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Youth Mobility visa: what is it and how does it work?
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A Youth Mobility visa enables people aged 18-30 to live and work in the UK, usually for up to two years. It used to be called the “working holiday-maker scheme” and some people may still call it that. Crucially, there is no requirement to have an employer to sponsor a Youth Mobility visa or even for the applicant to necessarily intend to work in the UK, which makes it much more flexible than other work visa 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 were added to the scheme for the first time in 2022 and have been able to submit applications from early 2023, are more restrictive than for other nationalities.
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 2023, the countries and quotas are:
- Australia – 35,000 places
- New Zealand – 13,000 places
- Canada – 8,000 places
- India – 3,000 places
- Japan – 1,500 places
- Monaco – 1,000 places
- Taiwan – 1,000 places
- Hong Kong – 1,000 places
- Republic of 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 then 30,000 quota. Now the quota has been raised, but in 2022, according to Home Office statistics only 7,708 applications were made. Quota’s are often devised subsequent to updated trade deals.
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 is also a new lottery for Indian citizens.
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. If an individual turns 31 after the visa is issued, they will remain eligible to remain in the UK for as long as their visa is valid.
The exception to this rule is for applicants from New Zealand. Since the statement of changes to the immigration rules in April 2023, these individuals can apply up to the age of 35, instead. This change will come into force on 1 July 2023.
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.
Special rules for Indian citizens
Indian citizens supposedly qualified for the Youth Mobility Scheme for the first time in 2022 but the much anticipated Indian Young Professionals Scheme ballot opened for the first time on 28 February 2023. A total of 2,400 visas were available in this first ballot, with the next expected to open in late July. You can find up to date information on the ballot and apply here.
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 individuals will need to 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.
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.
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.
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 a Skilled Worker visa.
However, there is an exception of New Zealand nationals who, from 1 July 2023 will be able to get 2 years entry clearance and then apply to extend their visa for a further year, up to a total of 3 years continuous residence in the UK under the Youth Mobility Scheme. The cap on the number of applications (listed above) does not apply to those New Zealand nationals applying for in country visa extensions.
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 £259 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 £1,199.
Applications are made online. Unsurprisingly, the success rate is very high. In 2019 around 20,000 Youth Mobility applications were granted, and 300 refused. And post-pandemic, in 2022, around 17,000 applications were granted, and 100 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.