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UK Visa for Top Graduates from the US

The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa is a new UK visa for graduates of top non-UK universities that are recognised by the UK Home Office. As there are many eligible US universities in the list, the Hight Potential Individual visa is a good option for top graduates of those universities to consider if they want to come to work in the UK.

The UK HPI visa offers some real benefits to top graduates when compared to other work visas. Firstly, the HPI visa do not require a job offer before applying. In addition, once in the UK, HPI visa holders are free to work for most employers.

It is important to note that the HPI visa is not available to US nationals who graduate from a UK university. If you are a US citizen who graduated from a UK university, you may want to consider UK Graduate Visa (also referred to as a post-study work visa) or Skilled Worker visa.

UK HPI visa requirements for US top graduates

The High Potential Individual visa gives graduates from certain top-ranked US universities permission to stay in the UK for 2 or 3 years (3 years for PhD and those with a post-doctoral qualification).

To qualify for an HPI visa, applicants must meet below requirements:

  • Have graduated in the last 5 years from a top-ranked university (please see the list of the HPI visa qualifying US universities below).
  • Have gained a qualification that is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, UK postgraduate degree, or a UK PhD or doctorate – you will need to submit an application to Ecctis, who will review and confirm that your qualification meets the equivalence criteria.
  • Have enough personal savings to support yourself in the UK (typically at least £1,270 held for a minimum of 28 days unless you have already been in the UK for 12 months or more).
  • English language requirement - as a national of the United States and someone who studied a degree or higher taught in English, you will automatically meet the HPI visa English language requirement.

Note: The HPI visa cannot be further extended and does not qualify for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). However, it is possible to switch to a different visa while in the UK, which will allow you to do so (e.g. to a work visa or business visa).

As an HPI visa holder, you will be able to work for most employers and in most positions, seek employment, work in self-employment, bring your partner and children, and travel freely from and to the UK.

List of US universities qualifying for UK HPI visa

The Home Office’s official list of universities whose graduates qualify for the HPI visa is based on a ranking of the world’s top universities. As the rankings change each year, so does the Home Office’s list. As you might expect, a high proportion of US universities are represented on the HPI university list. For the year 2022-23, there are 21 US universities that qualify for the UK HPI visa; these are:

  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University

It is important to note that the above list of eligible US universities only relates to qualifications awarded between 1st November 2022 and 31st October 2023. As explained above, in order to make a successful application for an HPI visa, US graduates must have graduated in the last 5 years. This means that if you graduated before 1st November 2022, you will need to check the relevant list1 for the year you completed your studies to see if the university you attended is included.

Other UK visas for top graduates from US

The HPI visa is by no means the only UK visa option available to graduates from the United States. Some of the most popular visas for US graduates include the:

  • Skilled worker visa the Skilled Worker visa enables US graduates who have secured a job offer from a UK employer with a sponsor licence to work here for up to 5 years. After 5 years, it is then possible to renew a Skilled Worker visa or apply to settle permanently (indefinite leave to remain).
  • UK Start-up visa – the Start-up visa allows overseas business people to establish a new innovative and viable business in the UK. Business ideas must be endorsed by a suitable endorsing body in the UK. Start-up visa holders can stay in the UK for 2 years and then switch to an Innovator visa which will allow them to stay longer or even permanently.
  • Global Talent visa – The Global Talent visa is for those who are endorsed as a leader or potential leader in the field of academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. Global talent visa holders can stay for up to 5 years and can then either apply to renew or settle. In some cases, it is possible to apply for settlement (ILR) after just 3 years with this type of visa.

For a full list of all of the UK work visas available to US graduates, please see our UK work visas and permit page.


1 GOV.UK: Eligibility for HPI visa

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