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High Potential Individual visa route opens today

sponsorship licence

30 May 2022

The government has opened up its new High Potential Individual visa route today (30 May) to help attract the world’s top graduates into the UK to work.

The HPI visa is open to graduates from a university on the Home Office’s list of eligible institutions, which consists of universities included in the top 50 in at least two of three world ranking systems.

These are the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, or The Academic Ranking of World Universities – and the ranking must apply to the year the person graduated.

The 2021 list, announced earlier this month, includes 20 universities in the US, including Harvard, Yale and MIT; two in Canada, the universities of Toronto and British Columbia; and two institutions each from Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Switzerland.

Only two universities from within the European Union are listed: the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and Université PSL in France.

A bachelor’s level or postgraduate degree must have been awarded in the five years immediately before the date of application, and the Home Office has compiled lists of the universities eligible for the High Potential Individual visa for the past six years on its website.

The new visa route is part of the government’s strategy to bring in the “brightest and best” at a time when many sectors are experiencing acute skills shortages.

Vanessa Ganguin, an immigration lawyer, said the visa had been introduced “amid controversy it prioritises graduates from the ‘Global North’”.

“For those who qualify, it’s a particularly useful immigration route, especially for those who want to try working in the UK without being beholden to a particular employer,” she said. “Those who have graduated in the past five years from one of the top universities on the government’s list can come to the UK with dependant family in an unsponsored route, allowing them to work, look for work, work freelance or set up a business. The financial requirements are far from onerous – just £1,270 savings, £285 for a partner coming with you, £315 for a first child, £200 savings for an additional child.

“It will also prove very useful for employers who want to hire a talented graduate without the expense or responsibility of sponsoring them. Any employment they undertake will not be subject to having to be coded under a standard occupation classification (SOC) code or minimum salary restrictions. Employers can get to know High Potential Individuals first before sponsoring them on a more permanent immigration route.”

However, Ganguin said the university list had been controversial. “The institutions that count as a top university are controversial and I have already had enquiries from graduates from excellent higher education departments who do not feature on the list for the year they graduated,” she added.

“The government has insisted that the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system brings ‘the brightest and the best’ to a ‘global Britain’ but many have spotted that the three independent ranking guides to top universities used contain many US institutions and not one university from Africa, Latin America or South Asia. In the context of decades of immigration legislation that can be seen to discriminate already against these regions, this will understandably cause controversy.”