as of 11th March -2019, look for latest documentation if available) for more details.

What is the Hard Part?

  • Getting Recommendation letter: The most challenging part of the application, in my view, was getting the recommendations letter as you might not have worked in different companies, you might not have contacts with the higher management etc. You will need to think and find people who can vouch for your work, credentials and experience in the digital sector if they have worked along with you it will be much stronger recommendations.
  • Deciphering the vague and overlapping documentation: I found the key and qualifying criterions to be overlapping and to be the same in some regards. At the end of the day, we need to understand that the documentation is just a set of guidelines and as a candidate, you will need to use your cognizance to read between the lines. My advice would be to jot down the list of pieces of evidence that you can furnish and then arrange them in order of strongest to lightest strength. Think of all your achievements and awards and see how can they be presented as evidence and make your case stronger.
  • What to put forward as evidence: As I found the qualifying criterion to be overlapping/same I had a hard time sorting out the evidence to be put forward. The first task to identify the evidence is itself challenging and time-consuming and to put them in qualifying and key criterion is time-consuming.
  • Preparing Statement of Purpose: Well this is the crux of your application and you will need to pour your head and heart to put this document in place. I must have done some 25+ drafts versions and was editing it again and again until I was completely satisfied.

What should I do to prepare my application?

Ok, I have decided to go ahead and apply for this visa, how shall I put the application forward. How do I write my recommendation letters and statement of purpose?

  • Recommendation Letters:  When you ask the referees for recommendation letters, do clearly mention that what Tech Nation is looking for what the recommendation letter should have. In my view, the recommendation letter must cover
    • Relation of the referee to the candidate and In what capacity they know you.
    • What project/technologies were you were working on
    • How did you work had an impact on the organisation/project etc?
    • How were you different from others and how do you stand out?
    • How your skills/attitude will add value to the UK market.
  • Statement of purpose: Avoid cliches, especially the opening statement. “As long as I remember I wanted to be a computer engineer” etc. You have just 1000 words to use, so write the meaningful and impactful SOP.
    • Start with what you have done in your past and then move into your present roles how and what you are contributing.
    • Then slowly move to the future, highlighting the plan you have and how will it add value to the UK market and economy.
    • Highlight any awards, achievements and digital presence, if any.
    • Think of what extra work have you done apart from day to day job, any awards if you have received, any training you have imparted, any patents you hold etc. Take a long walk down the memory lane and see what all could be put in.
  • CV:  I have 20 years of experience and I have 20 pages of resume. If that’s the case, then throw it in the bin. No one is really interested in your projects and day to day responsibilities.
    • To make your resume stand out, slim down the projects and focus on your achievements, awards and your online social presence and impacts you have made in your career.
    • Use a one-pager resume template, keep it max to 2 pages.
  • Evidence: You can submit a max of 10 pieces of evidence, so if you have more you will need to select the top -10 strongest evidence and put them in your application.

What Pitfalls should I avoid

  • Approaching the Solicitor/Agencies: Since the stage-1 is completely based upon the statements of purpose, CV and technical evidence, its good to prepare the application yourself. Since the solicitors might not have a good purview which technical evidence holds more value than the other.
  • Eagerness to apply:  I have spoken to a couple of people, who wanted to apply for this visa as their current visa was expiring or not being happy with their current visa status etc. They all sounded eager and were ready to apply without even having proper credentials, evidence and a good recommendation. Tech nation will evaluate your application based on the documentation and evidence you provide, so take a back seat and get all the documentation sorted before application. You can apply for this visa from anywhere, anytime so even if your current visa is expiring it is ok to apply from home country.
  • Comparing yourself with others:  OK, so your friend has got this visa and now it’s your turn. Believe me, no two cases are the same and assuming because someone has got it you will automatically get it is the biggest mistake you can make.
  • Last minutes hush-hush evidence: One of the qualifying criteria is to have a strong digital presence and your contribution to the digital community. Tech nation also asks for your GITHUB and Stack-overflow profiles, creating a profile on these platforms a month before submitting the application, is not going to convince anyone that you have been contributing because of your interest. Please avoid manufacturing evidence for the sake of submitting an application, only provide genuine evidence.

Whose help should I take

There is no substitute for self-help. Reading and understanding the tech nation document will help you more than anything.

    • Tech Nation Alumni: There are a lot of people who have received this visa and are happy to help.
    • People whose application was refused: This might sound little weird but there is always a lot to learn from failures. It is important to find out why someone failed and didn’t get the visa and why you should not make the same mistake again.

What if I feel I don’t satisfy the criterion?

That is what I assume 99% of the people will feel and I also felt the same when I first heard about this visa.  I would stress the importance of reading the documentation again and getting a complete understanding.

Calm down if you feel down overwhelmed, come back after few days again to the Tech-Nation website read all the criterion carefully once again.

What if I think there is a huge gap, what shall I do?

Visa or No Visa, good profile will always help you in your career. If you have a read at the documentation you will find that Tech Nation is looking for people who have excelled in their professional journey and have been a contributor or a leader. In case you feel there is a big gap, why not work towards filling it.
Identify gaps: Identify the gap between qualifying/key criterion and then try to fill it by working towards it for e.g you already had a good idea and were thinking of applying for a patent, why not apply it now?
Increase digital presence: In the era of Social platforms, strong digital presence is a must. Contributing to digital platforms like Stack-overflow/GITHUB will strengthen your profile.
Speak up: There are a lot of social meetups which happen here and there, why not organise one or be a part of one. Any public speaking or organising experience in digital technology will help you.
Continuous Learning: IT landscape changes day by day and technologies which were hot two years ago might not be in demand anymore. It is important to keep yourself updated. Doing courses/certifications is important and is kind of proof that you have been updating yourself.

What are the Useful Tips?

Some of the tips which I would like to share are as  follows

  • If you have more than 10 evidence which you can share then use both sides of the paper, for e.g on the front page I had shown google analytics figures showing how much traffic it is generating and on the back side, I had given the number of youtube views.
  •  Patience is the key, you might need lots of time with your statement of purpose, arranging evidence. For documentation at least give yourself 2-3 months of the time period. Please do multiple revisions and drafts, unless you are completely satisfied do not submit the application.
  • Presentation of evidence in the right format and capturing it rightly is important too, I found this Chrome plugin named “Fireshot” very handy as you can convert web-pages to PDF/Images on the fly, capture entire page or selected area etc.
  • While preparing documentation and arranging evidence keep yourself in the Tech Nation shoes and think from their point of view, you need to show what extra have you done, what makes you different from the crowd and how can you be an asset to the UK.
Disclaimer: I hope this information suits your purpose. Any application you wish to make further to Tech nation/HomeOffice is entirely on your own risk.

8 thoughts to “How I got Tier-1 Exceptional Talent Visa and how can you get it too.”

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  2. Thanks a lot for this article! I want to apply for this visa but as you mentioned I don’t want to do it in a rush.
    Just one question that is not so clear for me after reading the guideline twice, do I have to apply only from my country or if I travel to the UK I might apply from there?

  3. Hi Abhishek,

    Thanks for writing the detailed process. It is very useful.

    I’m in process of preparing my application and will really benefit from your advice. Can I reach you via email?

  4. Thanks Abhishek. I have 1 query regarding recommendation letters. If suppose I get 1 recommendation letter in March and other 2 in July and then I am applying for visa in October. Will it be fine to use those letters or will it be an issue to use that old letters? Any timelines regarding the letters?

  5. Hi Abhishek,
    I am in the process of applying. Can you please let me know who should the recommendation letters be addressed to? Should they be “To Tech Nation, UK Home Office” or is there a specific address?

    Thank you in advance,

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