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How to apply for a High Potential Individual visa


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The High Potential Individual visa is a new offering from the Home Office aimed at individuals who have graduated from a top global university. There is considerable international competition to attract these sorts of individuals, who ministers like to call the “brightest and best”. A visa aimed at them can therefore be seen as a pitch: a package aimed at persuading them to come to the United Kingdom.

Unlike the Skilled Worker route, this visa doesn’t tie the applicant to a specific sponsor, so it can be an attractive way for people to test work opportunities in the UK. It also allows UK businesses to offer work opportunities without the expensive burden of sponsorship. But does the visa have what it takes to achieve its aim of drawing high potential individuals to come here?

The Immigration Rules for this route are contained in Immigration Rules Appendix High Potential Individual.

Key benefits

Those with a High Potential Individual visa can:

  • be employed without needing a sponsor (although work as a professional sportsperson, including sports coach is subject to the usual restriction)
  • be self-employed
  • seek work
  • study (unless the Student route can be used instead, in which case it must be)
  • undertake voluntary or ad hoc work
  • be accompanied by family

How long can applicants stay in the UK?

How long an individual with a High Potential Individual visa can stay in the UK for under that visa depends on the type of qualification being relied on:

PhD or other doctoral level qualification 3 years 
All other degree qualifications 2 years 

Acceptable qualifications

The applicant must demonstrate that they have been awarded an overseas degree level academic qualification which Ecctis confirms meets, or exceeds, the recognised standard of a UK bachelor’s or UK postgraduate degree. Ecctis, formerly UK NARIC, provides official global qualification recognition services to the UK Government.

In addition, the following must apply:

  • the degree above must have been awarded in the 5 years immediately before the date of the application (the award date is the date confirmed by Ecctis); and
  • the awarding institution must appear on the Global Universities List in respect of the date the application was awarded the degree. 

Note that this route is not open to those graduating from top UK institutions. They should use the Graduate route

What is the Global Universities List?

The Global Universities List has been created by the Home Office. To qualify to be on the list, the institution must appear on at least two of the following university rankings:

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

The list is broken down into years and currently there are lists covering years 2016 – 2021. The 2021 list, for example, relates to qualifications awarded between 1 November 2021 and 31 October 2022.

Taking the below extract from the 2021 list into account, an applicant with a degree awarded by Duke University on 30 November 2021 would meet the qualification requirement. 

Other core requirements


Unless exempt, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they can speak English to level B1 on the CEFR.


Those applying from overseas for a visa of more than 12 months, or those who are applying from inside the UK where they have been in the UK for less than 12 months, must be able to demonstrate that they meet the financial requirement.

This means they will need to have held cash funds of at least £1,270 for at least 28 consecutive days ending not more than 31 days before the application is submitted. There is more information in Appendix Finance


A clear TB test result is needed for those who meet the requirements of Appendix T: Tuberculosis Screening.

General grounds of refusal 

The usual general grounds of refusal requirements in Immigration Rules part 9: grounds for refusal, also apply. 

What’s the cost?

As far as UK work visas go, this is amongst the cheapest with the main costs being:

Ecctis fee £210 (or £252 is applying from inside the UK)
Visa application fee £715
Health surcharge £624 for each year of stay in the UK being applied for
Total for a 2 year visa (applicant abroad)£2,173

Visa application process and documents

The visa application must be made via an online application form for overseas applicants or in-country applicants

Under paragraph HPI 1.5, applicants wanting to apply from inside the UK must be in the UK on the date of application and must not have, or have last been granted, permission:

  1. as a Visitor; or
  2. as a Short-term Student; or
  3. as a Parent of a Child Student; or
  4. as a Seasonal Worker; or
  5. as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or
  6. outside the Immigration Rules.

Anyone else who is lawfully in the UK can make an in-country application. 

The application form itself will be fairly straightforward for most applicants. It’s always worth doing a dry run of the form to see exactly what information is needed but, in short, the following main information should be gathered in advance:

  • details of parents
  • details of previous travel over the last 10 years
  • details of previous UK visas/visits

Once the fee has been paid and the application submitted, applicants will either be able to use the UK Immigration app to prove their identity, or they will have to attend a biometric appointment at a visa application centre.

The documents for this route, most of which are uploaded after the application is submitted, is extremely simple and consists of:

  • the applicant’s passport;
  • Ecctis statement
  • qualification certificate
  • evidence of funds (where relevant)
  • TB test result (where relevant)

Once the application is approved

Depending on their nationality and how they applied, successful applicants will be granted either digital immigration status covering the duration of their stay in the UK, or a physical document. This provides the proof they will need to show to employers and landlords to evidence that they have the right to live and work in the UK. 

Staying on in the UK

If the applicant decides they want to stay on in the UK, they can apply under other routes – for example, Skilled Worker, Global Talent, etc., – from inside the UK. 

As this visa does not lead to settlement, such individuals are recommended to switch into a route which does lead to settlement as soon as possible.

The High Potential Individual visa as it stands has its benefits, but there is a question mark over whether the UK should do more to attract such sought after graduates. Tweaking the route to enable the time spent under it to count towards a five year period of settlement would be a welcome move.

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Nichola Carter

Nichola heads the immigration team at Carter Thomas (www.carterthomas.co.uk). A lawyer with 20 years' experience, she also sits on The Law Society’s Immigration Committee. Nichola's main work relates to advising businesses, universities and schools on sponsor applications and compliance, and individuals seeking to come under the Global Talent, family and other routes . She regularly provides media comment including for the BBC and FT and is happy to be contacted for comment. Nichola tweets from @carternichola and her email is ncarter@carterthomas.co.uk.