High Potential Individual Visa

From 30 May 2022, the UK's new High Potential Individual visa will open to graduates of top global universities to work in the UK without sponsorship.

We are specialists in UK work visa applications.

High Potential Individual Visa

The UK’s new High Potential Individual route is an unsponsored immigration route aimed at the academically elite who can share their knowledge, skills and ideas, and make a positive contribution to the UK economy. The route has been designed to attract the brightest and best to the UK, in this way helping to maintain the UK’s status as a leading international hub for innovation.

The High Potential Individual visa is one of a number of new UK work visas and will open to applicants on 30 May 2022 under the new Appendix High Potential Individual.


What does the High Potential Individual visa allow?

The High Potential Individual visa will allow recent graduates of top global universities to come to the UK to work or look for work. This means that the high potential individual does not need the offer of a job before applying, with no need for a Home-Office approved sponsor in the UK.

High Potential Individual visa-holders will be permitted to work full time at any skill level and in any type of job. This includes self-employment and voluntary work, although work as either a professional sportsperson or sports coach will not be allowed. The applicant will also be able to undertake a course of study which would meet the requirements of the Student route, subject to the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) condition. This is a requirement to obtain an ATAS certificate before studying certain sensitive subjects at postgraduate level.

As in other work routes, High Potential Individual visa-holders may be joined or accompanied by a spouse or partner, and any dependent children under 18, provided they meet the eligibility requirements. This will include a relationship requirement, for example, unmarried couples must have been living together in a relationship that’s akin to marriage or a civil partnership for a minimum of two years, and any previous relationship of the applicant or primary visa-holder must have permanently broken down.


High Potential Individual visa eligibilty requirements

As an elite immigration route, a High Potential Individual applicant must be aged over 18 and have, during the last 5 years, been awarded an overseas degree-level academic qualification from a top global university. The applicant will also need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • an English language requirement
  • a financial requirement, where applicable
  • a tuberculosis text certificate requirement, if from a listed country
  • a police registration requirement, where applicable, and
  • have not previously been granted permission under either the Student Doctorate Extension Scheme, as a Graduate or as a High Potential Individual

The standard suitability requirements under other immigration routes will also apply under this route, where any criminality, misconduct and breaches of immigration law may disqualify an applicant from being granted permission, except where any period of overstaying can be disregarded in certain limited circumstances as set out under the UK’s Immigration Rules.



What is the High Potential Individual visa graduate requirement?

To qualify for a High Potential Individual visa, the applicant will need to have been awarded an overseas degree-level academic qualification. However, there are very specific criteria here, where applicants must have a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree qualification from a top global university as published in the Home Office Global Universities List.

This must be a degree-level qualification awarded during the last 5 years from the date of the High Potential Individual visa application. The Home Office list will be compiled on an annual basis, and will contain eligible overseas institutions that can be found in the list of the top 50 universities in at least two of the following ranking systems:

  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings
  • Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings
  • The Academic Ranking of World Universities

The institution which awarded the applicant’s degree must appear on the Global Universities List in respect of the date when the graduate was awarded that qualification.


What is the High Potential Individual visa English language requirement?

To qualify for a High Potential Individual visa, the visa applicant will need to show that they’re competent in the English language to at least Level B1 (intermediate) on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This English language ability must be demonstrated in all four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

High Potential applicants will satisfy the English language requirement if either:

  • they’re a national of a majority English-speaking country
  • they’ve passed what’s known as a Secure English Language Test
  • they’ve been awarded a degree taught in English
  • they’ve obtained a GCSE, A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK, or
  • they’ve already shown that they met the requirement, of level B1 (intermediate), in a previous successful application for either entry clearance or permission to stay.


What is the High Potential Individual visa financial requirement?

To qualify for a High Potential Individual visa, the visa applicant will need to show cash funds of at least £1,270. In this way, the applicant can demonstrate that they have enough money to support themselves in the UK when they first arrive without relying on public funds.

They’ll need to have held the money for a period of at least 28 days ending no more than 31 days before the date of their High Potential visa application. However, if the applicant is applying for leave to remain, and has already been in the UK for a period of 12 months or more at the date of application, they won’t need to satisfy the financial requirement.


How to apply for the High Potential Individual visa

To apply for a High Potential Individual visa, the applicant will need to complete an online visa application, pay the relevant application fee and submit various documents in support. Depending on where they’re from and what type of passport they have, they may also need to have a photograph taken of their face and a scan of their fingerprints to enable them to obtain a biometric residence permit. Where an appointment has been scheduled, the applicant can have their supporting documents scanned at that appointment.

The supporting documents must include:

  • a valid passport or other travel document showing their identity and nationality
  • written confirmation from Ecctis that the oversees degree-level qualification meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a UK bachelor’s or UK postgraduate degree, including the date on which this degree was awarded to the applicant
  • proof of their English language ability, where applicable
  • proof of funds, where applicable
  • a valid tuberculosis test certificate, where applicable.


However, the exact documentation that a High Potential Individual visa applicant will need to satisfy may vary depending on their circumstances, so expert advice should always be sought first.


How much does a High Potential Individual visa application cost?

To apply for a High Potential Individual visa, there will be an application fee of £715. The applicant will also be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

The IHS is set at £624 for every year that the applicant is granted leave, for example, if an applicant is granted a High Potential Individual visa for a period of 2 years, they will be liable to a healthcare surcharge of £1,248.

How long does a High Potential visa application take to process?

The High Potential visa is due to launch on 30 May 2022. As yet, it remains unclear how long a visa application will take to proces however, as with other work visas, the processing time is likely to be around 3 weeks for overseas applications and 8 weeks for in-country applications.


How long does the High Potential visa last?

The duration of a High Potential visa will depend on the level of the oversees degree-level qualification that the applicant has been awarded by a top global university.

For applicants relying on a qualification equivalent to either a UK Bachelor’s or Master’s level degree, entry clearance or leave to remain will be granted for a period of 2 years. For applicants with a qualification equivalent to a UK PhD or other doctoral level qualification, they will be given permission to live in the UK for 3 years.


Can you apply to extend a High Potential Individual visa?

It will not be possible for a High Potential Individual visa-holder to extend their stay in the UK. However, before leave under this route expires, the visa-holder may be able to apply from inside the UK to switch into another immigration route. However, they would need to satisfy all of the requirements under that route, for example, for a Skilled Worker visa.

If a recent graduate of a top global university already has leave to remain in the UK under another immigration route, they may extend their stay by switching into the High Potential Individual visa route, provided they do not have or were last granted permission as either a Visitor, a Short-term student, a Parent of a Child Student, a Seasonal Worker, a Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the UK’s Immigration Rules, such as on compassionate grounds.


Does the High Potential Individual visa lead to settlement in the UK?

The High Potential Individual visa route does not lead directly to settlement in the UK. Prior to expiry of their leave, a visa-holder would need to switch to another immigration route that does provide a path to settlement. They would need to satisfy the requirements under that route but, in this way, it would give the individual an opportunity to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) at a later date. For example, under the Skilled Worker route, a visa-holder can apply for ILR having lived and worked in the UK for a period of 5 years.

Applying for ILR is how an overseas migrant settles in the UK. This will give the visa-holder the right to live, work and study in the UK for as long as they like.


What alternative visa routes are available for recent graduates?

International students who have completed a UK degree will not qualify for the purpose of the High Potential Individual route, although they may instead qualify for the Graduate immigration route.

A Graduate visa will give them permission to stay in the UK for a period of at least 2 years after successfully completing a degree course in the UK. However, they must be in the UK when they apply, so this is not a route for entry clearance, nor is it a route for recent graduates who have successfully completed their degree oversees.


How we can help

DavidsonMorris’ immigration specialists can support with all aspects of UK work visa applications. Contact us for specialist guidance and advice. 


High Potential Individual visa FAQs

What is high potential individual visa?

A high potential individual visa is an unsponsored work visa designed to attract the brightest and best to the UK, aimed at recent graduates from top global universities, helping to maintain the UK’s status as a leading hub for innovation.

What is a PBS visa in UK immigration?

A PBS visa is a classification of visa under the UK’s points based system. This means, for the successful grant of this type of visa, the applicant must be awarded a minimum number of points for meeting certain eligibility requirements.

What is the difference between the high potential individual visa and the global talent route?

The high potential visa is specifically for top global university graduates wanting to work in the UK in any job, whereas the global talent visa is for leaders or potential leaders to work in certain fields, such as digital technology.

Need advice?

Contact our experts:

020 7494 0118

or complete the form below


In-depth guides with practical, actionable insights into areas of employment & immigration law and human resources & global mobility.

For specialist advice for employers, speak to our experts.