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UK Youth Mobility Scheme expanded for Japan, South Korea and Uruguay in January immigration changes

7 October 2023

The UK Home Office has today published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules that further expands the UK’s reciprocal Youth Mobility Scheme – which allows British youth and their counterparts in other countries to explore life and work in each other’s countries – as the UK signs more such deals along with post-Brexit trade negotiations. The scheme is usually open for people aged 18-30 to live and work without the need of a sponsoring employer for up to two years.

Two of these changes had been trailed in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement last month, which promised that the UK would be “signing and expanding new and existing Youth Mobility Schemes (YMS) to make sure the next generation of talent have a wide range of opportunities to live, work and travel abroad and experience other cultures.

“This year the government has increased the places available on the YMS with Australia and Canada by 7,000 and, for 2024, added a further 9,100 places through new and expanded agreements, including with Japan and South Korea. In 2023 the government has also expanded the eligibility and length of stay available for participants from Canada, New Zealand and Australia.”

What are January’s changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme?

From 31 January 2024 changes are being made to reflect bilateral arrangements negotiated over the past year.

The total number of allocated places for nationals of Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) who can travel to the UK and vice versa under the YMS will increase, so both nationalities will no longer need to enter a ballot to be picked to apply, but will be able to apply online on the UK Government’s Youth Mobility Scheme site.

The total allocation of places available for nationals or citizens of Japan participating in the Youth Mobility Scheme in 2024 will increase from 1,500 to 6000.

For South Koreans the allocation will increase from 1,000 to 5,000 and also the age range for nationals or citizens of the Republic of Korea will expanded from the customary 18-30 to 18-35.

Uruguay joins the Youth Mobility Scheme in today’s Statement of Changes, becoming the first South American nation to join the Youth Mobility Scheme. The maximum total allocation of places available for use by nationals or citizens of Uruguay participating in the Youth Mobility Scheme in 2024 is 500. There is no mention of any need to apply for a ballot to apply, just a criminal record check like other recent additions to the scheme: Andorra, Iceland, San Marino and India.

Britain’s reciprocal YMS agreements with Australia and Canada are also expanding on 31 January for applications up to and including the age of 35 and to extend the maximum of two years by an extra year, as added in the last Statement of Changes.

Plus up to 100 nationals of Andorra aged 18-30 will also be able to spend up to two years living, studying or working in the UK like most nations which are part of the UK’s YMS visa scheme.

What other changes to the YMS have been negotiated?

Since June 2023 the YMS agreement with New Zealand has been extended for applications up to and including the age of 35 and up to three years.

A similar two-year Young Professionals Scheme agreed with India also commenced this summer, with ballots held twice a year for Indian graduates aged 18-30 wishing to participate.

Who can apply for the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme visa?

Nationals from these countries will be able to apply to the Youth Mobility Scheme:

  • Andorra – (applications open from 31 January 2024)
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Korea
  • San Marino
  • Taiwan
  • Uruguay (applications open from 31 January 2024)
  • There is no annual limit on places for British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas).

What are the YMS eligibility requirements?

Eligible nationals can be up to and including the age of 30 on the date they apply for their visa and at least 18 on the date that the visa would become valid. Applicants from New Zealand can apply up to and including the age of 35 – as applicants from Australia, Canada and South Korea will be able to from the end of January.

Those living with their children under the age of 18 or financially responsible for children cannot apply. People cannot apply if they have already been in the UK under the scheme.

You must be self-sufficient. The financial requirements for the YMS are proven savings of £2,530 held for a 28-day period. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa.

Applicants may need to be certified free from tuberculosis depending on where they have been in the past six months. Usual Home Office general grounds of refusal based on applicants’ history (eg: criminality) apply.

There are additional education / professional experience requirements for Indian applicants of the Young Professionals Scheme.

What can you do on a Youth Mobility Scheme visa?

Successful applicants from most countries participating will be given a visa for 24 months (three years for New Zealand-plus for Australia, Canada from January) and can enter, leave and re-enter the UK any time in the period. If you turn 31 during this period you can still stay in the country as long as the visa is valid.

You will be able to study (for some courses an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate) and work in most roles, be self-employed, even set up a company so long as premises are rented, equipment is not worth more than £5,000 and there are no employees. You may not work as a professional sportsperson, extend your stay, receive public funds or bring any family members to the UK on your visa.

How much does the Youth Mobility Scheme cost?

The application fee for a Youth Mobility visa is currently £259. An Immigration Health Charge to cover healthcare by the National Health Service must also be paid with the visa application. This costs £470 per year at present but is set to rise in January. The UK Government has announced that immigration fees will be rising.

Who needs to enter a ballot to apply to the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme?

This visa scheme is oversubscribed for some of the nationals participating. Currently, before applying for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa applicants must be first selected in one of the two ballots each year ballot if they are a national of:

  • Hong Kong (with an SAR passport)
  • Taiwan
  • Indian nationals applying to their similar Young Professionals Scheme also must enter ballots.

For more details on the YMS and other immigration options, contact us on +44 (0) 207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.