Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Immigration Corner | What is an HPI visa?

Published:Tuesday | September 26, 2023 | 12:06 AM
John S. Bassie
John S. Bassie

Dear Mr Bassie,

Please tell me under what circumstances someone can apply for a High Potential Individual visa.

Thanks in advance.


Dear DD,

For persons to apply for a High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, they must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible university in the last five years.

An HPI visa usually lasts for two years. If they have a PhD or other doctoral qualification, it will last for three years. Persons cannot extend the HPI visa. However, they may be able to switch to a different visa, for example, a Skilled Worker visa. Persons should check if they can apply for another type of visa to stay in the United Kingdom (UK).

Applicants must apply online and how they apply depends on whether they are outside the UK and are going to the UK or inside the UK and switching from a different visa. Please note that a partner and children can apply to join the applicant or stay in the UK as ‘dependents’, if they are eligible.


As part of the application, they will need to prove their identity and provide documents. Persons may need to allow for extra time if an appointment is needed to do this. They will find out if they need one when the application process is started.


Once applied for online, the identity is proven and documents provided, persons will usually get a decision on their visa within three weeks, if outside the UK, and eight weeks, if they are inside the UK.


With an HPI visa, they can:

• Work in most jobs

• Look for work

• Be self-employed

• Live in the UK with their partner and children, if they are eligible

• Do voluntary work

• Travel abroad and return to the UK.

Persons cannot:

• Apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension

• Work as a professional sportsperson

• Extend this visa

• Apply to settle permanently in the UK

If the application is successful, they will get a full list of what they can and cannot do with an HPI visa.


Persons can only study with an HPI visa if their chosen course is not eligible for a student visa. If the course is eligible for a student visa, they can apply for a student visa instead or extend the student visa, if they already have one.

Please note that persons may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if they are studying or researching sensitive topics.


To be eligible for an HPI visa, persons must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible university. The list of eligible universities is based on rankings of universities from around the world.

Please note that UK universities are not eligible. If already in the UK on a student visa, applicants may be able to apply for a graduate visa.

The qualification must be at the same level as:

• a UK bachelor’s degree

• a UK postgraduate degree

• a UK PhD or doctorate

Persons must apply to Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) to check if their qualification is valid and at the right level. However, Ecctis will not check if the university is eligible. Those persons must have been awarded their qualification in the last five years.


To apply for an HPI visa, persons must also prove their knowledge of English. They also need to prove that they have enough personal savings to support themselves in the UK, unless they have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.

Those persons will not need to have a job offer to apply. They can apply for an HPI visa from inside the UK or outside the UK. Also, they can only apply for an HPI visa once.

Please be aware that persons cannot apply for an HPI visa if they have already been given a Graduate visa, or if they have already gone to the UK as a Doctorate Extension Scheme student.


The applicant, partner or children will each need to pay the application fee; pay the healthcare surcharge for each year of their stay and, as stated before, prove they have enough personal savings. It is advisable that they check how much money will be needed before applying.

All the best!

John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-Law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator, the global president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: lawbassie@yahoo.com