UK set to introduce ‘High Potential Individual’ visa for top global university graduates

25th January 2022 Immigration

The UK Government is set to introduce the new High Potential Individual visa route in Spring 2022 in order to attract graduates from top global universities. The new route arrives as part of the UK’s post-Brexit strategy to create a ‘Global Britain’, although there is uncertainty as to whether the route will make a positive impact and, at first glance, whether it lacks the diversity that a truly Global Britain should incorporate.

What is the High Potential Individual route?

In July 2021, the Government Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published a paper, ‘UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it’, which sets out a strategy to “make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035”. This includes the introduction of the new High Potential Individual visa route (herein referred to as “HPI Visa”).

The HPI Visa will only be available to applicants who are graduates from top global universities. The Government also confirmed:

  • There will be no job offer requirement – this is intended to give individuals the flexibility to work, switch jobs or employers and make contributions to the UK economy without having to apply for a new visa, unlike those who hold a Skilled Worker visa.
  • The route will also allow eligible individuals to extend their visa and settle in the UK, subject to meeting specific requirements.

The Home Office has yet to publish any further guidance as to what else an applicant needs to demonstrate to apply for a HPI Visa.

How could the HPI Visa affect individuals and businesses?

With no job offer requirement, the applicant will not need to be sponsored by a prospective employer. This means that it is one less hurdle to worry about for businesses who recruit non-UK nationals. However, it is perhaps one more headache as the employee’s visa status will not be anchored to a particular business, meaning they can more easily move jobs to another business. In essence, there is less security for the employer but more flexibility for the employee.

In addition, individuals on a HPI Visa can count their time in the UK towards the five years needed to apply for settlement. This is not the case for those on the Graduate or Student visa routes. Businesses recruiting graduates should be aware that those who wish to ultimately settle in the UK may wish to apply for or transfer to a HPI Visa.

Beyond the above, there is a lot we still do not know about the HPI Visa route, yet it is not long until practitioners and clients alike will first be able to grapple with the application process. The Government has not yet defined ‘high potential’ and ‘top global university’. We also do not know how long someone can live in the UK on a HPI Visa before having to secure employment or set up a business.

Diversity

Diversity is also a key issue for the HPI Visa, as it continues to be a key issue for universities. The Office for Students reported that 70% of UK-domiciled undergraduate entrants in 2019-20 were white, and BBC News reported that those from BAME backgrounds represented 29.3% of UK undergraduate entrants to The University of Cambridge in 2020. Whilst these figures are shifting in the right direction – the figure of 29.3% was a record high for The University of Cambridge – they remain a huge concern.

There is also a concern as to whether graduating from a top university is the best measure of potential at all. Many highly successful individuals across the globe have not graduated from university whatsoever, let alone a ‘top’ university. The HPI Visa route therefore risks becoming outdated before it has been created. This may limit the route’s own potential for success if the Government casts too small a net over the global talent pool of university graduates.

Conclusion

Until further guidance is published by the Government, the HPI Visa route looks promising but limited in scope. As with most visa applications, however, it will no doubt require a lot of frontloading. Applicants should therefore gather as much relevant information and documentation as possible before starting the application so that the process runs smooth.

We are a specialist immigration department based in London. If you have any questions regarding this article or would like to discuss an immigration query, please feel free to contact us by telephone on 0203 675 7600 or by email.

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Michael Rimola is a Trainee Solicitor located in Londonin our Trainee Solicitors department

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