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What is the High Potential Individual Visa (HPI Visa)?

Key Takeaways

1. The High Potential Individual visa (HPI visa) enables immigrants who are graduates from top worldwide universities to work in the UK without a job offer.

2. The UK government launched the program on May 30, 2022.  It is aimed at giving UK employers and businesses a larger talent pool for employees.

3. To be eligible, the applicant must have been awarded an overseas bachelor’s or postgraduate degree qualification from a top global university in the last five years. This is a university that appears on the Home Office Global Universities List.

4. This visa lets the graduate stay in the UK for at least two years. If a candidate has a Ph.D. or other doctoral qualifications, it will last for three years.

The High Potential Individual visa (HPI visa) is a relatively new UK visa targeting highly skilled and ambitious young professionals. Here we look at the eligibility requirements for this visa program and explain why working in the UK may be attractive to young graduates. 

What is the High Potential Individual visa? 

The High Potential Individual visa program gives graduates of top global  (non-UK) universities the chance to stay in the UK without a job offer.

The visa program targets highly skilled immigrants who want to contribute to the UK economy, including innovators and entrepreneurs, and is also intended to increase the pool of talent for UK employers. It is available for two or three years, depending on the level of qualification held. 

What are the UK High Potential Individual visa requirements?

1. Educational requirements

Applicants must prove that they have been awarded a degree in the last five years from a top global university. The Global Universities list includes such top-ranked schools as Caltech, MIT, and Harvard in the US; McGill in Canada; and Peking University in China (see the full 2021 list further below). 

2. Language requirements — English

Eligibility requirements include that the applicant can understand and communicate well in English. The applicant must be able to read, write, speak, and listen to at least Level B1 (intermediate).

The applicant will satisfy the language requirement if he is a national of an English-speaking country or received a degree taught in English.

3. Visa financial requirements

There are financial requirements to the program, too.  An applicant must show that they can support themselves on their arrival in the UK without relying on public funds. They need to show cash funds of at least £1270 at the date of application.

These funds must have been in the applicant’s account for 28 days or more.

UK High Potential Individual Visa university list 

Which university graduates are eligible for the High Potential Individual visa? It depends on when the individual graduated, as the list is updated every year. 
The list consists of the top 50 institutions that appear on two or more of the following lists: 
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)USA
Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)Hong Kong
Columbia UniversityUSA
Cornell UniversityUSA
Duke UniversityUSA
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL Switzerland)Switzerland
ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)Switzerland
Harvard UniversityUSA
Johns Hopkins UniversityUSA
Karolinska InstituteSweden
Kyoto UniversityJapan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)USA
McGill UniversityCanada
Nanyang Technological University (NTU)Singapore
National University of SingaporeSingapore
New York University (NYU)USA
Northwestern UniversityUSA
Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research UniversityFrance
Peking UniversityChina
Princeton UniversityUSA
Stanford UniversityUSA
Tsinghua UniversityChina
University of British ColumbiaCanada
University of California, BerkeleyUSA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)USA
University of California, San DiegoUSA
University of Chicago USUSA
University of Hong KongHong Kong
University of MelbourneAustralia
University of Michigan-Ann ArborUSA
University of Munich (LMU Munich)Germany
University of PennsylvaniaUSA
University of Texas at AustinUSA
University of TokyoJapan
University of TorontoCanada
University of WashingtonUSA
Yale UniversityUSA

For lists for previous years, see the Global Universities Lists maintained by the UK Government. 

Video: A breakdown of the High Potential Individual visa requirements

Top UK immigration barrister, Adam Pipe, breaks down the requirements of the HPI visa. 

Alternative visas: The global business mobility visa

Given its strict requirements, many who may be interested in the HPI visa will not be eligible. Another option is the UK Expansion Worker visa, also known as the Global Business Mobility Visa. This offers overseas companies greater flexibility in establishing a UK presence or transferring workers to the UK.

The UK Expansion Worker visa allows individuals to come to the UK to set up a branch of an overseas enterprise, where that enterprise has not begun trading in the UK yet. To be eligible for this visa, the applicant must have: 

  • a certificate of sponsorship from an employer
  • worked for that employer outside the UK
  • a job that is included on the list of eligible occupations
  • the minimum eligible salary for that job. 

The requirement for sponsorship, and the requirement that only certain occupations are eligible, means that this visa is a lot less flexible than the High Potential Individual visa. 

Why choose the UK HPI visa, or other UK visas?

There are a range of reasons why individuals may be attracted to the HPI visa, or other visas that allow high potential individuals to move to the UK

1. The attractive business environment in the UK

The UK is an attractive international business destination: This means that most major industries and companies set up shop there, creating many attractive job opportunities: In particular, London is still the world’s no 1 financial services hub, which also attracts ancillary industries. 

This also means that the UK is an attractive location for setting up a business: Given that the HPI visa does not require the applicant to be sponsored/have an offer of employment, this is a viable option for High Potential Individual visa holders. 

2. Fair employment laws

In addition to the attractive job opportunities, many aspiring UK workers are attracted to the employment protections they will receive when they actually land in the UK.

The labor laws in the UK (also known as ‘UK employment law’ or ‘UK labor law’) are defined clearly in an array of government websites and guides:  This means employment laws which are transparent, and relatively fair to both employer and employee. 

Employers in the IK must provide an employment contract, pay the national minimum wage, adhere to maximum hours of work per week, provide breaks, mandatory leave, and ensure that UK anti-discrimination laws are followed. 

3. Generous employment benefits in the UK

Another aspect of the UK work environment that attracts visa applicants are the considerable employee benefits available including: 

  • Generous annual leave (28 days)
  • Public holidays
  • Parental and maternity leave, and 
  • National Inusrance. 

National Insurance, perhaps the most significant employee benefit, is a national social security program which requires all employers and employees to contribute to the public health care system, and, in return, receive free care for most healthcare services. 

Employers typically contribute 14% on top of total compensation. An extra levy, known as the health and social care levy, amounts to an additional 1.25%.

Read more in our guide to UK employee benefits

How to apply for the high potential individual visa

Once you have made the decision to apply for the HPI visa, how do you go about doing it?

Applying for the HPI visa is like applying for other work visas. The applicant must submit an online application, pay a fee, and provide supporting documents, including a photo of their face and a scan of their fingerprints. The applicant’s partner and children can also apply to join or stay in the UK if eligible. They’ll need to complete separate applications.

Once an applicant has applied online, proved his identity, and provided his documents, he will usually get a decision on the visa within:

  • three weeks, if outside the UK
  • eight weeks, if inside the UK.

Global mobility in the UK with Horizons

Horizons sources, hires, and onboards new employees for international businesses operating in the UK, ensuring full compliance with UK employment law and tax laws. It can support employees operating on a variety of different visas, including the HPI visa and the global business mobility visa. 

Get in touch today to find out more about Horizons’ UK Employer of Record solutions. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

International graduates from the most prestigious universities around the world can work in the UK without the need for a job offer under the new High Potential Individual (HPI) visa.

The candidate must have been awarded a bachelor's or postgraduate degree qualification in the last 5 years from a top global university,  one that appears in the Home Office Global Universities List.

You apply online and must fulfill eligibility requirements that show that 1) you have a degree from a university on the Global Universities list; 2) that you are fluent in English, and 3) that you fulfill the program’s financial requirements.                                   

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