So, you’re interested in the UK Global Talent visa. Wonderful! I hope this post about my journey to receiving mine will help you understand the process better. Please note that I am NOT an immigration advisor and cannot advise you on any choices/decisions. As well, every visa process changes all the time. You’ll read more about my experience with this in my following post. This means, reading about my journey might help you better understand yours, but your journey will be vastly different, especially if you’re not in the performance art sector; thus, this is NOT a replicable, one-way golden ticket to the visa. Okay, now that I’ve sufficiently covered my butt, let’s get to it.
It’s not enough to want this more than anything in the world or to be wildly talented with tons of experience. You need two of the most valuable resources that exist: money and time. I don’t come from an affluent family—I came to the UK collecting student loan debt that was to pay for my master’s degree and get me through two years of living. Throughout my degree, I worked the 20 hours a week admitted to people on a UK student visa. I saved as much of it as I could & renegotiated my loans after two terms so that it wouldn’t be such an exorbitant amount (but, let’s be real, knocking a few thousand pounds off the loans did nothing to put an actual dent in them; rather, it made me feel responsible? Sort of at ease? None of the above really, but I did it.). I then began saving the rest of my work money throughout the year and a half solely for food and some fun, but mostly because I always had the goal to try to stay in the UK as a working artist after my degree.
Let’s talk about my privilege in all of this before we get into the full costs and drama of it all. I’m a white person from what immigration calls a “low-risk” country, America. My financially poor past is made way less of a problem due to having encouraging parents. I also didn’t have anyone in the U.S. that I needed to take care of. I have a loving partner in the UK whose family was also able to help me when things got really sticky with COVID-19.
You must be prepared for the costs. You must have the money AND MORE because there will always be unexpected costs. Always.
Total: £4982 (£2354.8 more than I originally expected)
And to be honest, there’s probably more unexpected expenses that I’ve blocked out of my memory.
Maybe needless to say, it’s amazing to have this visa, but I need a job quick because my savings are exhausted. Let me know if you need a performer/choreographer/Pilates instructor/copy writer and/or proofreader/arts administrator/arts lecturer.
The Dramatic Process
It probably doesn’t help that I’m generally a hyper-passionate person. But honestly, this process took over a year (all while I was finishing my MFA degree, experiencing huge spikes in my panic/depressive disorder, and making no money for the last half of it) and put me and my loved ones through some of the deepest depths of hell I’ve ever experienced. Told y’all I can be super passionate/emotional, but ignore the language and focus on what I’m trying to tell you: please be prepared for a long, arduous process with little reinforcement. Find people who love you and can help you along the way because you will need so much help. I would love to help you when I can, so here’s one person in your corner. Loving lesson: if you follow the government procedures to a T, relax as much as possible during your times of waiting. You’ve done everything right and this journey is not (usually) full of people out to get you—it’s simply a bureaucratic operation that involves a ton of confusion and anticipating answers. I got into a bad headspace regarding all the confusion and many times thought that something dreadful would happen to me. But each time, I did my research, returned to the procedure, saved every email correspondence, and returned to my year of practicing patience (or really, reeeeeally trying to). Hopefully, I can help you with some of the confusion by walking you through my process.
It all Started with a Work Visa—Something I Soon Realized was Unattainable
I tried to get a work visa from July 2019 to January 2020. It is not a viable path for artists or even researchers/lecturers (if you’ve made it happen somehow, congratulations and please share your secrets because I’m sure there’s someone that wants to go that route). I applied for nearly 60 jobs, in performance/arts admin/arts education, while also finishing my dissertation and desperately figuring out what I would do if I had to leave the country. None of the positions met the salary requirement, or, the organization wasn’t willing to use their certificate of sponsorship. That last part only makes sense if you’ve looked at the work visa route and I won’t get into that process. Basically, I wasted a ton of time and tears thinking that people would want/be able to employ me in the UK when I studied in the country. However, I do think things happen in mystical ways and my months of trying to get a work visa, and probably annoying everyone I spoke to about it, paid off. I went to a reading for a project put on by my friend’s MFA class and when she was done reading her piece she immediately whisked me away saying, “my friend just got this visa I’ve never heard of, come talk to her!” So, in January 2020, just days before my student visa was about to end, I learned about the magical UK Global Talent Visa.
A swift shift
A second whirl-wind began. I decided I’d go to Amsterdam for the month of February to do some soul searching, but also to give myself some time to research this visa without having to travel all the way back to the US. Here’s the quick run-down of it (please note again, these things change all the time and you should still read the government documents in totality):
had to pay rent without the ability to get government assistance from the US,
because I wasn’t there, or the UK, because you’re never eligible for public funds even if you have a visa. I was also doing a lot of waiting, anxious that I was going to be breaking some rule because they were changing day by day at that time.*
I originally was researching the Exceptional Talent Visa in February 2020, because that’s what the Global Talent Visa used to be, and it changed mid-Feb 2020. I only found out by visiting the govt. website. Check the website frequently, I can’t say it enough. There were many other hiccups, but we can talk about those in person if you’d like because I’m too paranoid to write about them haha. Hopefully, they weren’t issues that many others will have to deal with.
What you need (Global Promise) for the Arts Council Application
You need to provide evidence in at least 2 out of the 3 categories set by Arts Council. However, you cannot submit more than 10 pieces of evidence. Each piece of evidence needs to include the date/place/organization. The categories and what I sent in are detailed below:
2. A screen shot of a review of INsync: Harmonic Dissonance in Amsterdam + a letter from the principle researcher/director
2. A screen-shot of the CCL residency program I was part of in Amsterdam. I also included a brief description of the residency, my work I created, and a link to the program notes.
3. A screen-shot of the Young Artist Feedback Forum program where I presented work in London. I also included a brief description of the forum, my work I created, and a link to the program notes.
4. A screen-shot of the dance program I created with a collaborator in FL: take down, a dismantling of process. I also included a brief description of the program, my work I created, and a link to the program notes.
5. A screen-shot of my TEDxFSU talk in FL, a brief explanation of the performance lecture, and a link to the presentation.
6. A screen-shot evidencing that I was published in a journal for a dance/movement therapy project I did in my undergraduate degree
Notice I only sent 9 pieces of evidence. Better to send quality over quantity, as a good friend reminded me.
YOU ALSO NEED 3 LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION:
For me, the letters were the hardest pieces of evidence to obtain. You never know how much time someone will have on their hands, so do most of the prep work for them and allow enough time to receive them before you want to submit. They also need to send you their full CV to attach to their letters to prove their status/position.
I also tied up the entire application with a cover page and table of contents because I’m extra and wanted to make everything as easy to find as possible.
My application timeline
I heard about the visa at the end of January 2020. I began researching the visa and collecting my evidence in February 2020. I sent my first application to Arts Council on May 14th, 2020. I Received my endorsement on July 10th, 2020. I sent my second application to immigration on July 31st, 2020. My immigration appointment was set for August 7th, 2020. I received confirmation that my Global Talent Migrant application was successful on August 13th, 2020. Your timeline might be different.
It’s a long, difficult, EXPENSIVE process, but worth it if your intuition tells you that you need to be in the UK as an artist. I hope this post helps you get started on the application, but please remember that you need to fully and frequently read the documents on the government website. Follow the directions, put in the work, add your personal flare, and have confidence in yourself.
Link to Government and Arts Council Websites: