The government has confirmed that a new UK work permit category will open next month.
The Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) category will become operational from August 9th this year. It has been designed to offer a UK work permit route into the country for people at the top of their field, as well as those who are rising quickly. However, there is a limited number of places.
In the first year, just 1,000 of these new permits are on offer, with the first 500 available between August 9th and November 30th and the remaining 500 released between December 1st and March 31st of 2012. At the end of March, UK immigration officials will review the situation and consider a suitable number of places for next year's allocation.
Damian Green, the UK immigration minister, commented: "The UK is a global leader in science, humanities and engineering and we are a cultural centre for the arts: we will continue to welcome those who have the most to offer and contribute to our society and economy."
He added that the new 'exceptional talent' route will "ensure that we continue to attract the brightest into the UK and keep the UK a global leader".
Despite earlier criticisms regarding the UK's handling of exceptional talent in the arts in particular, the announcement has received a relatively positive welcome. Alan Davey, chief executive of the Arts Council England, said: "The international exchange of artists enriches their art, and I’m sure audiences will welcome the opportunity to experience the finest artistic talent from across the world."
The presidents of a number of top science and engineering societies have also praised the move to continue to allow people at the top of their game to work in the UK.
Under the Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) category, successful applicants will be granted permission to stay for three years and four months. Applications can then be put in to extend the visa for a further two years and, after five years residence in the UK, settlement may be available.