IT jobs: the UK relies on its HPI visa

    The HPI visa is the UK's new post-Brexit wild card to attract international talent from software development to cybersecurity.

    Countries and companies are vying to attract the most in-demand technology profiles in the market. In this context, the UK launched its HPI (High Potential Individual) visa on May 30, the British equivalent of the American H1B visa reserved for highly skilled professionals.

    "In engineering and cybersecurity or advanced health research, the UK will be able to welcome talented individuals to drive economic growth as well as technological and medical advances," the UK government said in a statement.  "The competition to attract the best international talent is fierce. Receiving profiles from international universities will complement the pool of particularly bright graduates from British universities," the Home Office added.

    Who can benefit from an HPI visa?

    Profiles from 50 of the world's most prestigious universities and colleges are eligible. Harvard and MIT in the United States, Kyoto University in Japan and PSL University (Paris Sciences et Lettres), the only one classified for France, are among the institutions concerned.

    To obtain the visa, security checks are always required, as well as an English language test. The visa costs £715 (about €837) plus significant additional costs (health, maintenance funds, etc.). Successful candidates will receive a 2-year work visa (3 years for those with a PhD) and will be allowed to pursue other avenues to long-term employment, with family if appropriate.

    Attracting international talent

    Effective January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union ("Brexit") has made it difficult to recruit foreign-born, based and trained professionals. The Home Office therefore wanted to simplify and speed up the visa process for "high potential" profiles. There is no cap on the number of visas issued, but they are still "highly selective".

    As noted by the Financial Times, the initiative is reminiscent of the Highly Skilled Migrant Program that ran from 2002 to 2008. However, unlike the previous program, the new HPI visa allows its beneficiaries to come to the UK without a referral or a promise of employment from a UK-based company.

    There is no longer any question, at least officially, of proving a certain salary level or demonstrating that the position sought cannot be filled by a British worker.

    Other countries are seeking to match the supply of available technological skills with the strong demand from companies and public administrations. France is promoting the creation of a one-stop shop for information, "European Tech Talent," which will make Europe more attractive to qualified international profiles.