- What is the High Potential Individual Visa?
- What Can I Do With a High Potential Individual Visa?
- Who is Eligible?
- What Documents Do I Need?
- How to Apply if You’re Outside the UK
- How to Apply if You’re Inside the UK
- What Are the Fees and Processing Times?
- What Happens After I Apply?
- How Can IAS Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is the High Potential Individual Visa?
The High Potential Individual route allows those who have been awarded qualifications from an eligible international university on the approved global universities list to come and work in the UK for up to two years.
Those who have successfully completed a PhD or other doctoral-level qualification may stay for up to three years. You cannot extend the visa after that time, but you may be able to switch to a Skilled Worker visa or other eligible UK visas.
A High Potential Individual Visa allows you to work in most jobs, be self-employed, and live in the UK with your partner and children, as long as they also meet the eligibility criteria.
You don’t need to have a job offer in order to be eligible for the High Potential Individual visa route.
What Can I Do With a High Potential Individual Visa?
With a High Potential Individual visa, you can:
- Work in most jobs
- Look for work
- Be self-employed
- Live in the UK with your partner and children, if they’re eligible
- Do voluntary work
- Travel abroad and return to the UK
However, you cannot:
- Apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension
- Work as a professional sportsperson
- Extend your High Potential Individual visa
- Apply to settle permanently in the UK
If you wish to come to the UK to work as a sportsperson, you will need to apply for a dedicated Sportsperson visa.
If you wish to settle permanently in the UK, there may be another suitable immigration route available to you. Take a look at our guide for Indefinite Leave to Remain, contact one of our legal advisers on 0333 305 9375, or get in touch with us online.
Who is Eligible?
In addition, you must have been awarded the qualification in the past five years to be eligible.
Whether or not your university is eligible depends on what month and year you were awarded your qualification. As the global universities list is determined by academic ranking lists for that specific year, not all global universities may be eligible for all years.
In addition to this, the qualification you received must be at the same level as any of the following:
- a UK bachelor’s degree
- a UK postgraduate degree
- a UK PhD or doctoral level qualification
You must apply to Ecctis to verify that your qualification is valid and at the right level.
In order to be eligible for the High Potential Individual visa route, you must also:
- Prove your knowledge of English is at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. You can do this through:
- A Secure English Language Test (SELT)
- Being awarded a degree taught mainly in English
- Alternatively, you are exempt from this requirement if you’re from a majority English speaking country
- Meet the financial requirement to demonstrate that you can support yourself financially, unless you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months
You can’t apply if:
- You have already been given a Graduate visa
- You have already come to the UK as a Student Doctorate Extension Scheme student
- You’ve already applied for a High Potential Individual visa once before
What Documents Do I Need?
You will need to provide the following when you apply for a High Potential Individual Visa:
- A valid passport or other travel document
- Proof of your knowledge of English
- A statement from Ecctis after they’ve checked that your qualification is eligible
Additionally, if you’ve applied to Ecctis to confirm that your qualification was taught in English, you will need to provide an ‘Academic Qualification Level Statement and English Language Proficiency Statement’.
You may also be asked to provide the following documents, depending on your personal circumstances:
- Your biometric residence permit (BRP) or online proof of your immigration status, if you’re switching to this visa from another visa
- Proof of your relationship with your partner or children if they’re applying with you
- Your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a required country
Note that you will need to provide a certified translation of any documents that aren’t in either English or Welsh.
How to Apply If You're Outside the UK
You must apply online for the High Potential Individual visa.
As part of the application process, you’ll be asked to prove your identity. You will either be asked to:
- Have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre (to receive a biometric residence permit)
- Use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document
You will be told which one you need to do when you apply.
If you do need an appointment:
- The visa application centre may need to keep your passport and documents while they process your application
- You may have to travel to get to your nearest visa application centre, which may be in another country
You do not need to have received a job offer in the UK to apply for a High Potential Individual visa.
How to Apply If You're Inside the UK
You may be able to switch to a High Potential Individual visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa. You must apply online.
Your partner or children will also need to apply separately to switch their visa. They can either apply at the same time as you, or at any time before their current visa expires.
Note that you can’t apply to switch to a High Potential Individual visa if you’re currently in the UK on any of the following visas:
- Visit visa
- Short-term student visa
- Graduate visa
- Parent of a Child Student visa
- Seasonal worker visa
- Domestic worker in a private household visa
Additionally, you can’t apply for a High Potential Individual visa if you’re in UK:
- On immigration bail
- Because you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, such as on compassionate grounds
If any of the above apply to you, you must first leave the UK and apply for a High Potential Individual visa from abroad.
Also note that if you plan to switch to this visa from a Student visa, one of the following must apply to you:
- The start date of your job is after the completion date of your course
- You’ve been studying for a PhD for at least 24 months
What Are the Fees for the High Potential Individual Visa?
You will need to pay the following fees as part of the High Potential Individual visa:
|High Potential Individual visa application fee||£715|
|Ecctis qualification verification||£210 (£252 if applying from inside the UK)|
|Immigration health surcharge||£624|
Note that the immigration health surcharge is an annual fee paid every year you’re in the UK.
In addition, to gain entry clearance, you will need to ensure that you meet the financial requirement of having £1,270 of cash funds to your name to support yourself while you’re in the UK. You will need to have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row, with 28 of those days being within 31 days prior to you applying for the visa.
You’ll usually need to show that you meet the financial requirement when you apply unless you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.
Your partner and children will also need to prove they can potentially support themselves while they’re in the UK if they’re accompanying you.
If you’re applying from outside the UK, you will normally receive a decision within three weeks.
If you’re applying from inside the UK, you’ll usually get a decision within eight weeks.
Your application may take longer than this if you’re contacted because:
- Your supporting documents need to be verified
- You need to attend an interview
- Of your personal circumstances, such as if you have a criminal conviction
What Happens After I Apply?
After you apply and your application has been processed, you will receive an email or a letter containing the decision of your application.
If your application is successful, you’ll be given either:
- A sticker (called a vignette) that goes in your passport (if you gave your biometric information at a visa application centre)
- Access to view your immigration status information online (if you used the smartphone app to prove your identity)
If you’ve received a vignette in your passport, you must also collect a biometric residence permit after you arrive in the UK. You must do this before the vignette sticker expires or within 10 days of arriving in the UK.
If your application is refused, you’ll get a letter or an email explaining why your application was refused and your passport will be returned to you.
Your refusal letter will explain if you have the right to either:
- An administrative review
- An immigration decision appeal
How Can IAS Help?
The High Potential Individual visa route is one of the most highly attractive visa regimes available to attract overseas talent from global universities to come to the UK.
If you’re considering applying for a High Potential Individual visa or unsure about your eligibility, IAS can help. We are expert immigration lawyers with years’ worth of experience in helping people gain entry clearance into the UK on various UK visas.
We can assist you step-by-step through the application process, guiding you through the complexities of immigration rules to ensure that you’re eligible for a High Potential Individual visa. We can also help if your application was rejected by the UK government and if you wish to take out an administrative review or an appeal for your rejection.
For more information about the services we offer, and what we can do for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our trusted immigration advisers today. Call us on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online.
Last modified on August 15th, 2023 at 9:07 am
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World universities will only be eligible for the High Potential Individual visa for years in which they appeared in at least two of the following three ranking systems:
- Times Higher Education World University Rankings
- Quacquarelli Symonds
- The Academic Ranking of World Universities
It’s important to double check and be certain that your university is eligible for the visa before applying, as the global universities list rankings can vary greatly from year to year.
The Graduate visa immigration route is primarily for those who have completed a course such as a UK bachelor’s or master course. Meanwhile, the High Potential Individual route is only for those who graduated outside of the UK.
Neither immigration route requires applicants to have a job offer in order to be eligible for entry clearance, unlike visas such as the Skilled Worker visa, which does require a job offer.