UK immigration issues seven Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas in 2011

Figures released by the UK's Home Office show that only seven Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas were issued by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in 2011. In the year to September 2012, the first year in which the Exceptional Talent visa was available, there were 51 Exceptional Talent visas granted to main applicants and 21 more to dependants, a total of 72.

The Exceptional Talent visa has been available since August 2011. Only those who are internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world leaders in the arts and sciences can apply. There is an annual cap of 1,000 on the number of Exceptional Talent visas that can be granted but the requirements for the visa are so stringent that this cap will almost certainly never be reached.

Applicants must acquire sponsorship from a Designated Competent Body which will vouch for their world-leading or potential world-leading status. There are only four Designated Competent Bodies; The Royal Society, Arts Council England, The British Academy and The Royal Academy of Engineering each of which can only sponsor either 100 or 150 people each year.

Last month, The British Venture Capital Association called on the government to raise the cap on the number of Exceptional Talent visas from 1,000 in order to help stimulate the economy.

Sanwar Ali of Workpermit.com said 'I have sympathy with the BVCA's aims; it would like to stimulate the economy through immigration. However, sadly, raising the cap on the Exceptional Talent visa just wouldn't work. It is not the cap that is the problem. It is the visa itself. It is just too hard to get one'.

Magnificent Seven

Mr Ali added, 'In order for people of exceptional talent to help revitalise the British economy, there will have to be more than seven, or even 72, of them coming to the UK every year'.

The Exceptional Talent visa replaced the Tier 1 (General) visa stream which was closed on 6th April 2011. David Cameron made a speech in April 2011 in which he said 'Tier 1 [General] visas were supposed to be reserved for only the highest skilled migrants. But the evidence shows almost a third of people who came over on one of these visas were not employed in highly skilled jobs. Some were found stacking shelves in supermarkets or driving taxis – and that's if they were employed at all.'

Many critics have complained that the government's crackdown on Tier 1 visas such as the Tier 1 (General) visa and the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa is damaging the UK's economy.

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