HPI Visa: Your Chance to Live and Work in the UK
Whether you’ve daydreamed of life relaxing in a quaint coastal town in Wales or hurrying down the bustling streets of Londontown, you’re not alone. The United Kingdom has been a top destination for American adventurers for quite some time now. However, for many U.S. citizens, the prospect of securing a visa to live and work there has been as elusive as a Loch Ness Monster sighting.
But fear not, as a new horizon has emerged in the form of the HPI visa—a chance for some to turn those British dreams into a reality. For decades, U.S. citizens have faced a web of red tape, daunting eligibility criteria, and a sense of frustration when trying to obtain the necessary permits to settle in the UK. However, the introduction of this High Potential Individual Visa is a game changer.
To keep you calm and carrying on, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about the HPI visa—exploring what it is, how long it lasts, what costs you can expect, and more. So grab yourself a cuppa and let’s learn everything you need to know about the UK HPI visa.
What is the HPI visa?
In May 2022, the UK Home Office unveiled the HPI visa, a groundbreaking initiative aimed at drawing in highly skilled individuals from across the globe. This innovative visa opportunity grants eligible candidates the privilege to reside and work in the United Kingdom without the need for company sponsorship.
You’re probably wondering how they measure “highly skilled.” The key qualification is having graduated from one of the accredited universities listed on their eligible universities roster. We’ll explore this comprehensive list of qualifying institutions shortly, as it plays a pivotal role in determining your eligibility for the HPI Visa.
If you end up being eligible, this visa allows you to live and work within all of Great Britain—England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland included. If you have your eye set on the land of Big Ben and the Beatles, we have a complete guide to living in England as an American with more information.
How long can I live in the UK on the HPI visa?
Generally, an HPI visa allows you to live and work in the UK for a period of two years. However, if you hold a PhD or another doctoral qualification, you’re in luck—your HPI visa can be extended to a more generous three-year term.
Planning to stay in the UK for longer? Although your HPI visa currently can’t be extended beyond the initial two or three-year duration, you can consider switching to a different type of visa afterwards, such as the similar Skilled Worker visa.
So, while your HPI visa may have a fixed duration, there are clear pathways to continue your journey in the UK, whether it’s through extending your stay under a Skilled Worker visa or exploring other visa options that align with your career and personal goals.
Who is eligible for the HPI visa?
The HPI visa isn’t for everyone. To qualify, you must have earned your degree from an accredited university located outside of the UK within the past 5 years of application. The list of eligible institutions comprises universities from countries outside the UK, including many renowned ones in the United States.
It’s important to keep in mind that UK universities do not fall under the purview of this particular visa category. However, if you hold a degree from a UK institution, you can explore the Graduate Visa option.
To qualify for the HPI Visa, your educational qualifications must align with one of the following:
- A UK bachelor’s degree
- A UK postgraduate degree
- A UK PhD or doctorate
Verifying that your qualification is valid and at the appropriate level is essential. To do so, you’ll need to apply to Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC).
Additionally, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have graduated within the last 5 years.
- Demonstrate proficiency in English.
- Show that you possess sufficient personal savings to support yourself in the UK, unless you’ve been residing in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.
You cannot apply if:
- You have previously applied for an HPI Visa.
- You have already been granted a Graduate Visa.
- You have previously entered the UK as a Doctorate Extension Scheme student.
What universities qualify for the HPI visa?
The list of eligible universities undergoes an annual update and is curated by comprising the top 50 or so institutions that consistently feature on two or more of the following prestigious world rankings:
- Times Higher Education World University rankings
- Academic Ranking of World Universities
- Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University rankings
This roster isn’t confined solely to the United States, it showcases a global representation, including universities from Asia, Europe, and Australia. Among the institutions that meet these stringent criteria, here’s a glimpse of some renowned American universities that qualify:
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- University of Texas
- Columbia University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Princeton University
- New York University
- Northwestern University
- And more…
You can check the full list of Universities, both within and outside of the US, here.
How to apply for the HPI visa?
The initial step is securing confirmation of your qualifications from Ecctis. Once you’ve settled this, it’s time to gather your documents and delve into the online application process.
If you’re applying for the HPI visa from outside the UK, start putting together the follow documents:
- Valid Passport or Travel Document
- Proof of English Proficiency (this isn’t applicable to US nationals)
- Ecctis University Qualification Confirmation
- Financial Sufficiency—more on this below
For those already residing in the UK under a different visa, the prospect of switching to an HPI visa is still viable:
- If you’ve been in the UK for under one year, you’ll need to demonstrate that you possess sufficient financial resources to support yourself.
- Verify your identity either by providing your biometric information at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services service point or by utilizing the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document.
- Remain within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man until a decision on your visa application is reached.
If you switch your visa and are living in the United Kingdom with a partner or children, keep in mind that their visas won’t automatically change along with yours.
How long does it take to get the HPI visa?
After you’ve completed the online application process, undergone identity verification, and submitted the required documents, the waiting game begins. The timeframe for receiving a decision on your visa application varies depending on your current location:
- ≈ 3 weeks if you’re applying from outside the UK
- ≈ 8 weeks if you’re already within the UK
These timelines are approximate and can vary based on several factors, including the volume of applications being processed at any given time and if there are any issues with your documents.
How much does it cost to apply for the HPI visa?
When setting your sights on securing a High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, it’s crucial to be well-prepared, not just in terms of meeting the visa criteria but also when it comes to managing the financial aspects of the application process. Here’s a concise breakdown of the main costs to consider:
- £210 Ecctis Qualification Validation
- £715 Application Fee
- £624/year Healthcare Surcharge
- £1,270 Financial Support Requirement
If you secure a job in the public sector healthcare system after paying the healthcare surcharge, you may be eligible for a refund. This serves as a valuable incentive for those planning to contribute to the UK’s healthcare sector.
Eligible? Start your HPI visa application today!
In the past, British work visas were very hard to come by as they required finding a UK based company to sponsor you. Additionally, many of these opportunities were limited to specific sectors or roles. With this relatively new HPI Visa UK, you can look for work in a wide variety of roles and even go if you plan on being self-employed. Best part—you can pack your spouse and children in your suitcase with you!
Find the entire eligible university list, extended info on bringing your partner and children, and the actual link to submit your application on this HPI visa page by the UK government. Once you’ve been accepted, it’s time to swap “eggplant” for “aubergine” and trade your coffee for a spot of tea.
Looking to learn more about moving to Europe in general? Check out my book I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. Not only does it include these 4 countries and all their viable visa options but I include 13 other countries with over 50 visa options to choose from.
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