UK High Potential Individual Visa

The High Potential Individual (“HPI”) visa route opened earlier this year and allows qualifying individuals to enter the UK without needing an employer to sponsor them.

In a bid to attract the world’s top talent, the High Potential Individual visa route is intended “to create one of the world’s most attractive visa regimes for entrepreneurs and highly skilled people.” The High Potential Individual visa route is available to recent graduates of leading overseas universities who intend to work or seek work in the UK. This is not a sponsored route, meaning that applicants do not need a job offer for an eligible job in the UK with a Home Office approved sponsor. Subject to meeting eligibility requirements, successful applicants will be granted 2 years (or 3 years if they have a Ph.D. or other doctoral qualification) of leave to enter or leave to remain in the UK.

Eligibility requirements

Successful applicants must meet the below criteria:

  • They must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible university, outside the UK, in the last 5 years prior to the date of the application
  • ECCTIS must confirm that the degree is of the required level for this application and the date that the degree was awarded
  • They must meet the English language requirement of at least level B1 CEFR and
  • They must be able to meet the financial requirement

The institution that awarded the qualification must appear in the Global Universities List for the date that the applicant was awarded the degree. The list of eligible universities changes depending on the year of graduation to reflect the changes in global rankings from year to year. Degrees from UK universities are not eligible for this route, and those applicants wanting to rely on a degree awarded in the UK should consider alternative visa routes, such as the graduate visa.

The applicant must have been awarded an overseas degree level qualification which ECCTIS confirms meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a UK bachelor’s or UK postgraduate degree.

To meet the financial requirement, entry clearance applicants must hold funds of at least £1,270 in savings for at least 28 days before applying. Applicants already in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months do not need to evidence meeting this requirement.

Dependant partners and dependant children of the High Potential Individual may also apply under this route, subject to meeting the dependant visa eligibility requirements.

Conditions of grant

How long an applicant can stay in the UK on the High Potential Individual visa depends on the type of qualification held. If the applicant relied on a bachelor’s level degree, they will be granted a 2-year visa. If the applicant relied on a PhD or other doctoral level qualification, then a 3-year visa will be granted.

Once granted, successful visa holders will be able to work in the UK, including self-employment and voluntary work, but will not be able to work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

This visa category does not lead to settlement, so if the longer-term plan is to settle in the UK, an applicant will need to consider switching to an alternate visa category.

Following the expiration of the initial grant of leave, it is not possible to extend the High Potential Individual visa. However, it may be possible to switch into permitted work categories that would lead to settlement, such as the Skilled Worker visa.

Benefits of the High Potential Individual visa

  • Applicants are free to work in any job in the UK, offering greater flexibility than other work visa categories
  • Does not require sponsorship, allowing employers to employ talented individuals without sponsorship responsibilities
  • Significant cost savings for employers as they do not need to hold a sponsor licence or pay sponsorship fees
  • Self-employed permitted under this route

The High Potential Individual visa route is expected to be popular amongst applicants and employers due to the greater level of flexibility that it offers in comparison to other work visa categories.

If you wish to take advantage of this route or would like more information, please contact Usof Shah in our Immigration team.


This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.

Usof Shah
Senior Solicitor, Immigration
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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