Youth Mobility Scheme visa expanded for Canadians and Australians

14 September 2023

The Home Office announced at the end of last week that, from 31 January 2024, eligibility for the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa, known colloquially by many by its historic label of "working holiday" visa, will be expanded to include Australian and Canadian nationals aged 31-35 years. In addition, it now allows nationals of those countries to stay in the UK under this visa for up to three years. This matches the current enhanced eligibility requirements for New Zealand nationals.

The YMS visa – which was historically restricted to certain Commonwealth nationals – has been an attractive option for many young people from 11 specific countries, including the above-mentioned as well as Japan, South Korea and India. The requirements for the countries differ slightly, but it ordinarily allows individuals aged 18-30 to obtain (normally) a two-year visa, which permits employment in the UK. The new update to the law now means that nationals of Canada, Australia and New Zealand can (a) be aged up to 35 years and (b) reside in the UK on this visa for up to three years.

While the visa is favoured because it removes the need for employer sponsorship, applicants should be mindful that it cannot be renewed beyond the initial two/three years. Also, it does not lead to settlement in the UK (a.k.a. indefinite leave to remain), meaning applicants will need to apply under another visa category to continue residing in the UK after the end of the visa.

Time spent in the UK under this visa is also unlikely to count towards a qualifying residence period for settlement applications under other visa routes – the person’s "clock" towards settlement will effectively start only once they switch their visa to a route that leads to settlement. Common options for the latter will be a sponsored Skilled Worker visa should the individual secure a job offer from an approved sponsor.

In addition, self-employment under the visa is also limited for a large number of individuals, so applicants seeking to set up a business in the UK may need to consider other visa options, such as the Innovator Founder or Expansion Worker visas.