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New Visa Program Welcomes Elite Grads to the UK

Annie Erling Gofus - Jun 14 2022
Published in: Mobility
Graduates of the world’s top universities qualify for a visa that allows them to stay in the UK without a job offer

The United Kingdom has recently introduced a new immigration scheme specifically designed for "High Potential Individuals." The High Potential Individual visa program in the United Kingdom allows graduates from 37 top-rated universities in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United States to enter the country without having a job offer. Applicants who have graduated from one of these institutions in the last five years may apply for a two- or three-year visa.

The High Potential Individual route is a short-term work visa for individuals at an early career stage who have shown they have the potential to benefit the UK workforce.

Those who can apply for the High Potential Individual route must have graduated from an eligible international university in the 5 years immediately before application.

To be included on the list of qualifying institutions, a university must first be ranked on two out of three of these worldwide college rankings: The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academy of Ranking World Universities. A majority of approved universities on the list are in the United States, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California in San Diego.

The UK is facing a severe labor shortage, and this new visa program attempts to persuade highly qualified workers to relocate there. The government claimed the plan would draw "the world's brightest and best" and contribute to the national economy. On the other hand, the critics claim that the strategy promotes worldwide imbalances and disadvantages most developing nations. 

According to the government, the policy aims to nurture a "highly desirable and capable pool of mobile talent from which UK companies may recruit" to promote economic growth and technological progress. It did not put a limit on how many people would be accepted, and it stated that Ph.D. holders would be allowed to stay for three years. Successful applicants will be permitted to work in other long-term employment opportunities once their visa has expired.

The program is consistent with Britain's post-Brexit visa policy, which has made entry easier for high-skilled workers and more difficult for low-skilled applicants, as well as asylum seekers. Visa programs for skilled workers include a work visa for individuals who have secured a job in the United Kingdom, a visa for those considered a leader or potential leader in their field, and a program to allow students who graduated from British universities to stay for at least two years.

According to experts, introducing a new visa system provides businesses with the chance to avoid sponsorship license fees and gain access to a larger pool of skilled employees. Some employment specialists saw the route as a welcome addition, given that the current point-based system forces businesses to apply for a sponsor license. Employers will be relieved by the prospect of a more affordable and often quicker alternative visa route for certain new employees, particularly start-ups that are not yet sponsored or cannot afford the higher sponsorship fees.

The new path would be a benefit for businesses since they will not have to deal with the red tape and exorbitant expenses of sponsorship. However, the drawback of the path is that it does not lead to permanent settlement, so some individuals may move into different immigration categories from within the UK, adding to the cost of their UK immigration journey.

The new British visa has been praised by certain academic circles that wish to see the visa replicated in the United States. But other academics, students, and politicians in Great Britain, Africa, and India have spoken out against it. The critics claim that the universities that students select are, in fact, heavily influenced by their social and geographical circumstances and that the new system rewards those who are already more privileged.

Introducing additional criteria for assessing candidates, such as grades, would be reasonable but difficult to enforce. According to the Home Office, the list is based on "leading worldwide university rankings," and new international universities may improve their ranks and eventually join the list. However, while there is agreement that the university rankings are becoming increasingly important in the global education market, many people believe they frequently fail to assess teaching quality and overemphasize research over instruction.