UK: High Potential Individual Visas allow employers a new unsponsored route to hire top graduates

This month the High Potential Individual route to the UK opens – part of the Government’s bid to entice the world’s top talent, and in the words of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, “to create one of the world’s most attractive visa regimes for entrepreneurs and highly skilled people.”

The High Potential Individual visa is an opportunity for people who have graduated at one of the world’s top universities to come to the UK with dependant family in an unsponsored route, allowing them to work, look for work, work freelance or set up a business.

The new immigration route is handy for those who want to try working in the UK without being beholden to a particular employer.

It will also prove useful for employers who want to hire anyone eligible without the expense or responsibility of sponsoring them. Any employment they undertake will not be subject to having to be coded under a standard occupation classification (SOC) code or minimum salary restrictions. Employers can get to know High Potential Individuals first before sponsoring them on a more permanent immigration route.   

The UK Government has published global universities lists based on higher education institutions that featured in at least two of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Potential employers / employees should check the list for the year applicants graduated to see if theirs was one of the eligible universities that year – which should be in the past five years.

They will of course also be subject to other eligibility requirements such as a financial and English language requirement.

This new route aimed at attracting bright talent into the country will go live at 9am on 30 May 2022.

How long can High Potential Individuals stay?

The amount of leave that successful applicants are granted depends on the level of the academic qualification they hold. Applicants holding a qualification equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s or Master’s level degree will be granted a period of two years. Applicants who hold a qualification equivalent to a UK PhD or other doctoral level qualification will be granted three years.

Which UK immigration routes can High Potential Individuals switch into?

This route does not lead to settlement in the UK. At any point before it expires, however, people on the High Potential Individual visa may switch into permitted work categories leading to settlement, such as Skilled Worker, Start up, Scale up, Innovator or Global Talent visas.

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.

While the routes are otherwise similar, 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.

On both routes a husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner may accompany, as may children under 18 on the date of application. Partners must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship of two years or over.

Stay tuned for more details on this and other new immigration developments for UK firms bringing staff to the UK.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.