The UK working holiday visa, also known as the Youth Mobility Scheme, allows people from overseas between the ages of 18 and 30 to come to Britain to work and travel for a period of up to two years.
In this guide for applicants, we explain what the UK working visa allows, the eligibility criteria and how to make your visa application to the Home Office. We also consider the temporary work visas that may open to you if you’re not eligible under the Youth Mobility scheme.
What does the UK working holiday visa allow?
Under the Youth Mobility Scheme, you can:
- Work, with only limited restrictions on the type of work you can do.
- Set up a company providing the business premises are rented, and any equipment is not worth more than £5,000. You must also not have any employees.
- Be self-employed, provided you do not employ anyone, that any premises are rented and that any equipment you use in your business is worth less than £5000.
- Study – although for some courses you will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme Certificate (ATAS). If you are applying to study an undergraduate course with an integrated masters degree, you may also be required to obtain ATAS clearance. An ATAS certificate must be obtained before applying for permission to enter the UK, and you can apply up to nine months before the start date of the course. Once obtained, it is valid for six months.
- Work as a professional sportsperson
- Extend your stay
- Receive public funds
- Bring in any family members – they must apply separately
How long does the Youth Mobility visa last?
You can stay in the UK and work for up to two years (or 24 months). The visa allows you to enter and leave the UK as much as you like over the duration of the visa. If you turn 31 whilst you are in the UK, you are allowed to remain as long as your visa is valid.
You can only get the Youth Mobility Scheme visa once in your lifetime. Once you have applied for and travelled to the UK on the Youth Mobility Scheme visa, you can never apply for it again.
Youth Mobility Scheme visa requirements
You can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa if you:
- Are between the ages of 18 and 30
- Want to live and work in the UK for up to two years (24 months)
- Have £2,530 in savings in your bank account and can provide evidence when you apply for a working holiday visa.
- Are a national of one of the eligible countries (see below)
Youth Mobility visa eligible countries
You can apply if you’re a citizen of:
- New Zealand
- San Marino
You can also apply if you are a:
- British overseas citizen
- British overseas territories citizen
- British national (overseas)
Nationals from the following countries have to be selected in the Youth Mobility scheme ballot before applying for the visa:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
When can you apply?
The earliest you can apply for a Mobility Scheme visa is three months before travelling to the UK. For example, if you plan to travel on 15th September, your application should be made on or around 16th June. The decision-making process takes approximately three weeks for applications made from outside the UK.
You have to be aged 18-30 when you make your application.
How much does a Youth Mobility Scheme visa cost?
A Youth Mobility Scheme visa currently costs £259 to apply.
In addition to the application fee, you may also have to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge as part of the application process. You must complete the healthcare surcharge payment and return to the online immigration application in less than thirty minutes. If you are making a postal application, you are required to pay the healthcare surcharge before you complete your application.
The healthcare surcharge is set at £470 per year for Youth Mobility applicants, and you must pay for the duration of the visa, so the actual healthcare surcharge you would be required to pay is £940 for a two year visa.
If you do not pay the healthcare surcharge or pay an incorrect amount, you will receive an email from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) asking for payment. Once you receive the email, you must pay the surcharge within ten working days if you are already inside the UK, or seven working days if you are applying from outside the UK.
Your visa application will be rejected if you do not pay the full amount in the time requested.
How to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa
You apply for this visa online. If you are applying from outside the UK, you will need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre to get a biometric residence permit. You are required to collect your biometric residence permit within ten days of your stated date of entry to the UK (even if your entry is delayed). When you are issued with a decision letter, it will tell you where to collect your residence permit.
You must also supply the following supporting documentation with your application:
- A valid passport or other identity document detailing your nationality – you will need a blank page in your passport for your visa
- A bank statement you have at least £2,530 in savings for at least 28 consecutive days prior to your application
- Your tuberculosis test results if you come from a country where you have to take a test
- A certified translation of any document not in English or Welsh
Most applications are rejected because of insufficient documentation being provided to UKVI and applicants being unable to prove they have the necessary maintenance funds via bank account documentation.
Alternatives to the Youth Mobility Scheme
Other options for a working holiday visa in the UK could be one of the seasonal worker or temporary worker visas.
Seasonal Worker visa
The Seasonal Worker visa is currently open to:
- Work in “edible horticulture” for up to six months. This includes picking fruit and vegetables.
- Work in poultry production to work in the UK between 18 October – 31 December each year.
This visa is subject to change in line with UK labour market shortages; it had, for example, previously allowed for HGV drivers to come to the UK temporarily.
Applications cost £259 and should be made online via the .gov website.
Temporary Worker visa
The Temporary Worker visa allows workers to enter the UK to perform certain jobs for limited periods:
- Creative Workers
- Charity Workers
- Government Authorised Exchange Workers
- International Agreement Workers
- Religious Workers
The main requirements are:
- A sponsor must have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship
- The role meets the requirements for sponsorship
- The job will pay the National Minimum Wage
- You have sufficient funds available to maintain yourself for the duration of your stay (if maintenance is not certified by your sponsor)
- You must have a tuberculosis certificate if you come from a country that requires a test to be taken
- You are not ineligible under the general grounds for refusal
The earliest you can apply for a temporary workers visa is three months before the date you are due to start work.
Your sponsor must give you a certificate of sponsorship. This is not an actual certificate but a reference number that must be added to your application form for a Temporary Worker visa.
You will need to provide:
- A valid passport or other travel identification. You will need a blank page in your passport for the visa
- A bank statement showing you have at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before travelling to the UK (day 28 must be within 31 days of the visa application) unless you are exempt
- Test results from a tuberculosis test if you are from a country that requires the test to be taken
- A suitably qualified professional must translate any document not in English or Welsh and mark it as a certified translation
- Your certificate sponsorship reference number from your sponsor (your certificate is valid for three months from the date it is given to you)
What you can and cannot do under a Temporary Seasonal Worker visa
- Work in the job described in the certificate of sponsorship
- Study – however, for some courses you will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate
- Accept permanent employment
- Work in a second job or a job that is not described in your certificate of sponsorship
- Receive public funds
- Bring any family members with you
How to apply for a Temporary Seasonal Worker visa
You must apply online for a Temporary Worker visa. You will need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre, which will allow you to get a biometric residence permit.
You will have to collect the biometric residence permit within ten days of the date given as your stated date of arrival (even if you arrive at a later date).
If you have a child during your stay in the UK, they do not automatically obtain British Citizenship. You can apply online for a visa for your dependent, which you will have to do if you want to travel in and out of the UK with your child. You will need to provide a full UK birth certificate for each child born, showing both parents’ names when you apply for the visa.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. If you have a question about eligibility or making a UK visa application, speak to our experts.
Working holiday visa FAQs
How much is a working holiday visa for UK?
A working holiday visa is now called the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) and costs £244 to apply. You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. This is currently set at £470 per year, meaning you would need to pay £940 in total for the duration of the two-year visa. You should also remember you will be required to prove you have at least £2,530 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before the date upon which you intend to travel.
Does the UK have a working holiday visa?
The working holiday visa has been rebranded as the Youth Mobility Scheme visa. It allows unlimited entry and exit into and out of the UK for the duration of the visa and allows the visa holder to work and study. To be eligible, you must be between the ages of 18 and 30. If during the life of the visa you turn 31 whilst in the UK, you can stay until the visa expires.
How long does a UK working holiday visa last?
A working holiday visa lasts for up to two-years (24 months), after which time you must either leave the UK or apply under a different immigration route as there is no right of extension. Once the visa has been granted, you can enter the UK at any time, but you cannot apply for the visa more than three months before you intend to travel.
How can I apply for a Temporary Worker - Seasonal Worker Visa?
You must apply to a licenced provider for a Certificate of Sponsorship, which you can then use to apply for a Temporary Worker visa.
Can you get a Youth Mobility Scheme visa more than once?
You can only get the Youth Mobility Scheme visa once in your lifetime. Once you have applied for and travelled to the UK on the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa, you can never apply for it again.
Last updated: 3 October 2022