Applicants can choose to be considered under ‘exceptional talent’ (for leaders in their field) or ‘exceptional promise’ (for potential leaders in their field). This route is not fast-track. You can apply with or without a job offer.
The British Academy reviews applications from the humanities and social sciences, the Royal Academy of Engineering covers engineering, and the Royal Society covers the natural and medical sciences. The full list of eligible disciplines and sub-disciplines per endorsing body is available on GOV.UK.
Stage 1 (endorsement)
To apply for endorsement under this route, you must complete the fullStage 1 (endorsement) application form and submit the required supporting documents.
After you have submitted your Stage 1 (endorsement) application via the Home Office, the endorsing body to which you have applied will conduct an initial eligibility check to verify that you:
- are an active researcher - for example in a university, a research institute or industry;
- have a PhD or equivalent research experience, including industrial or clinical research;
- are at an early stage of your career (exceptional promise only); and
- have provided the required documents to be considered for assessment under peer review.
Meeting these mandatory eligibility criteria does not guarantee that your application will be endorsed, only that it will be referred for peer review.
If you meet the mandatory eligibility criteria, your application will be peer reviewed by experts in your field who will look at the strength of the evidence to determine whether your application demonstrates exceptional talent or exceptional promise. Your application will be assessed under peer review solely on the required evidence provided as part of your application.
Peer reviewers will be asked if there are any conflicts of interest and, if these exist, another reviewer will be asked to comment instead. As each application is assessed independently by relevant experts, the endorsing bodies cannot advise on the likelihood that your application will be endorsed.
The peer review assessment will consider the following criteria to determine whether your application contains sufficient evidence that you have been recognised as an exceptional talent and a leader in the field of science, engineering, humanities, social sciences or medicine (exceptional talent applications) or that you have been recognised as showing exceptional promise and as a potential leader in the field of science, engineering, humanities, social sciences or medicine (exceptional promise applications):
- Your track record, career history and contributions to the field to date, including your international standing; the significance of your publications, prizes and research funding awarded; patents, licenses, spinouts or other forms of intellectual property and the impact of past innovation activity, in an organisation, academia or as an individual (as applicable);
- The strength of the supporting statements in the letter of personal recommendation and, for exceptional talent only, in the second mandatory letter with an objective assessment of your reputation in the field; and
- The expected benefits of your presence in the UK in terms of the contribution to UK research and innovation excellence and to wider society, including potential economic benefits from exploitation of intellectual capital.
The assessors are looking for compelling evidence demonstrating a high degree of originality, creativity, independence, and intellectual leadership in research and innovation. They will consider the merit, novelty, significance, and quality of your research and innovation vision, and how it has advanced or is expected to advance the field. They are also looking for a clear and credible plan for what you will expect to do in the UK and how you will contribute to UK research and innovation excellence.
Application content and documentation for standard endorsement through peer review
For your Stage 1 application to be considered for standard endorsement through full peer review, you must submit the following documents as part of your application to the Home Office:
- A completed Stage 1 (endorsement) application form;
- A short curriculum vitae outlining your career and publication history (no more than three sides of A4 in length);
- A letter of personal recommendation from an eminent person resident in the UK supporting your application. The person must be familiar with your work and your contribution to your field, and qualified to assess your claim for exceptional talent or exceptional promise. Full details of what the letter should include can be found below;
- Exceptional Talent only: A second letter containing an objective assessment of your talent in the field. The author of this letter must be an additional eminent person who is a senior member of a reputable UK organisation concerned with research or innovation in your field. This person must be qualified to independently assess your claim of exceptional talent in your field and be able to comment independently and authoritatively on your application. Full details of what the letter should include can be found below.
The endorsement application form asks you to note your qualifications, significant publications, prizes, etc. For your most significant publications you must provide the full bibliographic reference, and name of the publisher, where each publication may be obtained, including a URL if available. For patents you must provide the full identifying reference and the name(s) of the country/countries in which they are registered and valid.
Guidance for applicants on letters of recommendation for standard endorsement through peer review
The British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society reserve the right to determine at their own discretion whether organisations or individuals are well established and widely acknowledged as possessing expertise in your field.
We have the right to refuse your application or request more information via the Home Office if evidence is not provided that the author of the letter is a credible referee. This could significantly delay your application.
Letter of personal recommendation (exceptional talent and exceptional promise)
The letter of personal recommendation must be from an eminent person resident in the UK with internationally recognised expertise in your field of research or innovation.
The person must be:
- resident in the UK;
- familiar with your work and your contribution to your field; and
- an eminent individual who is qualified to assess your claim of exceptional talent or exceptional promise in your field.
The letter should include:
- how the eminent person knows you;
- details of your achievements in your field;
- how, in the opinion of the eminent person, you exhibit exceptional talent or exceptional promise;
- how you would benefit from living in the UK; and
- how you are likely to contribute to UK research or innovation and to wider society.
Please ensure that the letter is as detailed as possible.
The letter should be signed, dated and on headed paper. It should also include the full contact details of the author, including personal email address and direct telephone number so that personal contact can be made if necessary.
Letters of recommendation should be written specifically for this purpose and include the information detailed above. The letter should not be a general reference letter. Copies of employment contracts are not sufficient as they will not contain the required information.
Second letter containing an objective assessment of your reputation in your field (exceptional talent only)
If you are applying as exceptional talent, you must provide a letter from an additional eminent person in your field of research or innovation.
The person must be:
- a senior member of a reputable UK organisation concerned with research or innovation in your field, who is an expert in your field of research or innovation, such as a Professor, Head of Department, Chief Executive, Vice-Chancellor or Pro Vice-Chancellor, or similar. This is not an exhaustive list but the more senior and eminent the author is in your field of research or innovation the stronger we consider the letter to be; and
- qualified to independently assess and comment on your claim of exceptional talent in your field of research or innovation.
The letter must include:
- a statement confirming that the author is a senior member of a reputable UK organisation concerned with research or innovation in your field;
- the reasons why the author considers that your work shows exceptional talent and how you are likely to contribute to UK research or innovation excellence and to wider society; and
- a statement confirming the author’s assessment is provided in their capacity as an objective expert in your field and is an objective assessment of your reputation in the field, notwithstanding any personal knowledge they may have of you or any direct involvement they may have (or previously have had) in your work.
Acceptable reputable UK organisations are those that are widely acknowledged as concerned with research expertise in your field.
The letter should be signed and dated and written on headed paper. It should also include full contact details, including an email address and telephone number so that contact can be made if necessary.
This letter for exceptional talent applicants should be written specifically for this purpose and include the information detailed above.
Page last updated: 12 April 2023