How to get the UK’s new High Potential Individual visa

The UK Home Office has announced several new visa routes, including the High Potential Individual visa which aims to attract top international talent to the UK, notes Sable International, the professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

On 15 March 2022, the Home Office released a statement of changes introducing and expanding on a few new UK visas, including the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, as part of its Innovation Strategy, aimed at “opening [the UK’s] borders to top talent”.

It bears strong similarities to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, which was a scheme that ran from 2002 until 2008, that allowed highly skilled people to immigrate to the UK to look for work or self-employment opportunities.

What is the High Potential Individual visa and when will it launch?

The HPI visa introduces an elite route to attract the best and brightest to the UK to maintain its status as a leading international hub for emerging technologies.

The HPI visa will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university and will allow you to live and work in the UK without the need for a sponsor.

This means that graduates do not need an offer for an eligible skilled job in the UK from a Home Office-approved sponsor and you’ll be able to come to the UK to find work, be self-employed or do volunteer work.

This means the process of going to the UK will be a lot quicker and simpler for internationally mobile individuals.

The High Potential Individual visa will come into effect on 30 May 2022.

Can your dependants join you on a High Potential Individual visa?

If you qualify for an HPI visa, you can be joined by your partner and dependant children. A partner refers to either your spouse, civil partner, or unmarried partner. Unmarried partners have to show that they have lived together for at least two years and that their relationship is genuine and subsisting.

Dependant children include those of the main applicant’s partner if they have sole responsibility for the child or if the other parent of the child is settled in the UK, or where there are serious and compelling reasons to grant the child leave to enter or remain. Children have to be under the age of 18 on the date of application.

How long is the High Potential Individual visa valid for?

The length of stay granted will depend on the degree level you’ve earned:

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree – two years
  • PhD or other doctoral-level qualification – three years

High Potential Individual visa eligibility criteria

Because the High Potential Individual visa seeks to attract highly skilled and “brilliant” people, the requirements are quite stringent. Aside from health screenings such as a TB test, requirements include those related to age, academic levels, language and finance.

High Potential Individual visa age requirement

The High Potential Individual visa is open to all nationalities, and you must be at least 18 years old to apply. But unlike other visa routes, such as the Youth Mobility Scheme visa, there is no upper age limit.

High Potential Individual visa academic requirement

In order to qualify for a High Potential Individual visa, applicants need to have been awarded a degree from an overseas university. If you are an international student who has completed a UK degree, then you will not qualify for this route. However, you may be able to satisfy the requirements of the Graduate visa instead.

You will need confirmation from Ecctis to prove that your degree meets or exceeds the required standard of a UK bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree. You should keep in mind that not all overseas degree-level qualifications will be accepted by the Home Office.

In order to qualify for a High Potential Individual visa, your degree must have been awarded in the last five years before the date of your HPI visa application.

High Potential Individual visa universities list

Your degree also has to be awarded from one of the top global universities as published in the Global Universities List by the Home Office. The list will be compiled on an annual basis and will 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:

  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings
  • Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings
  • The Academic Ranking of World Universities

High Potential Individual visa financial requirement

The High Potential Individual visa requires you to have cash funds of at least £1,270 available. You must have held the money in a bank account for at least 28 days before your date of application.

This financial requirement is waived for those who have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or more at the date of application and who are applying to extend into the High Potential Individual Route.

There will likely be an immigration health surcharge (IHS) which is usually £624 for each year you’ll be in the UK. If you qualify for the High Potential Individual visa the cost will be:

  • £1,248 on the two-year route
  • £1,872 on the three-year route

You will have to pay the IHS fee for any dependants over the age of 18 who will be joining you.

High Potential Individual visa application cost

The application for a High Potential Individual visa will cost £715 for the main applicant as well as any dependants joining you. With the addition of the IHS, your overall application fee will be £1963 on the two-year route and £2587 for three years.

Does the High Potential Individual route lead to indefinite leave to remain?

There is no option to extend the HPI visa and so it does not lead directly to settlement in the UK. However, you will be able to apply from within the UK to switch into another immigration route which may lead to settlement such as a Skilled Worker visa, Start-up visa or Innovator visa.

How does the High Potential Individual visa compare to the Graduate visa?

Both visas grant recently graduated individuals the opportunity to find work in the UK without a sponsored job offer, but the High Potential visa has some slight advantages.

The main difference between the HPI visa and the Graduate visa is that the HPI is only available to graduates of overseas universities. If you are an international student who has completed a UK degree, then you could apply for a Graduate visa instead.

The window for application is longer with the HPI visa because you’re able to apply for five years after your graduation, whereas the Graduate visa requires you to be in possession of a UK Student visa when you apply.

The application for a High Potential Individual visa can be made either from within the UK or from overseas. Whereas you have to be in the UK already to apply for a Graduate visa.

  • By Sable International, the professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions

Read: 30 new jobs that South Africans can use to get into the UK right now

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How to get the UK’s new High Potential Individual visa