An Easier Visa for High Potential Individuals

March 14, 2022

A new UK visa category allows some overseas graduates permission to work in the UK for two years.  This is significant because most existing immigration programmes require sponsorship and investment by UK-based employers.  Individuals seeking to work in the UK without this who are graduates of the relevant universities should be aware of this opportunity.   Employers may also seek to use this for some international assignments instead of the current graduate trainee visa scheme.

The High Potential Individual Visa can be seen as an extension of the current working holiday visa since it has similar requirements, although could potentially apply to many more people.  It is a useful immigration route for employers and graduates from certain universities to come and work in the UK without sponsorship.  Those granted a High Potential Individual visa will be able to bring family to the UK and either seek employment, move to an existing role or start self-employment.

Who qualifies?

Applicants must have been awarded an overseas degree-level academic qualification which is at the equivalent level of a recognised UK bachelor’s or UK postgraduate degree in the five years immediately before the date of application.

The overseas academic qualification must have been awarded from an institution which appears on the Global Universities List at the date of award.  The list is based on international ranking systems and is intended to include universities ranked within the top 50 in at least two of these.  Applicants also need to show they meet an English language requirement and will need funds of at least £1,270 on the day of the application, which have been held for at least 28 days.   It isn’t possible to apply for more than one of these visas, but applicants are able to extend their status in the UK in a different immigration category, such as via employer sponsorship, a family dependant or as a student.   Those applying who have family dependants are able to obtain visas for them also, with additional financial requirements in place.

Who is this for?

We noted how many US institutions appear on the Global Universities List.  Since 20 of those 50 places are occupied by universities in the United States, graduates of major US universities are likely to make considerable use of this category.

The applications of a new two-year working visa are considerable and we would anticipate interest from:

Early Career Professionals

Early career professionals, seeking to gain some experience in London or another UK market. The sponsorship system which exists for this in the UK requires employers to invest application costs of several thousand pounds and agree to specific compliance requirements with UK Visas and Immigration.  A business case is effectively required of potential applicants to support sponsorship in the UK for two years for this reason.  With a High Potential Individual Visa, it isn’t.

Startups and Self Employed Contractors

Start-ups and self-employed contractors seeking access to the UK. There are existing provisions for start-ups which allow this but require investment and compliance activity to achieve the relevant visa.  If the potential employee is a graduate of one of the 50 institutions above, this short-circuits any requirement to obtain a Skilled Worker, Scale-Up or Expansion Worker visa.  US contractors seeking to utilise foreign earned income exclusions and tax credits from overseas work regularly find there is no available UK visa which enables them to work with a status other than as an employee.  This visa allows self-employment and therefore doesn’t appear to restrict that in any way;

Those Struggling with Personal Visa Applications

Those struggling with personal visa applications in the UK. We find this common for recent graduates who would like to move to the UK with a British partner but find it difficult to evidence either the necessary period of cohabitation or finances needed.  Working holiday visas are a solution to these issues for applicants from the relevant countries and we can now add this visa to the possible alternatives to evidencing a dependant visa application;


Backpackers! The original purpose of the working holiday visa is entirely possible using this category as well.  For those seeking to travel around Europe using the UK as a base, this allows that to happen and for work in the UK whenever needed.

Next Steps

This visa category will commence on 30 May 2022.   Whilst visa application processing times at British embassies and consulates are unusually slow at present, due to the suspension of priority service processing, we would expect this to be reintroduced in the near future.  Those seeking to migrate to the UK later this year are advised to look at this immigration category without delay.

If you would like assistance with UK immigration matters please get in touch with our team of UK immigration solicitors in the USA.

Get in Touch

With years of experience working in UK immigration and British nationality law, our advisors can help you understand the process and take the right steps to obtain your visa. Get in touch today.