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International fashion professionals face new opportunities with "exceptional talent" visa

The Industry London
11 September 2018

An immigration route, which allows highly-skilled individuals to work in the UK, has been extended to include designers and professionals in the fashion industry. The route, which takes the form of a Tier 1 ‘Exceptional Talent’ visa, had previously been open to leading figures in dance, music, theatre and visual arts and until November last year, was available to just 1,000 selected applicants.

However, the government has recently announced that ‘the arts’ category will now include emerging and accredited designers who either run their own fashion brand or are looking to accept a high-end job at the UK’s top fashion houses.

The decision comes as a breath of fresh air amidst growing concerns that Brexit will have negative impacts on individuals wanting to find creative job opportunities in the UK. With the London Fashion Week in February 2017 seeing 50% of its designers born outside the UK, the new visa route opens up valuable opportunities in gaining some of the world’s best talent.

Exceptional Talent Visa

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa allows individuals who show exceptional talent in a particular field to take paid or voluntary work in the UK. Also known as the Highly-Skilled Work Visa, this route is different from other visas as it does not require individuals to have an official job offer and contract before submitting an application. Additionally, workers have the option to become self-employed and are not required to notify the Home Office when changing jobs while in the UK. They are also exempt from English language requirements.

However, competition is extremely high amongst applications, with only 2,000 spots available each year. In 2016, the UK fashion industry contributed £28bn to the economy as well as creating 800,000 jobs. As a growing successful sector, the UK’s fashion world is a highly desirable place to be, making it understandable as to the route has been opened up.

Under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent policy guidance, applicants must:

  • - Be from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland
  • - Be a ‘recognised’ leader in their field
  • - Be endorsed by an official body in their field. Currently, art applicants are required to receive an endorsement from Arts Council England. Fashion applicants will be receiving endorsements from the British Fashion Council

Supporting evidence will also be required to prove that applicants are meeting the visa’s conditions. Applicants need to show work of an ‘outstanding quality’ which has been sold or exhibited internationally as well as be able to demonstrate an impressive track record in more than one country. Additionally, they are expected to show regular activity of being a professional and engaged practitioner in their field.

Exceptional Promise Route

Under the Exceptional Talent visa, an Exceptional Promise category exists for individuals who are relatively new to their field. Applicants must be considered an ‘emerging leader’ and must also be endorsed by an official body. They are required to provide supporting evidence of having recognition with leading industries and show a developing track record in at least one country.

Both the Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise categories of the visa allow holders to stay in the UK for five years. Holders will then have the option to apply for permanent residency once they have been in the UK for three years with an Exceptional Talent visa and five years with an Exceptional Promise visa. During their time spent in the UK, they can also apply for British citizenship.

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Benefits for the UK’s Fashion Industry

In addition to the UK gaining another valuable group from the world’s creative talent pool, the extension of the Tier 1 visa will be hugely beneficial for the fashion industry. With well-renowned brands such as Missguided and Selfridges being born from migrant talent, the success of the British fashion industry relies heavily on the diversification of its workers.

Currently, migrants make up 11% of the creative workforce and many fashion brands such as Jigsaw continue to encourage overseas talent into the UK. The retailer, whose staff come from 45 different countries, promoted its ‘Love Immigration’ campaign last year and is keen to change the discrimination against migrant workers, many of whom have played and continue to play a crucial role in the British fashion industry.

This article has been written by Maddie Grounds, political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service.

Image (top): Halpern at London Fashion Week 

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