Hugo Desmarais is a Canadian circus artist who successfully applied for a Tier 1 visa to live and work in the UK. The visas, which allow people to enter the UK on the basis of their exceptional talent, are open to artists and creative professionals.

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

The application process

Q: How did you find out about Tier 1 visas?

A: After I completed one sponsored visa, and a two-year Tier 5 visa through the Commonwealth, I went to a lawyer who informed me of my options. The Tier 1 visa was my only viable solution at that time, so I applied.

Q: What qualified you for the exceptional talent route?

A: As a freelance circus artist I have been able to work for different companies throughout the world and in the UK, so my resume, press reviews and videos were proof of my capacity as an acrobat.

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

A: As I was already living in London I started the process in the UK, but I had to apply in Canada.

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

A: The process involves a lot of different steps, you have to build a file with different aspects of your life and work outside and inside the UK. The one thing I was slightly lacking was press reviews as I haven't kept many hard copies of things because I travel so much, so I would advise people to keep a file of as much information as they can.

I wouldn't have been able to do it without my lawyer so, if that's an option, it should definitely be the first step for someone thinking of applying.

Working as an artist in the UK

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

A: At first I was contracted to do a show here in London and then a tour, and as I lived and performed in the UK I realised how much I enjoyed working and living here. The UK has a great appreciation of the arts and I love the scene here. 

Q: Where do you currently work and did you secure a job before you came here?

A: As a freelance circus artist I perform regularly in different shows and cabaret nights, and also teach at the only circus degree in the UK, at Circus Space. I had these contacts already from previous work in the UK before I was granted this visa.

Q: How do you think your work has benefited circus performance in the UK?

A: Coming from Montreal I bring another kind of approach to the circus scene here, I have a different perspective. I have been very lucky to work with new artists from Circus Space and also amazing people on the UK Circus scene with whom I collaborate on a daily basis, and share skills.

Q: What is your greatest achievement since you came to the UK?

A: It's hard to narrow it down to one thing, I have been lucky to have had success in my career, been able to support myself, work with the people I want to, and made great friends.

Find out more

Find out more about Tier 1 visas and how to apply