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High Potential Individual visa: What HR needs to know

Harvard graduation

8 June 2022

Launched last week, the High Potential Individual visa is aimed at attracting exceptional graduates to work and reside in the UK and opens up a new route for potential candidates for HR. But what are its benefits and drawbacks? Vanessa Ganguin explains.

The High Potential Individual visa launched last week amid controversy that it prioritises graduates from the “global North”, excluding talent from developing countries.

For those that qualify it looks set to be a useful immigration route to the UK, as well as for employers who want to hire people who have graduated from some of the world’s top universities in the past five years without the need for sponsorship.

The new visa, in the words of chancellor Rishi Sunak, “means that the UK can continue to attract the best and brightest from across the globe”.

Launching the new route, he insisted: “We want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today – which is why I call on students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to forge their careers here.”

Eligibility requirements

Potential employers or employees keen to use this route should check the global university lists, available on the Home Office website, for the year applicants graduated to see if theirs was one of the eligible institutions that year. They should have graduated within the past five years.

They must also pass a security and criminality check and be proficient in English to at least the B1 intermediate level, defined as “fluency to communicate without effort with native speakers”.

A husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner may accompany a high potential individual, as may children under 18 on the date of application. Unmarried partners must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship of two years or over.

The financial requirements are far from onerous for applicants. They just need to show savings of £1,270, £285 for a partner coming with them, £315 for a first child, and £200 savings for any additional child.

What are the benefits of the High Potential Individual visa?

The new visa is a relatively easy immigration route, especially for those who want to try working in the UK without being beholden to a particular employer.

They can come to the UK with dependant family members in an unsponsored route, allowing them to work, look for work, work freelance or set up a business. Though, as you would expect, they will not be able to access public funds.

It will also prove very useful for employers who want to hire a talented graduate without the expense or responsibility of sponsoring them. Employers can get to know High Potential Individuals first before sponsoring them on a more permanent immigration route.

Any employment they undertake will not be subject to having to be coded under a standard occupation classification (SOC) code or minimum salary restrictions.

The visa costs £715 plus the immigration health surcharge, which allows free access to NHS healthcare.

How long can High Potential Individuals stay?

This is not a route to citizenship, but an opportunity for people to try working in the UK and switch into longer-term immigration routes.

Applicants holding a qualification equivalent to a UK Bachelors or Master’s level degree will be granted a period of two years leave. Applicants who hold a qualification equivalent to a UK PhD or other doctoral level qualification will be granted three years.

This route does not lead to settlement in the UK. At any point before it expires though, switching is permitted into other visa categories leading to settlement, such as Skilled Worker, Start up, Scale up, Innovator or Global Talent visas.