The government has now launched its new post-Brexit High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, a scheme designed to attract top graduate students from the best universities around the world.
But the new visa has been criticised, as it limits applications to a heavily Western-biased list of countries – with no option for the brightest students from India, Africa, South America or the Middle East to apply at all.
Legal expert Yash Dubal, Managing Director of A J & Y Solicitors, says: ‘The catchment area to apply for the government’s new graduate visa scheme is so limited that it will mean only a trickle of candidates will apply, and this could mean it will be doomed to failure. The new visa has been created with an inherent western elitism baked into it, and it discounts half of the globe. 37 universities are on the approved list, with 24 of them based in the US, Canada or Australia, and most of the rest European.
‘While there are a few universities from China, Japan and Singapore on the list, there none at all from the Middle East, India, Africa or South America – and that’s incredibly short sighted by the British government.’
It’s not just the limited amount of countries that the visa will allow applicants from that’s the issue – Mr Dubal also comments that it’s the short length of time that the visa allows candidates to stay that will be off-putting.
‘The new visa is only temporary, and this will also be a drawback for graduates,” says Mr Dubal. “While applicants will be able to work, study or become self-employed in the UK when they’re granted the visa, and can bring with them partners and children under 18, this will only be for up to three years, depending on their qualification. Once the visa expires, applicants will have to switch to another visa route – or leave the country.
‘The UK government needs to have a think about whether this will potentially stop people applying, when there are more favourable visa conditions in other nations. For example, in the US, a group of former Homeland Security and Defence officials is lobbying Congress to allow migrants with STEM degrees an exemption from visa restrictions – so that the US maintains an edge over China in attracting the brightest and best graduates.’
In 2021, the UK government launched another ‘elite’ visa route, the Global Talent visa, which aimed to attract winners of top international awards in science, arts, film and theatre, such as the Nobel Prize and the Turing Award. However, six months after it launched, in November 2021, the government was forced to admit that there had been a huge lack of interest in the visa, and there hadn’t been a single applicant from science, engineering, humanities or medicine.
‘By limiting the time visa holders can stay in the UK, the government has shown an inability to understand the mindset of a migrant and a lack of awareness of the migrant experience,” said Mr Dubal. ‘Migration is not easy. It is also costly. Migrants uproot themselves from their homes and their communities. Migration isn’t something people choose to do frequently. It is usually a one-way trip. Migrants want security, not uncertainty. On the one hand the government is saying “we want you” but on the other it is saying “just not for long”.’