The UK's immigration system has developed with the aim of attracting the 'brightest and the best' to the UK. Over the years, new immigration routes have been introduced to facilitate the acquisition of top talent from around the world by UK employers without the need for work sponsorship.
As part of this drive, the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa route opened on 30 May 2022.
The HPI visa is offered to graduates of top-ranking universities outside the UK, who have obtained a degree qualification at Bachelor's level or above within the last 5 years. The degree must have been awarded by an institution listed on the Global Universities List – a list of 50 elite overseas higher education institutions, which is published by the Home Office and updated annually.
As the HPI visa is not dependent on a job offer, it provides visa-holders the flexibility to work, or to switch jobs or employers more easily on in the UK, making it simpler for overseas talent who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK. The only restriction on employment is that HPI visa holders are not able to work as professional sportspeople or coaches.
Once issued, the HPI visa will ordinarily be valid for 2 years (or 3 years, where the applicant has been awarded a PhD degree). In order to qualify for the visa, in addition to evidencing completion of their studies, the applicant must evidence knowledge of the English language to level B1 of the Common European Framework of Refence (lower intermediate level) and that they are able to support themselves financially whilst in the UK. This usually means they held funds of £1,270 in their bank account for the 28 days before they apply. The application can be made from either the UK or from overseas and dependent partners and children under the age of 18 may be included.
As this visa does not lead to settlement (also known as "Indefinite Leave to Remain" or "permanent residency") and an HPI visa may be granted only once, it is envisaged as an opportunity for HPI visa holders and their family members to establish stronger connections with the UK before potentially switching into a work permitted category leading to settlement, such as a Skilled Worker visa or a Global Talent visa. Applicants may switch to another route at any time before the expiry of their visa, but cannot return to the HPI visa route if they have spent less than two years on the route.