UK government announces new High Potential Individual (HPI) visa for International graduates

High Potential Individual visa - Harvard grads

Under a brand new scheme called the HPI visa, graduates from the world’s top 50 universities will be able to come to the UK to live and work. The government expect it to attract the brightest and best graduates, who are early in their careers, to the UK.

Rishi Sunak believes that it will help “the UK grow as a leading international hub for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.”

What is the new High Potential Individual (HPI) visa?

It’s a work visa that sits outside the points system, and gives the graduate permission to live and work in the UK for 2 years if they hold a Bachelors or Masters degree and 3 years for a PhD. They won’t need to have an offer of employment first; they can apply for their visa as soon as they’ve graduated and once obtained they can apply for roles and should be given equal consideration alongside UK candidates.

At the end of the 2 years the visa may not be extended, but they will be able to switch to other long-term employment visas if they are still in employment and meet the other criteria – which they likely will.

Who qualifies for the HPI Visa

It’s open to any graduate from the world’s top 50 universities in the year in which they graduated. To qualify as a top 50 university they must appear on two of these lists that year: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings or The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Why is the HPI visa good for UK tech companies?

There has long been a dearth of skills for tech jobs in the UK, aptly named the Digital Skills Gap. And since Brexit the situation has not been improved. There are fewer Europeans able to live and work in the UK now and so this new HPI visa alongside the Graduate Route Visa should be able to bridge some of that gap with talent from around the world.

This group could quickly come to represent an important source of talent to fill vital skills gaps for UK tech with many of them having STEM or business degrees from prestigious universities.

You can expect to see more international graduate talent from the US (including Harvard, MIT and Yale), Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Japan and Europe. Unfortunately, the lists do not contain many developing countries from South Asia, Latin America or Africa, and the visa has been criticised for this.

Similarly to the Graduate visa, UK companies do not have to be a licensed sponsor to employ an international graduate with an HPI visa. However, when the visa has expired it cannot be extended and the worker will need to switch to a Skilled Worker Visa.

Switching to a Skilled Worker Visa

While it should be fairly straightforward for the HPI visa to be switched for a Skilled Worker Visa for your employee, you would have to be a licensed sponsor, so it’s vital that both parties understand these requirements and make the necessary arrangements prior to expiration of the visa. We suggest allowing at least 2 months – more if you can.

In fact, we’d suggest that becoming a licensed sponsor is a prudent thing to do if you have heavy recruitment initiatives ahead and many of the roles are technical and entry-level.

RTW on DigitalGrads

We have a strong base of international talent on DigitalGrads (as well as grads with a permanent right to work in the UK) and we expect this to strengthen further with the new visa. At the foot of every profile there is a Right to work in the UK box that displays the candidate’s right to work. The candidate completes this information as part of their application process with DigitalGrads.

If you have any questions about the HPI visa, the Graduate visa, becoming a licensed sponsor or anything else please feel free to reach out on