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Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney: The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route is open for fashion

10 April 2019 #Immigration #Inward Investment

The Home Office opened the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route for the fashion industry on 6 July 2018; finally recognising the need for highly skilled and innovative fashion designers as well as appreciating the art of fashion. This was much needed considering the fashion industry brought £32 billion into the UK economy last year and therefore is highly valuable for not only the British culture but also the economy. The UK is a capital to some of the most influential fashion designers and has become known for its lavish flair in fashion.

The British Fashion Council (BFC) under the remit of the Arts Council is the Designated Competent Body (DCB) for applications under this category. Currently, those who are from outside of the EEA and Switzerland can apply, although this is likely be an option for all EEA nationals after Brexit.

This route is ideal for a fashion designer who can demonstrate that they are internationally recognised, best in their industry and a recognised leader or can demonstrate that they are an emerging leader in their industry. The route enables applicants to expand their already established brand in the UK or to take a top-level creative job at a luxury fashion house in the UK.

Who is classified as a fashion designer?

Unfortunately, there is no detailed guidance on this and therefore the question remains unanswered. The only guidance comes from the Arts Council FAQs which states that a fashion designer in the area of clothes, shoes, jewellery and millinery will be eligible to apply. There has been a lot of ambiguity as to whether perfume designers can apply under this route, however recent cases indicate they cannot apply as they are not considered ‘fashion designers’. Although it is not fully understood why they should not be as big fashion houses tend to branch out into the fragrance industry and have been successful in capturing the essence of their brand in an iconic fragrance. Even luxury brands which have chosen to focus on fragrances alone are considered fashionable; an acclaimed example is Jo Malone London.  

Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise

You can apply for the exceptional talent route if you are a leader in your field, have obtained international presence as well as received international awards or recognition. Alternatively, you can apply for the exceptional promise route if you are early in your career, have a developing track record and are an emerging leader in your field.

 What do you need to demonstrate? 

  • You are professionally engaged in producing work of outstanding quality which has been sold or exhibited on an international level.
  • You can show recent and regular activity of being engaged professionally as a practitioner in your field.
  • You can show a substantial or developing track record in at least one country.

 What type of evidence is required? 

  • Exceptional Talent: 

You must provide two or more of the following (from the last 5 years): 

  1. Two or more examples of recent evidence of significant media recognition in at least one country other than your country of residence.
  2. Proof of having either 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.
  3. Proof of catwalk shows, presentations and/or exhibitions 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 through internationally renowned retailers and boutiques, or through your own retail outlets. 
  • Exceptional Promise: 

You must provide two or more of the following (from the last 5 years): 

  1. Two or more examples of recent evidence of UK or international media recognition.
  2. Proof of having received either support and sponsorship through the BFC’s support schemes, Fashion East support scheme, Sarabande Foundation, Centre for Fashion Enterprise or similar support from an international counterpart to the BFC.
  3. Evidence of one or more orders placed by UK or international luxury retailers and boutiques.
  4. Evidence of recognition by leading industry players. 

Is there a cap? 

There is currently a cap of 2000 for exceptional talent visas. The first 1000 places are distributed between the different sectors. Applications under this category come under the Arts Council which is allocated 250 places. The remaining 1000 places are available to any Designated Competent Body (DCB) once they have used their initial allocation. 

Duration of leave 

You can apply to remain in the UK for a maximum period of 5 years in you apply from within the UK or alternatively 5 years and 4 months if you apply from outside of the UK.


If you have been granted exceptional talent, then you will be eligible to apply for settlement after 3 years. Alternatively, if you have been granted exceptional promise, then you will be eligible to apply for settlement after 5 years.


Your dependants can join you in the UK. They will be granted leave in line with your leave.

Is this a better option than the Tier 2 route (sponsored employment)?

If you want full autonomy over what you would like to do in the UK which may include setting up your own business or working for a top luxury fashion house, then this option is a better option than the Tier 2 route. The current route is not dependent on a Sponsor and there is flexibility in terms of who you can work for and what work you can do. Further to this, there is a faster route to settlement if you are granted exceptional talent.

There is not a lot of guidance in this area and therefore it is strongly recommended to seek legal advice if you are intending to apply under this route. We offer an initial review of your documents to provide you with a provisional assessment of the strength of your case.

Clarkslegal, specialist Immigration lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Immigration matter please contact Clarkslegal's immigration team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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