Round-up of the latest developments in business immigration throughout May 2022

The Home Office has been working hard despite the challenges and pressures they are currently facing with the unprecedented war in Ukraine. This month sees the launch of a new route, namely the High Potential Individual visa, which we have considered in detail in this article. We have also chosen to cover the additional routes and resources which have been released for Ukrainian nationals in May 2022 and the impact this is having on visa processing times for applications made outside of the UK.

Launch of the High Potential Individual visa from 30 May 2022

The High Potential Individual visa (HPI) route opened at 9am on 30 May 2022. This new visa route is designed to attract the most highly skilled individuals in the early stages of their career to come to the UK. Our first impression is that this new HPI route shares a close synergy to the Graduate route and is driving forward migration for growth and skills in the UK. By way of reminder, the Graduate route opened in July 2021 and grants recent UK university graduates permission to stay in the UK for at least two years.

This new HPI route has some real positive features such as the applicants do not require a sponsor or even a job offer, to apply. This means that they could look for a job once they arrive in the UK, without any minimum limits on the job's skill level or salary. Applicants will be eligible if they have been awarded a qualification at the same level as a UK bachelor's degree, postgraduate degree or phD doctorate from a top non-UK University on the Global Universities List, recently published by UKVI, in the 5 years immediately before their application.

The UKVI have recently published the Global Universities List for qualifications awarded between 1 November 2021 and 31 October 2022, along with the lists for the previous relevant academic years. The link to the latest lists can be found here:

The number of recognised universities will vary from year to year, with 37 universities on the 2021 list. Within these 37 universities, 20 are from the USA, 5 are from European countries, 3 from Canada, 1 from Australia and 2 from each of Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and Japan. It is notable that the Global Universities List includes no universities from Africa, Latin America or Southern Asia. Whilst the UKVI has used two out of three global universities rankings systems to compile their list, this does raise the question of whether those sources were fit for purpose when, the development of those lists were based on the universities research and resources. To suggest this list is the "brightest and best" globally appears to be very misleading.

If a job applicant is eligible to apply under the HPI visa, they must have their graduate or PhD qualification verified by Ecctis, plus meet the English language and financial/maintenance requirements. These latter requirements are the same as the Skilled Worker conditions i.e. English language to at least Level B1 and maintenance funds of at least £1,270, held for 28 days prior to the application date. Applicants will incur the Immigration Health Surcharge and must pay the £715 visa application fee. If their application is successful, applicants will be granted temporary permission to work in the UK for a period of two years (or three years for those with a PhD). Applicants will have the ability to switch into other long-term employment visas, if they meet the eligibility requirements. This is not a route to settlement. However, as the employer doesn't need to sponsor the individual, there will be no associated costs to them for a Certificate of Sponsorship or the Immigration Skills Charge.

Although the Global Universities List is relatively narrow, it is certainly a visa route that will benefit employers looking to recruit talent within the early stages of their career and our view is that the uptake will be well received.  

Additional Ukraine visa routes launched

The Home Office are continuing to support Ukrainian nationals and their family members. On 3 May 2022, the Ukrainian Extension Scheme was launched, allowing Ukrainian nationals currently in the UK to apply to extend their visa or switch to another immigration route, even if their visa would not normally allow them to do so. It is free to apply and will allow applicants to live, work and study in the UK for up to 3 years. However, this route does not currently lead to settlement – meaning any time spent in the UK under this visa cannot be used as part of an application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK in the future. Applicants should therefore carefully consider whether it is the best option for them. Further details of this Extension Scheme can be found here:

In addition, on 11 May 2022, the Home Office launched the Immigration ID check app for the verification stage of the Ukraine Family Scheme or Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) visa applications. This technology allows holders of valid Ukrainian international passports to use the Immigration ID check app to verify their identity through a compatible mobile phone. The ability to use the Immigration Check app provides eligible Ukraine nationals a fully digital service, with successful applications receiving a digital status for 36 months. This provides a far more straightforward visa process for Ukrainian nationals without needing to provide their biometrics at a visa application centre or collect a biometric residence permit upon arrival in the UK. Further details of the Immigration Check app for Ukrainian nationals can be found here:

Increasing delays to visa processing times

As previously reported, the UKVI have temporarily suspended priority decision services for all visa applications submitted from overseas, while they prioritise applications made under the Ukrainian visa schemes. We are aware that work and student visas may take longer than the normal three weeks to process, in some instances this can be up to six weeks. We understand that each visa application centre is providing updates on their own timescales which may vary from region to region. We recommend that when applicants attend their visa application centre to provide their biometrics, they ask the current processing times, based on that location. For applicants using the Immigration ID Check app, the normal three-week processing time is mainly being adhered too. In addition, sponsors should be proactive as soon as the recruitment process is concluded and start visa applications as early as possible, to avoid delays to start dates.

If you have any questions on any of the above developments or have general business immigration queries, please do get in contact with Gemma Robinson or Laura Coombs.

Key contacts