The U.K.’s post-Brexit immigration strategy is designed to ensure that the U.K. is able to attract the ‘best and brightest’ that other nations have to offer. In order to do this, the Home Office has created a visa which is designed to allow people with high potential to enter the U.K. to live and work without necessarily aiming to gain British citizenship.
This visa gives people with relevant level qualifications the chance to move to the U.K., where they will be granted up to 3 years to pursue their potential further. Suppose your qualification level is at an undergraduate or postgraduate level. In that case, the visa will be eligible for two years, and if it is at the PhD level, you will be eligible for the maximum 3-year term. To do this, they can choose employment, self-employment or further study. Currently, the 3-year limit is not eligible for an extension; however, visa holders may be able to extend their stay by obtaining sponsorship through a skilled worker visa.
In order to establish who is eligible for a High Potential Individual visa, the Home Office has decided on a ranking criterion for universities around the world. The universities that meet these criteria form a list of institutions known as the global universities list. The list is comprised of institutions that appear on two or more of 3 ranking systems. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds and The Academic Ranking of World Universities. If an establishment fails to place on at least 2 of these rankings, then it will be removed from the list for that year. It may regain its place on the global universities list if it regains its place on the other ranking tables.
However, getting a qualification from a listed institution isn’t the only eligibility criteria. The qualification must have been gained within the past five years, and the institute must have been listed on the rankings the year you gained said qualification. This is to ensure that at the time you received your qualification, the education provided was of the expected standard. The qualification must be at the same level as either a U.K. Bachelor’s degree, Masters’s level or postgraduate degree or PhD or equivalent in order to qualify. You can establish the equivalency of your qualification by contacting Ecctis, who would be able to establish its level. Additionally, they will be able to issue you a certificate confirming the equivalency of the qualification, which is something you’ll need during your application.
When applying, you’ll also need to prove that you have an appropriate level of English language competency, which you can show in a few different ways. If your degree was taught mainly in English, and you’re able to show proof of this, or if your country of origin has a majority of English speakers, then this may be enough. If this is not the case, then you’ll need to provide the result of a Secure English Language Test. This will show that you’re knowledge is at the required level of B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
There are also financial aspects and implications to applying for this visa type which you will have to consider before applying. The required Ecctis certificate will cost £210 if you’re applying from outside the U.K., the visa application fee is £715, and you will be required to pay the immigration health surcharge of £624 each year you remain in the country. You will also need to prove that you have access to cash funds of £1270 in order to support yourself for the first 28 days of your stay. It is also worth considering that if you’re not entering the country with an offer of employment, or an established position, this visa does not allow access to public funds. This means that you won’t be eligible to claim state benefits, and as such, you’ll need to ensure that you have enough funds available to provide for yourself and your partner or children, if applicable.
While this visa is aimed at bringing people with particular talent to the U.K., it’s also worth remembering that there are certain areas where another visa may be more appropriate. One example would be if you wanted to enter the U.K. to pursue a career in professional sports. If this was the case, then you would require a dedicated U.K. sportsperson visa which would allow you to further that career path.
To fully ensure that this is the correct visa for you and to help the application process run smoothly, it can be useful to contact an immigration advice service who would be able to assist you. This will help you to avoid any delays that can be caused by issues such as the incorrect documents being submitted.
So, in summary, if you’re looking to pursue opportunities within the U.K. and you have a relevant qualification, then the High Potential Individual visa may be the right one for you.
Imogen Loveday is a writer for the Immigration Advice Service.