How to apply for a High
Potential Individual

On 30 May 2022, the UK government launched a brand new immigration route designed to attract the ‘brightest and best’ international talent to our shores. The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa allows the holder to live and work in the UK without requiring sponsorship from a UK employer.

The route is open to recent graduates of ‘top global universities’. Applicants must have either a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree qualification awarded in the last 5 years from an eligible university outside the UK. Eligible institutions are decided by the Home Office and are added to the ‘Global Universities List’.

Introducing the new route, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “This new visa offer means that the UK can continue to attract the best and brightest from across the globe. The route means that the UK will 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.

The UK is already home to some of the most ground-breaking start-ups, on the forefront of R&D and an incredibly diverse and exciting place to live – come and join in!”

The new route has received a mixed reception so far, with some critics branding the scheme ‘elitist’ and arguing that it nurtures global inequalities by excluding those who have gained their degree at a university in key regions such as Africa, India and Latin America. The majority of the universities that appear on the Home Office’s list are in the United States, alongside other qualifying institutions in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

Furthermore, there is no requirement for applicants to meet a certain grade threshold in order to apply. This means that someone who just scraped a pass in their course at an eligible university would qualify for the visa whereas someone who graduated at the top of their class from an institution not on the list would not be eligible to apply.

In this article, we set out the eligibility requirements for a High Potential Individual visa and how to apply.

What is the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa?

A High Potential Individual visa grants the holder a one-time, non-extendable period of permission to stay in the UK. How long you can stay in the UK on a High Potential Individual visa depends on the type of qualification you hold:

  • Those holding a qualification equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s or Master’s level degree will be permitted to stay for 2 years
  • Those holding a qualification equivalent to a UK PhD will be able to stay for 3 years.

During this period, you are free to work or look for work at any skill or salary level in the UK without needing employer sponsorship. However, if you wish to continue working in the UK after your High Potential Individual visa has expired, you will need to apply to switch to another visa category such as the Skilled Worker route, if you meet the requirements.

You can only study in the UK on a High Potential Individual visa if your chosen course is not eligible for a Student visa. If your course is eligible for a Student visa, you should apply for permission under the Student route instead.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for a High Potential Individual visa, you must have been awarded a qualification in the last 5 years from an institution that appears on the Home Office’s Global Universities List. The awarding institution must appear on the list in respect of the date when you graduated with your degree. The list of eligible universities is based on rankings of universities from around the world, and will be compiled on an annual basis.

You must apply to Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) to check your qualification is valid and at the right level. Your qualification must be at the same level as:

  • a UK bachelor’s degree
  • a UK postgraduate degree
  • a UK PhD or doctorate

As part of the application process, you will also need to:

  • Prove your knowledge of English
  • Prove that you have enough personal savings to support yourself in the UK, unless you have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.

You cannot apply for a High Potential Individual visa if you have already been given a Graduate visa or if you have already come to the UK as a Doctorate Extension Scheme student.

English language

When you apply for a High Potential Individual visa, you will usually need to prove your knowledge of the English language, unless you did this in a previous successful visa application. You must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

You can prove your knowledge of English by:

  • Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider.
  • Having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18.
  • Having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English – if you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) for confirmation that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.

How to apply

You must apply online for a High Potential Individual visa. You can either apply from outside the UK, or apply to switch to this visa from another visa category from within the UK.

As part of your application you’ll need to prove your identity. You will either do this by:

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks if you’re outside the UK, or 8 weeks if you’re inside the UK.

How much it costs

The application fee for a High Potential Individual visa is £715. The same fee also applies for any accompanying dependants. Applicants and their dependants will also be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which is currently £624 per year, or £470 per year for under-18s.

You will also need to have enough money to:

  • Pay £210 for Ecctis to check your qualification is valid (£252 if you are applying from the UK)
  • Support yourself when you arrive in the UK. You will usually need to have at least £1,270 available (unless you are exempt).

Support with your UK visa application

If you are looking to apply for a High Potential Individual (HPI) visa and require assistance with the application process, Smith Stone Walters can help. To speak to a qualified immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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