US Universities Dominate the UK’s New High Potential Individual Visa for Top Graduates

Article by Vanessa Ganguin, Managing Partner, Vanessa Ganguin Immigration Law

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The new High Potential Individual visa for graduates of the world’s top universities launches this week and there’s great news for graduates of many US colleges and those who want to hire them in the UK.

For those who qualify it looks set to be a very handy immigration route to the UK – also for employers who want to hire people who have graduated from a top university in the past five years without the need for sponsorship.

High Potential Individuals will be able to come to the UK without the need of a job offer or sponsorship and work, look for work, work freelance or even start a business. They will be able to bring qualifying dependant family members too. The UK Government says that applications will be processed speedily.

The new visa in the words of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, “means that the UK can continue to attract the best and brightest from across the globe.”

Launching the new route, he insisted: “we want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today – which is why I call on students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to forge their careers here.”

Potential employers / employees keen to use this route should check the global university list for the year applicants graduated to see if theirs was one of the eligible top universities that year.

US Universities account for over half the qualifying top global universities on the 2021 list

The global universities lists are made up of higher education institutions that featured in the top 50 of at least two of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The list has caused controversy in some quarters as there are only five European universities on the 2021 list, none at all from Africa, South Asia or Latin America.

The good news for American graduates is that around half the qualifying universities on the lists are in the USA.

So for example 2021 graduates of the following US universities are invited to apply:

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Columbia University

Cornell University

Duke University

Harvard University

Johns Hopkins University

Massachusetts Institute of

Technology (MIT)

New York University (NYU)

Northwestern University

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Los

Angeles (UCLA)

University of California, San Diego

University of Chicago

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

University of Pennsylvania

University of Texas at Austin

University of Washington

Yale University

For the lists for those graduating in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and more details on the new visa scheme, read our full guide here.

What other requirements for the High Potential Individual visa?

This isn’t a route to settlement, rather a great opportunity for graduates of top universities to try working in the UK and UK employers to get to hire them without the rigorous requirements of sponsorship. Applicants with the equivalent of a UK Bachelor’s or Master’s degree will have up to two years to switch into another more long term visa. Those with the equivalent of a UK PhD will have three years.

A husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner may accompany a high potential individual, as may children under 18 on the date of application. (Unmarried partners must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship of two years or over.)

The financial requirements are far from onerous for applicants. They only need to demonstrate savings of £1,270, £285 for a partner coming with them, £315 for a first child, £200 savings for any additional child.

High Potential Individuals must also pass a security and criminality check and be proficient in English to at least the B1 intermediate level, defined as “fluency to communicate without effort with native speakers”.

The visa costs £715 plus the immigration health surcharge (which allows free access to NHS healthcare.)

For more advice on this and other UK immigration routes, or for a free strategic consultation on what would work best for you, please contact us on 0207 033 9527 or

Vanessa Ganguin, managing partner at Vanessa Ganguin Immigration Law, is one of the most highly regarded experts in UK immigration, with over 27 years’ specialist experience. She is recommended by Chambers & Partners UK, Chambers High Net Worth Guide, Legal 500 and Who’s Who Legal as a thought leader in immigration law.