Excelling Global Talent Visa Application Process

Author: zmzlois


As someone applied on my own, without any third party service or agencies.

The hard confession is, for the most part, I think it was sheer luck.

From people I met online 5 years ago to help me wrote my reference letter, to having enough public speaking experiences and publications -- most of them were not planned. It was more of 'Life nudged me in this way so I took the ride'.

PLEASE CHECK OUT Tech Nation's Global Talent Visa Guide and don't use this aricle as a guide.

This article includes four parts:

1, Why Global Talent Visa;
2, What makes people fail their application -- and how you should avoid them;
3, Most frequently asked questions.
4, Things not covered in Tech Nation's guide e.g. What drove me on nerve, what's the cost;

1, Why Global Talent Visa

If we calculate the odds between different Visa and my current state of being.

  1. I don't want to be tied to a company and be able to work on my own thing.
  2. The scarcity of issuing Tier 2 Visa is increasing, so as the cost of hiring a non-EU citizen.
  3. I want something with a potential to turn into a permanent residency. It ruled out Tier 5 Visa.
  4. Both Start up visa and Innovator Visa requires you to work on the same business idea for a minimum of 60% of your time, if you want to work for a company, you need to apply for a new visa.
  5. Start up Visa only lasts for 2 years, without the option to turn into a permanent residency (more precisely, the time you stayed in the UK within Start Up Visa period is not calculated towards permanent residency once you graduated and switched to Innovator Visa)
  6. Each Innovator Visa lasts for 3 years, but you need to have a minimum of £50,000 investment fund in your company bank account and owns the majority share of your company. You also need to be in Innovator Visa for 5 years before you can apply for a permanent residency. Your application fees and mental overhead is doubled. If you use the same company to apply for 2 applicants, you will need £100,000 investment fund, untouched, sitting in the bank.

Global Talent Visa lasts for 5 years, with the option to apply for a permanent residency after 3 years. You will have the freedom to work on anything you want, or work for anyone you want. Without any investment fund. It offered two routes: Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise. You will also be able to bring your partner or family with you (I am all alone so when they asked me if I want to bring my partner, I just skip the question...)

As long as you can prove that you are a leader in your field, you can apply for Exceptional Talent. If you are not there yet, but you have the potential to be one, you can apply for Exceptional Promise.

2, What makes people fail their application -- and how you should avoid them

Don't ask for someone really close to you e.g. your boss, direct report or close friends to write your reference letter. It's not about how much they know you, it's about how much they know about your work. And they need to know your work for more than a year. I have seen failing cases if you do so.

Something I can't stress enough about: Reference letters. The Tech Nation guide covered how many letters you will need, who you should be asking for one and what they should include.

They asked for 3 letters, I submitted 6. And here are their profile:

  • CEO of several venture capital firms and board director of several companies in the UK and China
  • CEO of another venture capital firm in California
  • VP in one of three Chinese big tech
  • Senior Executives in one of the FAANGs
  • Founder of an Open Source project
  • Software architect of a tech start up

If you would like a template of how the reference letter should be written, I can discuss with you privately if you have drafts ready. Feel free to book a meeting with me here or reach out to me on Twitter.

Other criteria like open source projects, publications, public speaking experiences, awards, etc. are all covered in the Tech Nation guide. 8 months before my application I basically didn't go out but doing all above, without knowing they'd useful for my application.

My company also happened to be in one of the VC House/Incubator that Tech Nation affiliated with to support fast track. On my defense, I didn't apply for it but it was an invitation from someone already in there (although we broke up now).

It was all driven by interest and curiosity. So you see -- it's sheer luck.

3, Most frequently asked questions

3.1. How long does it take to get the endorsement letter?

It took me 3 weeks to get the endorsement letter. I submitted my application on 2023-03-19, and got the endorsement letter on 2023-04-08. Less than a month. So that's stage 1 of the process done.

3.2. What happens after stage 1?

You will move on to stage 2, which is the visa application. You will need to submit your application within 3 months of getting the endorsement letter. At this stage I was still scared of getting rejected, so I submitted my application on 2023-04-10, two days after I got the endorsement letter and applied for the priority service for visa interivew. I received my Visa decision on 2023-04-26, 16 days after.

3.3. What happens after stage 2?

I booked a ticket to fly back to China and stayed for a month after almost 3 years apart.

3.4. How much did it cost?

Included in last part.

3.5. What's the cost of living in the UK?

That's another topic. I think it's not much different than Macau. In some sense it is cheaper.

3.6. When should I start to ask for reference letters?

They should be signed and dated within 3 months of your application.

3.7. What's the best format to sign the reference letter?

Use DocuSign (recommended by Tech Nation). The signature will come with a unique ID and timestamp.

3.8. What if I don't have enough reference letters?

Work for it.

3.9. What if I don't have enough publications?

Work for it.

3.10. What if I don't have enough public speaking experiences?

Work for it.

3.11. How many documents did you prepare on total?

About 45 pages. Each reference letter 2-3 pages. My CV was 3 pages. Plus other evidence documents like what product you are working on, what's your role, what's your contribution, what's the prospect of the product etc. If you get interviewed and on newspaper, include photos, screenshots, links, even Linkedin posts.

3.12. What if I don't have enough evidence documents?

Work for it.

4, Things not covered in Tech Nation's guide e.g. What drove me on nerve, what's the cost;

The stage 1 and stage 2 was very unclear and separated. They are separate process and you will be dealing with different institutions.

The stage 1 for endorsement. You start the application process on gov.uk, take a reference letter and move to Tech Nation's website to finish the application.

The stage 2 is the actual visa application. You will take the letter Tech Nation send you and back to gov.uk, and finish the application on VFS Global's website.

The application fee was £167, and the priority service was £573. I also paid £55 for the biometric appointment, plus the health surcharge per person per year for your NHS service. My application was five years. So in total it was roughly £4,200. I'd suggest you prepare all these money before you start the application in case any steps stagnant your process.

I think above information covers most of the problems I got asked. If you'd like to learn more about it feel free to book a meeting with me on Cal.com or reach out to me on Twitter. For the record, I won't be able to share my reference letter with you, but I can help check how you should be narrating them.