New graduate visas ’to fill skills gap’

A simplified but “highly selective” visa scheme to attract overseas graduates to the UK, could help fill the nation's skills gap, according to a leading immigration lawyer.

graduates celebrating
The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, which opens to applicants on May 30, will enable recent graduates from 50 of the world's top-ranked universities to come to the UK to work without first having a job offer.

Those who have obtained a bachelor's degree in the previous five years will be able to stay for two years and those with a PhD can remain for three years. After this, individuals can apply for permanent leave to remain.

A new visa scheme is set to attract overseas graduates to help fill the skill shortage gap

Migration Minister Kevin Foster said: “The new High Potential Individual route will make it as simple as possible for internationally mobile individuals who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK.

“It will enable those who have already demonstrated their potential through academic achievement to come to the UK without a prior job offer.

"“This will be a highly selective route with graduates of a limited number of universities eligible. The Home Office will update the list of eligible universities annually."

Jonathan Beech, managing director of specialist law firm Migrate UK, said the new visa could help employers suffering from acute skills shortages in fields such as IT, science and engineering.

He pointed out that the list of the 50 top universities would be assessed by the Home Office from global tables including the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings,  and the Academic Ranking of the World Universities.

50 universities will be offered the new visa scheme

This year's list, to be published at the end of the month, is likely to include the likes of MIT and Harvard University in the US, Peking University, the University of Tokyo, and the Paris Sciences et Lettres.

“From our estimate, the new HPI route could be a huge potential talent source for employers suffering from acute skilled worker shortages, even if just a small proportion of graduates choose this visa to work overseas. Nearly 5.3 million graduates worldwide were enrolled across these 50 universities from 2017-21," said Mr Beech.

“But even though this route will go live in less than a month, most employers are still unaware they could employ through it when we’ve raised it with them - and the Home Office is not promoting it. 

“Yet we know skills shortages are still growing and not just in IT, science and engineering. For example, there are a predicted 800,000 plus vacancies in healthcare alone next year – so employers with acute vacancies should try and take advantage of this new HPI scheme.

“While this category does not lead to settlement directly and an applicant will need to switch status to a category such as Skilled Worker if they wanted to stay long term in the UK, it does offer graduates and employers alike a promising new option.”

The Home Office said the cost of the new visa would be £715 and would be  subject to the annual £624 immigration health surcharge.
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Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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