The UK’s youth mobility visa scheme allows eligible workers under the age of 30 to experience life in the UK for up to two years, while for nationals of New Zealand, the scheme has been extended to those aged 18 to 35 to work in the UK for up to three years.
Compared with other UK work visas, the scheme offers a more flexible and accessible immigration route for younger workers, as it does not require the applicant to be sponsored, or to have a job, or to meet skills or salary thresholds.
In this guide to the UK’s youth mobility visa, we outline the requirements needed to apply for the scheme, and what visa holders can do in the UK once entry clearance has been granted. We also look at how to apply, what documents are needed, how much it costs, how long it lasts, whether this visa can be extended and the rules for switching to another route.
What is the UK’s youth mobility visa scheme?
The UK youth mobility visa scheme is a cultural exchange programme aimed at workers of certain nationalities aged between 18 – 30 to come to the UK to live and work for up to two years.
Under extended provisions, those with a New Zealand passport can come to the UK for up to three years if they are aged between 18 and 35, while the scheme will be extended for Canadian nationals aged between 18-35 in 2024.
Youth mobility visa requirements
The eligibility criteria for a youth mobility visa are set out under Appendix Youth Mobility Scheme of the UK’s Immigration Rules. A young person can apply for this type of visa if they’d like to come to the UK on a short-term basis and they satisfy the following requirements:
The nationality requirement
The applicant must be either a British Overseas Citizen, a British Overseas Territories Citizen or a British National (Overseas) — or be from one of eleven countries or territories, including: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Monaco, San Marino, Iceland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India. An applicant from either Hong Kong (with a SAR passport), Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India must also be selected in the youth mobility scheme ballot before they can apply for a visa.
Individuals from India should look at the UK’s India Young Professional Scheme.
The age requirement
An applicant must be aged 18 or over on the date their entry clearance will become valid, and aged 30 or under when they apply for their youth mobility visa.
Under extended provisions, New Zealand nationals aged between 18 to 35 can now come to the UK for up to three years under the scheme.
From 2024, the scheme is being extended for Canadian nationals who will be eligible to take part between the ages of 18 – 35.
The maintenance requirement
The applicant must have at least £2,530 in cash savings held in either a current or savings account to show that they can support themselves while in the UK. They’ll need to have had the money available in their account for at least 28 days in a row, where day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for the youth mobility visa.
Additional eligibility requirements under the rules
An applicant won’t qualify for a youth mobility visa if they have children under the age of 18 who live with them or are financially dependent on them, or they’ve already lived in the UK under the scheme. An applicant can also be refused a visa under the general grounds for refusal, for example, if they’ve been convicted of a serious offence or previously breached UK immigration laws.
The UK government allocates a set number of youth mobility visas for each country or territory on an annual basis. Any applications exceeding this annual allocation won’t qualify, whether or not the other requirements have been met — although there’s no limit for British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas).
What work can youth mobility visa holders do?
Under the conditions of stay, the youth mobility visa holder will be free to undertake most forms of paid or unpaid employment in the UK without sponsorship, except as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. Visa holders can also work on a self-employed basis, provided they don’t own any premises from which they carry out a business, except home, the total value of any equipment used isn’t worth more than £5,000 and they don’t employ anyone.
In addition to work, a young person under the youth mobility scheme can undertake privately-funded studies, either on a full or part-time basis, although for some courses they may need to obtain an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. Visa holders will not be permitted to access public funds while in the UK, to support their studies or otherwise.
How to apply for a youth mobility visa
A young person applying for entry clearance under the youth mobility visa route must apply online using the specified form: “Temporary Work or Youth Mobility Scheme”. Anyone seeking to come to the UK under this route must have applied for and obtained entry clearance from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) before they arrive in the UK.
After the applicant has paid their visa application fee, they may need to enrol their biometric information at an overseas visa application centre.
The earliest an application can be submitted for a youth mobility visa is 6 months prior to travel. A decision should then be made by UKVI within a period of just 3 weeks. It may be possible to pay for an even faster decision using one of the priority services, provided these services are available in the country where the application is made. If the application for a youth mobility visa is successful, the young person will have 90 days to enter the UK.
Youth mobility visa supporting documents
As part of the youth mobility visa application process, an applicant will need to provide a number of documents, including:
- a valid passport or another travel document to prove their identity and nationality
- a bank statement showing that they’ve at least £2,530 in cash savings
- a valid medical certificate confirming that they’ve undergone screening for tuberculosis, if from a country where they have to take the test.
The way in which an applicant proves their identity will depend on where they’re from and what type of passport they hold. They’ll either have their photograph and fingerprints taken at a visa application centre to obtain a biometric residence permit, or be able to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document.
The applicant may need to provide additional documents depending on their circumstances, for example, Indian citizens will need to provide documentary evidence to satisfy an extra eligibility requirement: either that they hold a qualification of at least RQF level 6, or they have at least 3 years’ work experience within a professional role equivalent to an eligible occupation listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations under the rules.
Further, if the applicant is a national or a citizen of a country, or had a passport issued by a territory, that doesn’t have ‘Deemed Sponsorship Status’ (DSS), they must provide evidence of sponsorship that’s been issued to them no more than 6 months before the date of application. Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have DSS, while San Marino, Iceland and India don’t.
How much is it to apply for a youth mobility visa?
The cost of applying for a youth mobility visa is £259. There will be an additional cost if using one of the priority services to get a faster decision — of either £500 for the priority service (for a decision within 5 working days from an applicant enrolling their biometric information) or £800 for the super priority service (for a decision within 24 hours).
The youth mobility visa applicant will also be liable to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of their application. The IHS is set at £470 per year of leave granted, equating to £940 for a 2-year visa. This will need to be paid upfront, but will then allow the successful visa holder to access the NHS in the UK for the duration of their stay.
Youth mobility scheme ballot
For applicants required to first apply to be selected in the youth mobility scheme ballot, these ballots typically open in January and July each year for just 48 hours at a time. Entries are submitted via email, in English, with only one ballot entry per person.
The subject line of the ballot email must include the applicant’s name, date of birth and passport number, in the format “last name first name – DD/MM/YYYY – passport number”, repeating these details in the body of the email, with the applicant’s mobile phone number.
All emails received within the 48 hour period will be entered into the ballot, and applicants will be sent an automated reply confirming their entry. Most applicants are usually chosen during the January ballot, with the remaining places being allocated in the July ballot.
A successful applicant in the first ballot will receive an email by 28 January. They will then have 30 days to submit their visa application and pay the relevant fee. If an applicant is unsuccessful in the first ballot, they should receive an email within 2 weeks of the ballot closing. They’ll then be able to enter the second ballot when it opens later in the year.
Even though Indian citizens have been eligible to apply for a youth mobility visa under the rules since 1 January 2022, the first ballot for Indian applicants hasn’t yet been announced. A further announcement from the UK Home Office is expected soon.
How long does the youth mobility visa last?
Having successfully been granted a youth mobility visa, the young person will be given permission to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years. During this period they’ll be able to enter and leave the UK at any time. Even if the visa holder turns 31 while they’re in the UK, they can stay for the length of time that their visa remains valid.
From 29 June 2023, citizens of New Zealand will be permitted to come to the UK under the Youth Mobility Scheme for up to three years if aged between 18 and 35.
Can you apply to extend the youth mobility visa?
Under the rules, it isn’t possible to extend the youth mobility visa beyond its validity period. This means that if a visa holder wants to live in the UK for longer, they’ll either need to switch to a different category of visa from within the UK, or return to their country of origin to apply for a different visa from outside the UK.
Unfortunately, applicants can only come to the UK under the youth mobility scheme route once. This route is not a path to settlement, and applicants cannot bring their dependants.
Can you switch to a different visa from the youth mobility visa?
Prior to a youth mobility visa expiring, the visa holder may be able to apply from within the UK to switch into another immigration category, such as the Skilled Worker route, which can potentially lead to settlement in the UK. However, to be eligible to apply for this type of visa, an applicant would need to meet all of the relevant criteria, including having the offer of an eligible job role meeting the minimum skill and salary requirements from a UK sponsor.
If a young person is looking to switch into a different visa category under the rules, they should seek expert advice from an immigration specialist to explore all their options. Equally, if their application for a youth mobility visa is refused, they should again secure expert advice, as they may be able to seek an administrative review of that decision.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient management of UK visa applications, and for providing expert visa-related advice. We also understand the stresses involved with making a visa application and take great pride in playing a supportive role to ease the pressure for employers and workers. For advice and support with your UK application, contact us.
Youth mobility visa FAQs
Is the UK accepting youth mobility visas?
The UK government allocates a set number of youth mobility visas for each country or territory on an annual basis, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Monaco, San Marino, Iceland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India.
Who is eligible for youth mobility scheme?
An applicant must be aged 18-30, have £2,530 in cash savings to show that they can support themselves, and be either a certain type of British nationality, such as a British Overseas citizen, or from certain countries or territories. New Zealand nationals are eligible if aged between 18 and 35.
What are the documents required for youth mobility visa UK?
The applicant will need a valid passport or other travel document to prove their identity and nationality; a bank statement showing that they’ve at least £2,530 in cash savings and, where applicable, tuberculosis test results.
How much does a youth mobility visa cost?
The cost of applying is £259, although an additional fee will be payable for a priority service for a faster decision. Visa decisions typically take around 3 weeks. The applicant will also have to pay an annual Immigration Health Surcharge.
Last updated: 14 July 2023