New visa route may open door to wider talent pool for employers

The UK government has announced the implementation of a new visa scheme for ‘high potential individuals’ which is welcome news to employers as the war for talent continues. This new scheme will allow alumni of the world’s top universities to work in the UK for 2 years – or 3 years if they hold a PhD – and to switch to other long-term employment visas at the end of this period if they meet certain requirements. The scheme is open to all eligible graduates, regardless of nationality, and a prior job offer is not required.

Which graduates qualify?

The visa scheme is open to anyone who has graduated in the last 5 years from a university which appeared in the top 50 of at least two of the following global ranking lists in the year in which they graduated:

  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings;
  • the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings; or
  • the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The most recent list of relevant universities captured by the above is available here and applies to those graduating between 1 November 2021 and 31 October 2022. Earlier years can be found here. The latest list covers 37 universities and includes 20 from the United States.  The other universities are located in multiple different jurisdictions including China, Japan,  Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

Graduates from universities which do not feature on these lists are not eligible for a visa under this scheme but may be able to enter and work in the UK through other immigration routes, including the Graduate, Skilled Worker and Global Talent Routes.

Is there a cap on the number of eligible graduates?

At present, there is  no cap on the number of graduates who can apply for a visa under this scheme.

What about graduates from top UK universities?

Unfortunately graduates from top UK universities are unable to apply under this scheme, even if their university is featured on the global ranking lists. Graduates from UK universities will need to apply under other UK immigration routes.

Is a visa fee payable?

A fee of £715 will apply on making the visa application. In addition, successful applicants will be required to pay the mandatory immigration health surcharge charged at £624 per year, which is paid upfront as part of the visa application process.

Are there any other qualifying criteria?

In addition to having the eligible alumnus status, an applicant must:

  • pass a security and criminality check;
  • meet an objective English language requirement of Level B1 of the Common European Framework for Language Learning;
  • meet a minimum financial requirement of showing they have access to funds of at least £1,270, which have been continuously held for at least a 28 day period.

Are family members covered by the new scheme?

Eligible graduates are entitled to bring family members (spouses/partners and children under the age of 18) with them to the UK. However, they must meet a minimum financial requirement, which will depend on the number of accompanying dependants.

This new scheme took effect on Monday 30 May 2022 and employers should now take steps to familiarise themselves with it, particularly as it is likely to offer a faster and less expensive visa route for job candidates than, for example, the existing sponsorship system. This new route also benefits employers by opening up a wider pool of talent which increases the selection choice and strengthens employers’ ability to choose the best individual for the role. Employers will, however, need to keep track of the 2 (or 3) year visa expiry and consider how they may be able to support the affected employees into another visa route at the relevant time.

For further information on the ‘high potential individual’ visa route or any other immigration queries, please contact Lisa Roberts, Senior Associate in DLA Piper’s Employment group.


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