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High Potential Individual Visa Requirements

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Under the new High Potential Individual visa, international graduates from the most prestigious universities around the world are able to work in the UK without the need for a job offer.

As part of the UK Government’s programme of various new immigration routes designed to facilitate top global talent coming to the UK, the High Potential Individual visa launched on 30 May 2022 to attract top global graduates to realise their career ambitions in the UK, while offering UK employers and businesses access to a global pool of talent.


What is the new High Potential Individual visa?

The new High Potential Individual visa is aimed at highly skilled and academically elite migrants looking to share their talent and make contributions to the UK economy. This includes global innovators and entrepreneurs wanting to work or set up business in the UK.

The route is also designed at making it easier for established UK companies and organisations to recruit the talent they need to make them world-leading; whether this be in technology, digital technology, vaccine breakthroughs or in various other industries and sectors.


What are the eligibility requirements for the High Potential Individual visa?

Under the new High Potential Individual visa, eligibility will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university. Further, to ensure that the UK benefits from a surge of high-skilled migration, there will be no job offer requirement, giving visa-holders the flexibility to work, or to switch jobs or employers. As an unsponsored work route, this will make it much easier for overseas talent who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK without a job offer.


High Potential Individual visa requirements: educational

To be eligible for a High Potential Individual visa, the applicant must have been awarded an overseas bachelor’s or postgraduate degree qualification in the last 5 years from a top global university. This is a university that appears in the Home Office Global Universities List. The awarding institution must appear on the Global Universities List in respect of the date when the graduate was awarded their degree.


High Potential Individual visa: global universities list 2021

This list of universities relates to qualifications awarded between 1 November 2021 and 31 October 2022:


Alphabetical Rankings Lists 2021 (establishments from Top 50 rankings which appeared on 2 or more lists)


California Institute of Technology (Caltech) USA
Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Hong Kong
Columbia University USA
Cornell University USA
Duke University USA
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL Switzerland) Switzerland
ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) Switzerland
Harvard University USA
Johns Hopkins University USA
Karolinska Institute Sweden
Kyoto University Japan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
McGill University Canada
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore
National University of Singapore Singapore
New York University (NYU) USA
Northwestern University USA
Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University France
Peking University China
Princeton University USA
Stanford University USA
Tsinghua University China
University of British Columbia Canada
University of California, Berkeley USA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) USA
University of California, San Diego USA
University of Chicago US USA
University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
University of Melbourne Australia
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor USA
University of Munich (LMU Munich) Germany
University of Pennsylvania USA
University of Texas at Austin USA
University of Tokyo Japan
University of Toronto Canada
University of Washington USA
Yale University USA



High Potential Individual visa requirements: English language

To be eligible for a High Potential Individual visa, the applicant must have the ability to understand and communicate in English to a certain level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. This means being able to read, write, speak and listen to at least Level B1 (intermediate). However, there are a number of ways in which a High Potential visa applicant can satisfy the English language requirement.

If an applicant is a national of a majority English-speaking country, they will not be required to do more than prove their identity and nationality to satisfy the language requirement. Equally, if an applicant has been awarded a degree taught in English — or obtained an English GCSE, A Level or Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5 while at school in the UK — subject to proof of the relevant qualification obtained, they will again satisfy this requirement.

In all other cases, unless an applicant can show that they have already met the English language requirement in any previous application for entry clearance or permission to stay, for example, if they are switching to a High Potential Individual visa from within the UK, they will need to pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT). A SELT must be taken with an approved test provider. For applicants outside of the UK, a SELT must be taken with either Pearson, PSI Services (UK) Ltd, IELTS SELT Consortium or LanguageCert. For applicants within the UK, the test must be taken with Pearson, Trinity College London, IELTS SELT Consortium or LanguageCert.


High Potential Individual visa requirements: financial

To be eligible for a High Potential Individual visa, an applicant must be able to show that they can support themselves on their arrival in the UK without relying on public funds. This means being able to show cash funds of at least £1,270 at the date of application.

The High Potential Individual visa applicant must be able to show that they have held those funds in their account for 28 days or more, ending no more than 31 days before the date of their application. If the applicant is already in the UK and is applying to switch into this route, they will not need to show funds if they have been in the UK for at least 12 months.


How to apply for the High Potential Individual visa 

The application process for a High Potential Individual visa will be similar to other work routes. The applicant will need to submit an online application, pay the relevant fee and provide a number of supporting documents. Applicants will also need to attend an appointment to provide their biometric information, including a photo of their face and scan of their fingerprints.


High Potential Individual visa & other UK work visas

The introduction of a High Potential Individual visa forms part of the UK Government’s broader Innovation Strategy from 2021, which precipated a number of changes to UK work visa routes such as the introduction of the Global Business Mobility visa.


Global Business Mobility visa

The new Global Business Mobility routes provides overseas businesses greater flexibility in establishing a UK presence or transferring workers to the UK. It opened in April 2022.

Under this single, sponsored route there are five subcategories of visa, each covering different types of workers that may be deployed to the UK for specific work-related purposes. The new visa includes the Senior and Specialist Worker visa which replaces the old ICT visa, and the UK Expansion Worker visa which has replaced the Sole Representative visa.


The Scale-up route

The proposed new Scale-Up visa will allow talented individuals to come to the UK if they hold a highly skilled job offer from a qualifying scale-up at the required salary level. A ‘scale-up’ is defined as a business with an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a 3-year period greater than 20%, plus a minimum of 10 employees at the start of this period.

Scale-ups will be able to apply via a fast-track verification process. The UK government will also explore whether scale-ups who can demonstrate an expectation of strong growth in future years can qualify under the route following a review.

The new Scale-Up route will allow eligible individuals to work, switch jobs or employers in the UK. As with the High Potential visa, individuals will again be able to extend their stay and settle in the UK, subject to meeting specific requirements under this route.


The Innovator route

The existing Innovator route is expected to be revitalised to enable talented overseas innovators and entrepreneurs to set up and operate a business in the UK that is venture-backed or harnesses innovative technologies. This route has been reviewed in order to build a more competitive offer, with the following reforms set to be introduced:

  • Simplifying and streamlining the business eligibility criteria: where applicants will need to show that their venture is innovative, with a high potential to grow and add value to the UK. This suggests a lower threshold than under the existing rules which require a business venture to be ‘innovative, viable and scalable’, including evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into both national and international markets.
  • Fast-tracking applications: where a fast-track, lighter touch endorsement process may be available for applicants with advanced business ideas. Anyone accepted on the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme will be automatically eligible.
  • Building flexibility: where applicants will no longer be required to have at least £50,000 in investment funds to apply, provided the endorsing body is satisfied that there are sufficient funds to grow the business. The restriction on undertaking work outside of the applicant’s primary business will also be removed.


Alternative visa options for ‘high potential’ applicants

Alternative routes to the High Potential Individual visa include:


Global Talent visa

The Global Talent visa route is already open to those who are world leaders or emerging world leaders in the fields of academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology, where visas are granted to individuals making important contributions to their specialist field.

This is a visa that allows successful applicants to come to the UK without being tied to a specific sponsor and with the flexibility to undertake a range of activities, with few restrictions. It also offers an accelerated route to settlement.

This route is suitable for any applicant aged 18 or over, provided they’ve successfully applied for an endorsement from a Home Office approved organisation to prove that they’re a leader or potential leader in one of the following fields:

  • academia or research: such as science, medicine, engineering or humanities
  • arts and culture: such as combined arts, dance, literature, music, theatre or visual arts, including museums and galleries; film and television, including animation,
  • post production and visual effects; architecture; and fashion design
  • digital technology: such as financial technology (‘fintech’), gaming, cyber security or artificial intelligence.


Even though applicants under the Global Talent route usually require endorsement, the UK government has recently published a list of prestigious awards for achievements in the science and arts, where global prize winners automatically qualify. This means that highly skilled migrants who have won an eligible award can bypass the endorsement stage and go directly to the visa stage. The Global Talent eligible prize list currently includes Academy Awards, BAFTAs, Brits, Golden Globes and the Nobel Prize for chemistry, economic science, literature, physics and medicine, although the UK government is looking to broaden the list of prizes.

A Global Talent visa will enable the holder to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years at a time. There’s no limit to how long a visa-holder can stay in the UK in total, although they will need to renew their visa when it expires. After a period of either 3 or 5 years in the UK, depending on which field the applicant works in, they may then be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. This will allow them to settle in the UK on a permanent basis.


Skilled Worker visa

If an applicant isn’t eligible for a Global Talent visa, there are other ways to work in the UK, including applying for a Skilled Worker visa. A Skilled Worker visa allows a person to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved licensed sponsor. This visa has now replaced the old Tier 2 (General) work visa under the previous rules.

To be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa the applicant must:


A Skilled Worker visa will enable the holder to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years before they need to extend their stay. They can apply to extend their visa as many times as they like, provided they still meet the eligibility requirements, and can use this immigration route as a basis for settlement after a period of 5 years.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. We advise individuals and employers on the visa options to work and settle in the UK. For advice on the options open to you, including new work routes such as the High Potential Individual visa, contact us.

Last updated: 30 May 2022

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