Designs for a better future – is immigration the key to preserving the UK’s post-Brexit architecture sector?

7 February 2019

The Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) have published a recent study outlining that the end of free movement post-Brexit could potentially jeopardise the UK’s £4.8 billion architecture sector as nearly half of EU architects have considered leaving.  However recent changes have been set in motion to help mitigate this by helping to attract new and upcoming talent in the sector. 
In the recent report from RIBA they highlighted that one in four architects working in the UK are non-British and of these individuals, 80% of them are from EU countries. Also detailed in the report was the fact that almost half of the  600 or so non-British architects surveyed would consider leaving the UK due to Brexit. With these statistics in mind, it is unsurprising that RIBA have their concerns about the UK ‘turning inwards and cutting itself off from the world’.  With these worries the UK government have recently sought to mitigate any potential negative impact that Brexit may have on this sector. 

Expanding the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Category

A significant immigration development announced is the expanded scope of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa category which will now include architects. This change signifies the first visa of its kind to be dedicated to exceptionally talented architects and internationally recognised experts within the field of architecture. Those applying under this category will be subject to the specialist assessment from RIBA and those who are deemed to meet the criteria can work in the UK for a maximum of 5 years and 4 months.
In order to be eligible for this visa, the applicant must first make an endorsement application to RIBA where they must provide the following:
  • Evidence of the applicant’s exceptional talent within the field of architecture. 
  • This will include things like media recognition, published reviews of the applicant’s work, awards they have won and proof that their work has been published or exhibited in international exhibitions and galleries. 
  • Three endorsement letters from leading individuals in the architecture world, attesting to the individual’s exceptional talent. 
  • For individuals who fall short of satisfying the exceptional talent benchmark, there is also the Tier 1 (Exceptional Promise) visa. This visa route caters for those more junior in their career and the individual must evidence that they have the potential to become future leaders in their field. Therefore applicants of the exceptional promise visa will have to provide evidence that they have made a significant impact in the architecture sector.  The type of evidence that can be provided includes accolades that have been awarded on merit and potential rather than monetary awards like grants and bursaries that are typically awarded to more experienced architects. 

Recognising EU qualified architects in the UK

Another example of how the UK government will attract talent to the UK’s architecture sector is by confirming that they will maintain their recognition for individuals with EEA architecture qualifications, as long as they have access to their profession in their respective home country. This clarification will allow EEA qualified architects the possibility to continue practicing in post-Brexit UK as well as allowing future EEA qualified architects the option to work in the UK regardless of a no-deal future. 
Whether these recent announcements will have their intended effect in a post-Brexit UK is anyone’s guess however it is certain that these changes are small victories for such a vital creative sector in the UK.

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