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High Potential Individual visas: all you need to know about the new UK immigration route

London visa to UK

Updated 2 November 2023

The UK Government has launched the brand-new High Potential Individual Visa which looks set to be a useful immigration route for employers and those who have graduated from certain universities (see below) in the past five years to come and work in the UK without having to be sponsored.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the High Potential Individual visa route would enable the UK to “grow as a leading international hub for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. 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.”

Those granted a High Potential Individual visa will be able to bring family to the UK and look for work, work for an employer, work for themselves or set up a business.

This means that applicants applying on this route will not be restricted to taking up employment with a UK business that holds a sponsor licence and 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 introduction of this route is aimed at attracting top talent into the UK and is set to go live at 9am on 30 May 2022.  So, what do we know about the requirements for this new route?

What are the main eligibility requirements for a High Potential Individual visa?

Applicants can only be granted permission to enter the UK once under this route, the Graduate route or the Student Doctorate Extension Scheme.

Global Universities List degree requirement

Applicants must have been awarded an overseas degree-level academic qualification which is at the equivalent level of a recognised UK bachelor’s or UK postgraduate degree. This needs to have been awarded in the five years immediately before the date of application.

The overseas academic qualification must have been awarded from an institution which appears on the Global Universities List at the date of award.

The lists of eligible international universities are published every year by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI). Potential applicants can now check the list for the year they graduated to see if their higher education institution would qualify them to apply for a High Potential Individual visa:

Check the list of eligible universities for the month and year you were awarded your qualification:

The above lists consist of eligible non-UK institutions that are included in the list of the top 50 universities in at least two of the following ranking systems:

1.     Times Higher Education World University Rankings

2.     Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings

3.     The Academic Ranking of World Universities

English language requirement

Applicants must be able to show their English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), in all four components (reading, writing, speaking and listening), of at least level B1.

There may however be other ways in which an applicant can demonstrate their English language ability such as if they have been awarded a degree that was taught in English, are a national of a majority English-speaking country or they have obtained a GCSE or A Level in English whilst in school in the UK (that began when they were aged under 18).

Applicants will also be able to meet this requirement if they have already met the English requirement at this level in a previous UK visa application. This may be relevant to applicants who are switching to this visa from within the UK.

Financial requirement

An applicant who is applying for entry clearance on this route will need to show that they can support themselves in the UK without relying on public funds. They must be able to show cash funds of at least £1,270 at the submission date of the application and these funds must have been held for a 28-day period prior to the date of the application.  Additional funds are required for dependants.

Applicants may be exempt from this requirement if they have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or longer on the date of the application.

How to apply for the UK’s High Potential Individual visa

Applicants must prepare the documents they need and apply online within five years of being awarded a qualification from a university that was eligible the year they were awarded the certificate. In some cases applications can be made from within the United Kingdom – see below.

Can people in the UK switch to a High Potential Individual Visa ?

Applicants and dependants already in the UK can switch to this immigration route from within the UK , so long as they are not in the UK

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Student visa without completing the course they were sponsored to study or studying for a PhD for at least 24 months
  • on a Graduate visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

Applicants must leave the UK and apply for an HPI visa from abroad if in one of the above list of categories.

How long will High Potential Individuals be granted leave for?

The amount of time that will be granted to applicants will depend on the level of the academic qualification they hold.

If they hold and are relying on a qualification equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s or Master’s level degree then they will be granted a period of two years.

If they hold and are relying on a qualification equivalent to a UK PhD or other doctoral level qualification, then they will be granted a period of three years.

Which UK immigration routes can High Potential Individuals switch into?

It should be noted that this route does not lead to settlement in the UK. Successful applicants may however be able to switch to another route that may lead to settlement in the UK. At any point before it expires, people on the High Potential Individual visa may switch into permitted work categories leading to settlement, such as Skilled Worker, Scale up or Global Talent visas.

Can a High Potential Individual’s family join them in the UK?

A husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner may accompany a High Potential Individual, as can children under 18 on the date of application. Partners must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship of two years or over.

Like most immigration categories, dependants can also apply to switch into another UK immigration category if they qualify for it.

What is the difference between a Graduate visa and a High Potential Individual visa?

The High Potential Individual visa is for qualifications attained outside the UK, while the Graduate visa immigration route is meant for those who graduated in the UK, and can only be applied for in the UK.

Applicants for the Graduate visa must have a Student visa as their current or most recent visa for the UK, and they must have successfully completed their course of study during their last grant of permission as a Student.

High Potential Individuals, on the other hand, have five years after graduation to make use of the route.

Also High Potential Individuals have less requirements to meet to bring dependants to the UK, while  Graduates are only allowed to have dependants joining them if they were already dependants while on a Student visa.

For more detailed advice and updates on this and other new immigration routes, or for a strategic consultation on what would work best for you, please contact us on 0207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.

(Photo by Laura Chouette, Unsplash)

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