The UK government is set to open a “highly selective” visa scheme for graduates of the world’s top ranked universities on May 30, which it hopes will enhance the country’s skill base.
The High Potential Individual visa route aims to attract high skilled overseas talent to support “growth and innovation”, and will be open to bachelors, masters or PhD graduates from institutions on a “Global Universities List” of 50 institutions.
The list, published annually by the Home Office, will feature institutions outside the UK that are ranked in at least two of three renowned rankings. The rankings part of the initiative are: Times Higher Education World University rankings; Quacquarelli Symonds World University rankings; and The Academic Ranking of the World Universities.
Being in the top 50 of just one of the rankings will not be enough to be included in the global list.
Institutions likely to feature on the list include those such as 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.
Qualifications must have been awarded no more than five years before the date of the application. The visa will last for two years for bachelors and masters grads, and three years for PhD holders.
“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,” minister for Safe & Legal Migration, Kevin Foster said in a statement in March.
“Bringing those with the most potential to the UK can boost growth and drive international competitiveness”
“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.”
Insiders say the new visa will enable the UK to attract the most sought-after graduates while also enhancing the UK’s skill base. However, unnamed sources warn that the new route could risk undermining the graduate route, which requires talented students to study in UK universities before gaining access to work.
Participants under the new scheme will be able to work in any job in the UK without the need for sponsorship and without graduating from a UK university, but must meet a £1,270 financial requirement to cover living costs in addition to English language requirements.
They will also have the option to switch to other routes, which could lead to settlement in the UK. It is unclear how many graduates the route will attract, but the government said the number is unlimited.
A separate Scale Up visa is expected to open August 22 of this year. The work visa route will be for both EU and non-EU citizens with graduate level and above job offers from Home Office-approved sponsors. Applicants should have a salary level starting from £33,000 and pass English language requirements at least B1 level. It is designed to attract a “much sought-after cohort” of individuals, Foster has said.
“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,” Foster added.
“We want to welcome any [individuals] that bring in talent to the UK”
Announced in the July 2021 UK Innovation Strategy, the two new visa routes will help to “attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent”, the government has said.
“We want to welcome any [individuals] that bring in talent to the UK,” UKCISA chief executive Anne Marie Graham highlighted.
In May 2021, the government also announced a fast track immigration “prestigious award winners” route, which aims to attract another group of talented individuals that includes winners of Nobel Prizes, the Turing Award, Oscars and Golden Globes.
Additionally the government is planning to launch its electronic travel authorisation for visitors that do not require visas to come to the UK. The authorisation, which will be issued within hours of the application submission, is expected to see some 30 million applications per year.
Fees for both the High Potential and Scale Up visas will be £715 for both the main applicant and dependants.
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