Graduates from the top 50 overseas universities can apply to come to Britain through a new visa scheme.
Ministers hopes the “high potential individual” route, being launched today, will attract the “brightest and best” at the beginning of their careers.
Successful applicants with a bachelor’s or master’s will be given a two-year work visa, while PhD holders can apply for a three-year visa. Government guidance says beneficiaries can then switch to other long-term employment visas, if they are eligible.
The route is open to graduates who hold a degree awarded no more than five years before the date of application.
The Press Association news agency asked the Home Office to clarify how many people would be granted the visas each year but was told the information might be made available next week.
Eligible universities must appear in the top 50 rankings of at least two of either: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings or The Academic Ranking of World Universities. The most recent list of eligible universities from 2021, comprises 20 American institutions, plus universities from Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, France, Sweden and Switzerland.
The government also stipulates that candidates must pass a security and criminality check, and be able to speak, read, listen and write English to at least the B1 intermediate level.
The visa, costing £715, will allow eligible individuals to come to the UK without a prior job offer, and dependants will be allowed to accompany them.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, said she was proud to be launching an “exciting route as part of our points-based immigration system which puts ability and talent first”.
Responding to news Caroline Lucas MP, member of the UK Trade and Business Commission said: “Giving preferential treatment to someone who scraped through Harvard, over someone at the top of their class from another institution or someone without a degree who can help address Britain’s acute labour shortages, betrays both astounding snobbery and a failure to understand the serious workforce challenges facing the UK.
“The government must detail exactly what evidence they have used to inform this policy, or many will conclude it’s one rooted in classism aimed at giving the illusion of success rather than having a meaningful impact on our ailing economy.”