Graduates from the world’s most highly ranked universities can now move to the UK under a new visa scheme aimed at attracting the ‘brightest and best international talent’.

The high potential individual visa was launched on 30 May, and allows graduates from eligible universities to live and work in the UK for two years without requiring an employer’s sponsorship. Applicants with a PhD or equivalent qualification can stay for up to three years.

Applicants must have graduated in the last five years from non-UK universities ranked among the top global institutions in the year that they finished their studies. Eligible universities must have appeared in the top 50 of at least two of the following three lists: the Times Higher Education World University Rankings; Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings; The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

When announcing the scheme, the UK home secretary Priti Patel said: ‘I am proud to be launching this new and exciting route as part of our points-based immigration system which puts ability and talent first – not where someone comes from.’

However, critics of the scheme have noted that of the 37 institutions deemed eligible under the most recent rankings, none are located in Africa, South Asia, Central or South America.