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High Potential Individual Visa — your questions answered

Immigration expert, Carolyn Bowie, explains what a high potential individual visa is, who can apply and the benefits and drawbacks of the visa.

The high potential individual (HPI) visa route aims to encourage high-achieving individuals from prestigious international universities to realise their potential within the UK. Having only been available for a short period of time there are understandably a few questions businesses or individuals may have.

We will answer the following questions:

What is a high potential individual visa?

The high potential individual visa is for recent graduates of eligible leading global universities, allowing successful applicants to enter the UK without a job offer.

The visa applies to graduates who wish to work (including voluntary work or self-employment) or look for work whilst in the UK.

Individuals can apply for the high potential individual visa either from within or outside of the UK but may only apply once and cannot do so if they have already been granted a graduate visa.

If eligible, an applicant’s partner and children may also apply to join them or stay in the UK, but they will be required to make separate applications.

What are the different types of high potential individual visa?

The high potential individual visa is one type of visa available to those who have graduated from an eligible university within the last five years.

Individuals may, however, be able to switch to a high potential individual visa from another type of visa if they are already in the UK.

Who is eligible for a high potential individual visa?

To be eligible for the high potential individual visa an applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 or over and apply for the visa within five years of receiving their qualification from an eligible university.
  • Have graduated from an eligible leading global university (UK universities are not eligible).
  • An applicant’s qualification must be the equivalent of a UK bachelors or postgraduate degree, or a UK doctorate or PhD.
  • To check if their qualification is eligible applicants must apply to Ecctis, the UK visas and nationality service.
  • Unless they have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months, applicants must demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the UK and also meet the English language requirement.
  • An applicant’s partner and children will have to show that they are also able to support themselves whilst they are in the UK if they wish to join them.

How long does it take to get a high potential individual visa?

Applicants will need to apply online, verify their identity and provide the required documentation.

A decision on the visa should then be made within three weeks if the applicant is outside the UK or eight weeks if they are in the UK.

How long does a high potential individual visa last?

How long a high potential individual visa lasts depends on what qualification the applicant has. It will last:

  • Two years from the date of decision if the applicant has the equivalent to a UK bachelors or postgraduate degree, or;
  • Three years from the date of decision if they have a doctoral or PhD qualification.

How much does a high potential individual visa cost?

The visa application fee is £715 to apply from outside or inside the UK.

The fee for Ecctis to check a qualification is valid is £210 if applying from outside the UK, or £252 if applying from the UK.

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is currently £624 per year, or £470 per year for under 18s.

Applicants must also show they can support themselves in the UK and will usually need to show that they have at least £1,270 in their bank account (unless exempt).

Does a high potential individual visa count towards ILR (indefinite leave to remain)?

Any time spent in the UK on the high potential individual visa does not count towards the qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain and this visa does not lead to settlement.

Can I go to university on a high potential individual visa?

Those in the UK on a high potential individual visa can study, but only if their course is not eligible for a student visa.

If their course is eligible for a student visa, individuals are alternatively able to apply for a student visa or an extension to their student visa if they already have one.

Can I sponsor a friend on a high potential individual visa?

Sponsorship of a friend is not available on a high potential individual visa. An applicant’s partners and children can apply to join them if they are eligible.

The benefits of a high potential individual visa

High potential individual visas offer some key benefits for both the visa holder and their potential employer: 

  • HPI visa holders can work in any job except as a professional sportsperson or coach, look for work, be self-employed, or do voluntary work. They can also study, but only if the course is not eligible for a student visa.
  • There are no minimum salary or skills requirements and applicants do not require a job offer or sponsorship to qualify for a HPI visa. This benefits employers who will be able to recruit graduates from top global universities without a sponsor licence or sponsorship costs and responsibilities.
  • The route allows employers to access a wider and more diverse pool of talented candidates, strengthening recruitment processes and the workforce.

The drawbacks of a HPI visa

The high potential individual visa can be an attractive option for those looking to work in the United Kingdom, but there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  • An HPI visa usually lasts for two years, or three years for those who have a PhD or other doctoral qualification. It cannot be extended, although individuals may be able to switch to a different visa e.g. a skilled worker visa.
  • Any time spent in the UK on the HPI visa does not count towards the qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain and this visa does not lead to settlement.
  • Overseas graduates with a view to settling in the UK may seek sponsored employment rather than applying for a HPI visa.

How can we help you?

We have a team of experienced immigration solicitors, who can help and advise you on obtaining the right sponsor licence, maintaining your sponsor licence at the highest rating, managing your sponsor licence, and complying with your ongoing sponsor duties and responsibilities.

For more information on high potential individual visas or to discuss any queries relating to immigration law, contact our expert immigration solicitors.

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