The much-anticipated UK high potential visa is set to launch at the end of May, the UK government has confirmed. The highly selective UK visa scheme will be exclusive to graduates of the world’s top-ranked universities. The scheme is set to open for applications on 30 May 2022, and the UK government hopes it will enhance Britain’s skill base.
The new UK visa aims to attract highly skilled individuals from overseas to support ‘growth and innovation’ according to an official UK government statement. The scheme will be open to graduates with a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree obtained from a university that ranks on the Global Universities List of 50 academic institutions.
The list, which is published annually by the Home Office, features higher education institutions outside the UK that are ranked in at least two out of three renowned rankings. The rankings used as part of the scheme include academic institutions that are listed in Times Higher Education World University rankings; Quacquarelli Symonds World University rankings; and The Academic Ranking of the World Universities.
Global list very strict
Institutions listed must be on two or three of the other lists to be included on the Global Universities List. Being listed on one is not enough. Universities on the current list include ETH Zurich in Switzerland, Canada’s University of Toronto, The University of Tokyo of Japan and a range of top-ranked institutions in the US.
In order to qualify for a UK high potential visa, applicants must have been awarded their degree no more than five years before the date of making an application. The visa will be valid for a period of two years for bachelor’s and master’s degree holders and three years for PhD holders.
UK immigration minister, Kevin Foster, said: “The new high potential individual route will make it as simple as possible for internationally mobile individuals at an early stage of their careers who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK.”
“Bringing those with the most potential to the UK can boost growth and drive the international competitiveness of the UK’s most innovative businesses and sectors,” Mr Foster added.
According to government ministers, the new high potential visa will ‘enable the UK to attract the world’s most sought-after graduates while boosting Britain’s skill base’.
However, critics of the scheme have warned that the new route risks undermining the current graduate immigration route, which requires talented foreign students to study at UK universities before gaining access to employment opportunities.
Kevin Foster said: “This route will support UK employers by enhancing the pool of the highly talented individuals available to UK businesses, by complementing the existing Graduate route which allows a period of post-study work for international students graduating from UK universities.”
Those granted a high potential visa will be able to work in any job in the UK – without the need for sponsorship and without graduating from a UK university. However, visa holders will need to meet a £1,270 financial requirement to demonstrate that they can cover living costs. Plus, they must also be able to speak English.
Switch UK visa categories
High potential visa holders will also have the option to switch to other UK visa categories that provide a pathway to UK indefinite leave to remain. It has not yet been disclosed how many people the visa is likely to attract, but the government has said that the visa category will have no cap.
Namita Mehta, President at The Red Pen – an education consultancy – said: “It’s a fab proposition. The fact that you don’t need to be in the UK for a certain number of days is also appealing.”
In addition to the launch of the high potential visa later this month, the Home Office is also expected to launch the scale-up visa on 22 August. This work visa option will be open to EU and non-EU citizens with graduate level and above job offers from Home Office-approved sponsors.
Applicants will need to have a job with a starting salary of at least £33,000 and pass English language requirements at least B1 level. Commenting on the scale-up visa, Kevin Foster said: “It is designed to attract a much sought-after cohort of individuals.”
“Delivering on the government’s commitment to Build Back Better, the new high potential individual and scale up routes opening this year will enable companies to attract recognised and high-potential talent from around the world,” Mr Foster added.
UK Innovation Strategy
The high potential and scale-up visas were first announced in July 2021 as part of a UK Innovation Strategy announced by the government.
At the time, the government said: “The two new visa routes will help Britain to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent.”
Meanwhile, chief executive of The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), Anne Marie Graham, said: “We want to welcome any [individuals] that bring in talent to the UK.”
The government has been on a mission to attract the world’s top talent for several years after its flagship global talent visa and innovator visa both flopped. Back in May 2021, the government announced a fast-track immigration route for ‘prestigious award winners’ targeting those who have won a Nobel Peace Prize, a Turing award or an Oscar, and more.
The government is also planning to launch an Electronic Travel Authorisation system for visitors that do not require a visa to come to the UK. The authorisation will reportedly be issued within hours of application submission and is expected to see approximately 30 million applications per year.
High potential and scale-up visa fees
It’s understood that the fee for the high potential and scale-up visas will be £715 each for main applicants and any dependents.
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