Exceptional talent


Elif Shafak is an acclaimed Turkish author who successfully applied for a Tier 1 visa to live and work in the UK. The visas, which allow people to enter this country on the basis of their exceptional talent, are open to artists and creative professionals.  

Arts Council England asked her some questions about her experience of applying for the visa:

The application process

Q: How did you find out about Tier 1 visas and what qualified you for the exceptional talent route?

A: I have lived and worked in America for several years, in the past, and I knew about a similar visa there. I have musician and writer friends on both sides of the Atlantic who have been issued similar visas in different countries.

After my first year in the UK I was encouraged by my publisher and my writer friends to inquire about the Tier 1, which was a new visa type. When I did so, I was happy to learn that for creative people working and producing in different branches of art and science and literature, the Tier 1 was the right visa to apply for.

Q: What are your thoughts on the process of applying for the visa and what advice would you offer someone else applying?

A: I think this is a great door for creative people, writers, musicians, film directors, artists.... people whose job and great passion is to connect humanity through stories and art. Of course, there are certain important credentials that need to be met to get the visa. For instance, for writers, you should be well published and have a certain achievements. It is important to understand the requirements and credentials that are being asked for.  These are all clearly explained on Home Office websites. 

Q: Did you apply for the route overseas or in the UK?

A: Yes the application process needs to be done overseas. 

Working as an artist in the UK

Q: What made you choose the UK over other countries in the world?

A: First of all my great love for the English language and my love for London. This is a beautiful, unique and truly cosmopolitan city. London inspires me. This is where you meet great minds. It is an amazing cultural hub.  

I also love Istanbul. I feel connected to both cities in different ways and with equal love.         

Q: What are your current projects?

A: I am writing my new novel. A historical novel that requires a lot of research. 

Q: How do you think your work has added to the literary landscape in the UK?

A: The year I arrived my novel The Forty Rules of Love was published by Penguin and I have done lots of literary events around the publication date. And last year Honour was published, a novel I have written here in London. I have participated in many festivals, book readings and book signings including Oxford Literary Festival, Cambridge Festival and Google talk. I have given talks at different universities, centres and women's clubs.

I have supported women's campaigns for equality. I have been writing essays for various newspapers and magazines, both around the world and in the UK, including The GuardianThe Independent and The Literary Review. I have participated in Edinburgh Writer's Conference last summer and was the author of the day at the London Book fair and worked closely with British Council during that time. Now I am on my way to give a talk at one of my favourite festivals ever, the Hay Festival.  

Q: What is your greatest achievement since you have been working here?

A: Writing and writing freely. I love words. I live with and within words.  I write in both English and Turkish.


Find out more about Tier 1 visas and how to apply