In an attempt to boost its ability to recruit talented, high-skills workers, Britain has announced that recent graduates from dozens of the world’s best universities will be able to apply for a visa to live and work in the United Kingdom for as long as three years even if they don’t have a job lined up first.
This latest revision of the UK immigration system targets what’s being called “High Potential Individual (HPI) visas,” which provide individuals preferential treatment if they have earned a degree from one of the highly ranked universities within the past five years.
The new visas reflect Britain’s adoption of a “points-based immigration system,” which gives internationals various routes to earn enough points based on their skills, occupations, and education to be eligible for a visa.
To be eligible for HPI visas, graduates must have been awarded their degrees from an eligible university, which is being defined as an institution that has appeared on two of these three global ranking systems: The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and/or The Academy of Ranking World Universities.
Of the 37 eligible universities included on the most recent list, 20 are in the United States. They are: the California Institute of Technology; Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, Yale University, three campuses of the University of California (at Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego), University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas at Austin and University of Washington.
In addition to the U.S. universities, most of the rest are located in Europe, Canada or Asia, and include such institutions as Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), Karolinska Institute (Sweden), Kyoto University (Japan), McGill University (Canada), Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore (Singapore), Peking University and Tsinghua University (China).
That relatively narrow roster of universities meeting the threshold has already drawn criticism. Inside Higher Education quoted Phil Baty, Times Higher Education’s chief knowledge officer, as saying it was a “big problem” that none of the selected universities were from Africa, Latin America or South Asia. Added to that objection is the concern that by restricting the offer to only highly ranked universities, the policy gives a priority to research institutions rather than those with a demonstrably effective teaching record.
Under the new scheme, graduates with a bachelors or masters degree will be eligible for a two-year visa, while those with a PhD will be allowed to stay for three years. Although the visas cannot be extended, participants can apply for a different type of visa after the HPI visa expires if they meet the requirements.
Recipients, who are required to prove proficiency in English, will also be permitted to bring their families with them. In addition, they will need to pay the costs of having their application verified, a visa application charge of £715, and a healthcare surcharge, which is usually £624 for each year in the UK. Applicants must also show that they have enough funds – typically at least £1,270 – to support themselves when they arrive in the UK.