What is the UK’s New High Potential Individual Visa? – Tier 1 General Reincarnated?

What is the UK’s New High Potential Individual Visa? – Tier 1 General Reincarnated?

A new High Potential Individual visa will soon be launched enabling you to circumnavigate the current points-based visa system in the United Kingdom.

On July 22nd 2021, the UK Government outlined the plans for its new innovation strategy, designed to improve investment in private-sector research and aid economic growth within the innovation sector. The plans intend to put the UK at ‘the front of the global innovation race‘. In this article, we shall look at the theory behind the new Visa, and what might hold it back. Or is it just an old route in new clothes? 



The UK's Current Immigration System

The reforms include a desire to improve the current immigration system, which relies on a points-based system, making it easier for top talent to migrate to the UK. Work-based immigration has been a hot topic in the UK ever since the UK left the European Union, which was a divisive subject in itself. Indeed, the issue of Brexit was a minefield of information and misinformation which promoted distrust. Immigration was one of the areas that convinced the British public to vote to leave the EU, which has presented the country with a skills shortage

In July the government published its UK Innovation Strategy. This outlined the steps needed to ‘supercharge’ economic growth through innovation, following our exit from the EU and the effects of the pandemic. The planned reforms are now looking to address that skills shortage and in turn, help the next generation of skilled migrants settle and work in the UK.

Despite the new planned reforms, there is currently a lack of solid information for people to digest, which is causing further debate. There is a pressing desire across the UK, both politically and within industry, to unite behind Brexit and find solutions to the problems created by the Vote Leave outcome. With the coronavirus pandemic further causing shortages on workers and global trade, the need to fill the skills shortage now includes how to attract talented individuals to a country that has seemingly become harder to enter.

High Potential Individual Visa

What is a High Potential Individual?

To begin, the new visa applies to High-Performance Individuals, which is the first cause for some debate. For the avoidance of doubt, a High Potential Individual (HPI) is someone who has graduated from a top global university, and as such, is seen as having the potential to add to the skills pool within the UK. As yet, there isn't a definitive list of so-called top global universities to be used by the UK Government, and it remains to be seen if the Home Office plan on drawing one up. It could be that something like the Round Ranking university list is used to define a High Potential Individual, but that policy would be fraught with pitfalls. Many of the top universities come from one country: 13 of the top 20 universities globally are based in the US.

That means the term High Potential Individual is rather ambiguous at the moment, and until the UK Government offer more clarity, it will be hard to assess the true implications of the plans. Immigration solicitors will be eyeing developments to see if provisions are made for those who graduated from average universities but then become high potential due to their experience within their chosen sector. It is reported the UK Government will explore the possibility of expanding the scope to include other high potential characteristics.

But based on the information that is currently available, the High Potential Individual visa may be a replacement for the now-defunct Tier 1 General visa. This visa route offered a way for graduates and/or those who had gained experience and/or a good income from work. 

How Will the High Potential Visa Work?

The new route will allow high potential individuals to come to the UK without needing a job offer.  This will make it quicker and simpler for internationally mobile individuals to come to the UK, by avoiding the procedures involved in sponsorship. 

In theory, the HPI will find far less red tape when applying for a visa to come and work in the UK. The main attraction is that there will be no requirement for someone to have a job offer before they come to the country, which should attract those hoping to work here, as it will be easier to apply and interview when based in the UK. HPI's will be able to extend their visa and settle in the UK whilst searching for work if they wish to do so, to add value to their chosen industry.

If you are Eligible you would have the flexibility to work, switch jobs or employers. It may also be appealing to some employers who do not want to the costs and obligations associated with sponsorship.

Under the old route, applicants were given three years entry into the UK to enter, find work or set up a business in the UK. It was a boon for contractors, entrepreneurs and young people that had graduated with degrees and masters, that were able to find jobs in the UK paying anything from £25,000 upwards.

So long as you maintained a good income, you will be able to renew for a further two years and then obtain permanent residency in the UK. from there, you were also free to apply for British Citizenship after ILR after the High Potential Individual Visa.

Who will Benefit from the New Tier 1 General Route: High Potential Individual Visa?

The aim is to make ‘the UK the easiest country in the world for top innovative talent to enter’, settle and contribute to the growth and prosperity of the UK economy.  The High Potential visa is therefore one of three new routes included in the strategy designed to attract top global talent, particularly in areas such as science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

So what kind of applicants were successful in coming to the UK to work under the old Tier 1 General route? In our experience, these were graduates from countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, China & India with few applications coming from South America & Asia. With these applicants going into jobs in the UK generally falling into Finance & Banking and IT. A significant number also started their own companies or were working as self-employed.

Whether the UK’s new High Potential Individual Visa will result in the same type of applications and applicants remains to be seen, but we will keep you informed of any new developments.  

What Does Priti Patel Say?

Of course, applicants from the US, Canada, Europe (following Brexit), and the other countries listed above will benefit from having Universities listed in the top worldwide rankings. The Home Secretary launched the new project, saying: “Under the UK Government's points-based immigration system, talented students from India and across the globe now have the opportunity to kick start their careers in the UK at the highest levels of business, science, technology and the arts. Once they've received their world-leading qualification from one of our fantastic education institutions, this new visa will give them the freedom to fulfil their aspirations and advance their careers.” 

This does return to the question of what is classed as a top university. According to the Round Ranking list, the ‘best' Indian university is the Indian Institute of Science, 61st in the world. Indeed, it is the only one from India in the top 200, but the Home Secretary does state talented individuals from India will get the opportunity to advance their careers. There are still many unanswered questions, despite the apparent positive nature of the plans.

In the interest of attracting diverse global talent, there are hopes that this new route will not be limited to a list of top academic institutions and that the government will follow up on its commitment to consider expanding eligibility criteria to include other characteristics of high potential e.g. high salary, post-graduate qualifications, age, or STEM degree.

What Other Routes Are There?

As well as the HPI route (High Potential Individual Visa), the UK Government also announced three other possible ways to work in the UK as part of its’ Innovation Strategy. The first is the ‘scale-up route’, which will allow talented individuals to go to the UK if they hold a highly skilled job offer to do so from a qualifying scale-up. They have also revised the Innovator visa, which allows eligible individuals to obtain a visa to work in the UK to set up and run an innovative business, which the Home Office has endorsed. That will be streamlined and simplified, with a fast-tracking of applications being explored. Also, applicants will no longer be required to have at least £50,000 in hand before they apply for such a visa. Finally, a Global Business Mobility visa is also to be introduced.

The Scale-Up Visa Route

This new proposed visa route will allow talented individuals to come to the UK who have a highly skilled job offer from a qualifying scale up at the required salary level. In order to qualify as a scale-up, a business will have to demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three year period greater than 20%, plus a minimum of 10 employees at the start of these three years. 

Under this route, applicants must hold a high-skilled job offer with a salary of at least £33,000 and meet an English language requirement. As with the High Potential visa, you will be able to switch jobs or employers, extend your stay and settle in the UK.

Scale-ups will be able to apply to use the route through a fast-track verification process. The route is set to launch in Spring 2022

Global Business Mobility visa

A Global Business Mobility visa will provide overseas businesses and innovative companies flexibility in establishing a UK presence or transferring workers to the UK.

The new visa will create a single, sponsored route that will bring together, reform and expand the number of existing business routes. It’s expected that the new route will include provisions for intra-company transferees and relax the rules for a single representative of an overseas business assigned to the UK to establish a branch or subsidiary. Thereby allowing more than one member of the overseas business to enter the UK.

The route may also bring in elements for visit visas that remove work restrictions as well as short term secondments. 

The Innovator visa

A ‘revitalised’ Innovator route has been announced which will enable overseas innovators and entrepreneurs to start and operate a business in the UK that is either venture-backed or is harnessing innovative technologies. Under this route:

  • There will be greater flexibility and no requirement for applicants to have at least £50,000 in investment funds, provided you have sufficient funds to grow your business. You will also be able to undertake work outside your primary business on this route.
  • The business eligibility criteria will be streamlined and simplified and you will need to demonstrate that your business has the potential to grow, add value to the UK, and remain innovative.
  • There will also be an option to fast-track applications  if your business ideas are ‘particularly advanced’.

There has been lots of industry chatter around the new plans, which seem to lay out a post-Brexit route to attracting new migrants to the UK. The need to attract High Potential Individuals to the UK is certainly a pressing one, and industry leaders will watch new developments closely in the coming months, as the Home Office adds details to the plans. However, until those details have been fleshed out, the arguments around the information, or lack of it, will remain firmly in place.

What are your thoughts on the new High Potential Individual Visa and other new UK visa routes? Will it encourage you to get work in the UK? Comment below.

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