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The UK Youth Mobility visa
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The UK Youth Mobility visa

The Youth Mobility Scheme is one of the friendlier parts of the Immigration Rules. The route is designed to enable people aged 18-30 to live and work in the UK and is relatively straightforward to apply for, at least compared with other options for economic migration. Crucially, there is no requirement to have an employer to sponsor the visa or even for the applicant to necessarily intend to work in the UK, which makes it much more flexible than other routes.

The big drawback to the Youth Mobility visa is that it is only available to citizens of a select list of 11 countries (plus British overseas territories). The other requirements for this visa are in Appendix Youth Mobility Scheme to the Immigration Rules and there is also some guidance on the scheme for Home Office staff. 

The rules for Indian citizens, who are being added to the scheme for the first time in 2022, will be more restrictive than for other nationalities.

Main requirements

1. Nationality

Appendix Youth Mobility Scheme says:

The applicant must be one of the following:

(a) a British Overseas Citizen, British Overseas Territories Citizen or British National (Overseas); or

(b) a national or citizen of a country or the holder of a passport issued by a territory, listed in Annex Youth Mobility Scheme: eligible nationals.

Only 16 people with one of the rare forms of British nationality listed at (a) have been issued with a Youth Mobility visa in the past decade. Most of the take-up is from citizens of the 11 countries listed in Appendix Youth Mobility Scheme: eligible nationals. Each of these countries has an annual quota of Youth Mobility visas that can be granted to its citizens.

In 2022, the countries and quotas are:

  • Australia – 30,000 places
  • New Zealand – 13,000 places
  • Canada – 6,000 places
  • India – 3,000 places
  • Japan – 1,500 places
  • Monaco – 1,000 places
  • Taiwan – 1,000 places
  • Hong Kong – 1,000 places
  • South Korea – 1,000 places
  • San Marino – 1,000 places 
  • Iceland – 1,000 places

The effect of the cap on potential applicants varies depending on the applicant’s country of nationality. Australia, New Zealand and Canada have large allocations which are never filled. For example, even pre-pandemic around 9,000 – 10,000 Youth Mobility visas were issued to Australians every year, well below the 30,000 quota. 

By contrast, the Home Office operates a lottery for applicants from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. Applicants register their interest by email and the Home Office distributes “invitations to apply” at random.

There will also be a lottery for Indian citizens, not yet open at time of writing.

2. Age

Applicants must be over 18 and under the age of 31. Applicants who are 17 can apply but only get entry clearance from their 18th birthday.

3. Maintenance

Applicants must demonstrate that they have savings of £2,530. This is calculated using the exchange rate on the date the application was submitted. The detailed rules on maintenance for this route are in Appendix Finance, which says:

Funds may be held in any form of personal bank or building society account (including current, deposit, savings, pension from which the funds can be withdrawn or investment account) provided the account allows the funds to be accessed immediately.

The applicant must have had the funds in such an account for at least 28 days leading up to their application.

4. Special rules for Indian citizens

Indian citizens qualify for the Youth Mobility Scheme for the first time in 2022. At time of writing, applications have not yet opened but an announcement is expected shortly.

Indians applying for what is being branded the “Young Professionals Scheme” will need to have some qualifications or skills not required for citizens of the ten other Youth Mobility countries. They must satisfy either paragraph YMS 4.5B or YMS 4.5C of the Appendix:

YMS 4.5B. This additional requirement is met where the applicant:

(a) holds a qualification equal to or above RQF level 6; and

(b) provides evidence of that qualification in the form of written confirmation from the issuing institution that they successfully completed their studies and graduated with the required qualification

RQF level 6 means an undergraduate degree. Alternatively:

YMS 4.5C. This additional requirement is met where the applicant:

(a) has a minimum of three years’ work experience in a professional role equivalent to an eligible occupation listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations; and

(b) provides evidence of that work experience in the form of either:
(i) formal payslips from the applicant’s employer showing the applicant’s job title and employer’s name; or
(ii) payslips accompanied by a letter from the applicant’s employer, on the employer’s headed paper and signed by a senior official, confirming the payslips are authentic.

So evidence of three years’ work experience in a job listed in table 1 or table 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations. Work experience in a job listed in table 5 of that Appendix is “not eligible” and so does not count for Youth Mobility / Young Professionals purposes.

Refusals

The general grounds for refusal apply. In addition, there are several special reasons for refusing a Youth Mobility application.

First, you cannot get a Youth Mobility visa twice. If you apply a second time then you will be refused even if you still meet the other requirements. Importantly, though, this only applies if you actually spent time in the UK on the visa, so if someone applies for and gets a Youth Mobility visa but decides not to use it, then they could still get another one the following year if they wished.

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Second, applicants must not have children under the age of 18 who live with them or are financially dependent on them. Children born to Youth Mobility visa holders during their stay in the UK can however be added to the visa as a dependant.

Finally, the Immigration Rules only allow for entry clearance and do not provide for permission to stay (formerly called “leave to remain”). Therefore it is not possible to switch onto a Youth Mobility visa if you are already in the UK.

Conditions

Successful applicants get two years’ entry clearance. There is no possibility of renewing the visa and no possibility of applying for indefinite leave to remain. People may however be able to extend their stay in the UK by switching to another visa, such as Skilled Worker

As with almost all other routes, entry clearance will be granted subject to a no recourse to public funds condition.

There are very few limits on what a successful applicant can do with their two years in the UK and no requirement to do anything at all.

A couple of select forms of work are prohibited. Youth Mobility visa holders cannot work as a professional sportsperson/coach. There are also some slightly bizarre constraints on self-employment:

(b) no self-employment, except where the following conditions are met:

(i) the person has no premises which they own, other than their home, from which they carry out their business; and

(ii) the total value of any equipment used in the business does not exceed £5,000; and

(iii) the person has no employees

Youth Mobility visa holders can also use their two years to study in the UK (except for courses which require an Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate).

Making an application

The requirements for a Youth Mobility visa are much easier to fulfil than almost any other UK immigration route. It is also cheaper than most, with a £244 application fee and a reduced rate of the Immigration Health Surcharge (£470 per year rather than £624). That makes the total cost of the two-year visa around £1,200.

Applications are made online. Unsurprisingly, the success rate is very high. In 2019 around 20,000 Youth Mobility applications were granted, and 300 refused.

This article was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated so that it is correct as of the new date of publication shown.

Alex is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers