Huge Expansion of the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme Visa: Asia-Pacific and the Americas

Personal Immigration, 10 December 2023

Important changes to the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa category have been published on 7 December 2023, all of which will take effect on 31 January 2024.

The UK has negotiated a YMS arrangement with Uruguay and a simplified application process with enhancements will be introduced for nationals of Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), allowing the UK to benefit from structural shifts in the global economy, in particular, growing demand for travel and increasing buying power from burgeoning Asian markets.

The UK’s existing reciprocal, bilateral arrangements with Australia and Canada will also be enhanced allowing more young people from Australia and Canada to live and work in the UK, in recognition of the enduring strength of the UK’s relationship with these Commonwealth countries.

What is the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) Visa?

The Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa route implements the international commitments which the UK has made to provide cultural exchange programmes for young people and provides the opportunity for a person aged between 18 and 30 (or 18-35 for some nationalities), from participating countries and territories, to experience life in the UK for up to 2 years (or 3 years for some nationalities).

No job offer or other sponsorship in the UK is required to apply for the visa and it allows individuals to undertake work and self-employment in the UK (the latter subject to certain conditions being met) to help fund their travels.

Countries and territories participating in the YMS in 2023 are Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea (South Korea), San Marino and Taiwan.

What are the key changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa?

Uruguay

The UK has negotiated a YMS arrangement with Uruguay which is being added to the list of countries and territories participating in the visa route.  The maximum total allocation of places available for use by nationals or citizens of Uruguay in the YMS in 2024 will be 500.

Uruguayans must, as a country-specific eligibility requirement to apply, provide a Certificate of Judicial Records that has been issued no more than 6 months before the date of application.

Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea)

Changes are being made to reflect that the UK’s existing reciprocal, bilateral arrangements with Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) have been enhanced.

The total number of annual allocated places for nationals of these countries who can travel to the UK under the Scheme will increase significantly.   For 2023, the maximum total allocation of places available for nationals of Japan and the Republic of Korea are 1,500 and 1,000 respectively.  In 2024, these numbers will be hugely increased by 400% to 6,000 for Japan and by 500% to 5,000 for the Republic of Korea.

For nationals of the Republic of Korea, the age range to be eligible to apply for the visa is also being expanded from 18-30 to 18-35.

The requirement to obtain an invitation to apply for Japanese and South Korean citizens is also being removed.  Currently, Japanese and South Korean citizens must have been issued with an invitation to apply in accordance with the invitation to apply arrangements and make their application within any time limit specified on that invitation to be eligible to apply for the YMS visa. As part of this, a prospective applicant must submit an expression of interest to the Home Office and the Home Office will select at random those to whom an invitation to apply for entry clearance under the YMS visa category is to be issued from the pool of those who have submitted an expression of interest.

The removal of the invitation to apply arrangements for Japanese and South Korean citizens will provide a much-simplified application process for nationals of these countries and bring the application process in line with that for Australia, Canadian, New Zealand and Monégasque nationals, all of whom are also exempt from meeting any country-specific requirements as part of the application process. 

Australia and Canada

As previously announced, from 31 January 2024, the age limit for Australian and Canadian nationals applying to come to the UK on the YMS visa will go up from 30 to 35 years and the maximum length of time which such nationals can stay in the UK will be extended to 3 years from 2 years.

Implications for UK Immigration

The expansion of the UK’s YMS will assist with boosting the UK economy in 2024, in particular, by encouraging increasing numbers of young travellers to the UK which will assist with delivering economic activity such as increased business opportunities in the UK, in particular with the Asia-Pacific region.

As a previous EU member, UK immigration policy previously favoured Europeans. The UK remains open to negotiating YMS arrangements with other countries and territories including EU Member States.   As each YMS is subject to a bilateral, reciprocal agreement which also provides benefit to UK nationals with the detail negotiated and agreed between the relevant parties, we will provide updates as they occur.

How can we help?

We can provide comprehensive advice to individuals globally seeking to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa. We can advise on how the changes will affect you and ensure that your visa application complies with all eligibility requirements to ensure your application is successful.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at info@viajeukimmigration.com