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The UK High Potential Individual (HPI) visa is a relatively new, highly flexible immigration route for graduates of a top overseas university who would like to come to the UK to explore their employment options. Unlike many other work visa types, HPI visa holders do not require a job offer before they come to the UK, and crucially, they can work in any type of employment and change jobs and employers when they wish. In this article, we will look further at the benefits of the HPI visa, the options available to those who wish to stay longer in the UK, and the eligibility requirements.

What are the benefits of the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa?

The HPI visa allows holders to spend up to 2 years in the UK or 3 years if they have a PhD level qualification. Because the HPI visa is aimed at the brightest candidates from around the work, it is extremely flexible and offers considerable benefits, including the ability to:

  • Work in most jobs
  • Do voluntary work
  • Change jobs and employers
  • Seek employment
  • Work in self-employment
  • Bring your dependant partner and children to the UK, and
  • Travel to and from the UK freely

It is important to note that the HPI visa does not provide a direct route to permanent settlement and cannot be extended further. There are options available, however. HPI visa holders who wish to stay beyond the initial 2 or 3-year period can switch to a different type of visa while in the UK (e.g. a Skilled Worker visa or family visa). They can then apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after living here continuously for a qualifying period (normally 5 years) and acquire British citizenship after a further 12 months.

Am I eligible for the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa?

To qualify for a UK HPI visa, you must have a qualification equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, a UK postgraduate degree, or a UK PhD or doctorate from a top international university from outside the UK. The Home Office publishes a list of the eligible top universities online, and these are updated annually based on global university rankings. In 2022, these eligible universities include:

  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL Switzerland)
  • ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
  • Harvard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Karolinska Institute
  • Kyoto University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • McGill University
  • Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

In total, there are 37 eligible universities under the HPI visa scheme.

In addition to meeting the qualification and university requirements, you will also need to demonstrate to the Home Office that you meet the English language requirements and you have sufficient savings to support yourself during your time in the UK.

Applicants must have a degree-level qualification taught in English or pass an English language test at CEFR level B1. The English language requirements do not apply to everyone, however. If you are from the USA, Canada, or Australia, you will automatically meet this requirement.

To support yourself financially, you will normally need to show you have at least £1,270 in savings held of at least 28 days. If you are already in the UK, however, and have been for the past 12 months, you will not need to meet the savings requirement.

It is also important to be aware of the costs associated with the HPI visa:

  • To have your qualification checked by Ecctis to ensure it is equivalent to a UK-level degree or above: £210
  • HPI visa application fee: £715
  • Healthcare surcharge (allowing access to public healthcare): £624 per person per year – e.g. £1,248 for 2 years or £1,872 for 3 years.

Final words

The HPI visa offers an excellent opportunity for top international graduates to gain a foothold in the UK before making a longer-term or even permanent commitment. The flexibility offered by the HPI visa means that holders are under no pressure to find work immediately and can explore the country to find a place in which to base themselves.

Garth Coates is a leading niche immigration firm based in the heart of London, specialising in all forms of personal and business immigration, including visas, global mobility, sponsorship and compliance, settlement, and citizenship. To discuss your High Potential Individual visa application, please contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable immigration Solicitors on Tel: +44 (0)20 7799 1600 or by completing our online contact form

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