Latest Developments in the Youth Mobility Scheme

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On 18 April 2024, the European Commission announced its plans to seek approval from member states to facilitate talks with the UK over a youth mobility scheme. The offer from the commission would allow 18-30-year-old UK citizens to work and study in the EU and vice versa for up to four years.

The proposed agreement would enable young people from both the EU and UK to work, study and live in both places, including to participate in youth, cultural, educational, research and training exchanges. The proposal also sets out the formal conditions for applicants would need to meet. This includes:

  • valid travel documentation
  • valid comprehensive
  • sickness insurance
  • proof of sufficient means of subsistence.

Such conditions would have to be checked before the mobility and remain consistent during the duration of stay. The agreement would also set out grounds for rejecting applications, such as threats to public security, public policy or public health.

What are the current schemes for youth mobility?

Currently, an individual can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa if:

  • They want to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years
  • Are aged 19 to 30 or 18 (or 35 depending on where they are from)
  • Have £2,530 in savings and
  • Have certain types of British Nationality or are from certain countries listed in the eligibility requirements, including New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Iceland.

Whilst employers are not required to register as a sponsor for this route, the visa is only valid for the holder to live and work in the UK for up to 24 months (and in limited situations can be extended for another 12 months). Therefore, after the visa ends, a new type of visa would need to be secured by the individual for them to remain working in the UK such as a skilled worker visa (if eligible).

Recent increases in minimum salaries for skilled workers have made it harder to obtain skilled worker visas. This makes sponsored work in the UK more inaccessible and the visa routes such as Youth Mobility Schemes more in demand.

Why has the UK government rejected the EU’s proposal?

The UK rejected the proposal recently on the basis that the free movement of people between the UK and the EU ended with Brexit. Labour also indicated they would not be looking to implement such a scheme on an EU wide level. However, the government appears willing to negotiate bilateral agreements around youth mobility arrangements on a country by country basis.

The outright rejection of the proposal by the UK government is a shame. While it has its limitations, an EU wide youth mobility scheme would appear a relatively quick and sensible solution to the UK’s current labour shortage, whilst still allowing the UK to control net migration (as is the current focus).

Whether the current scheme will gradually be expanded to include EU countries remains to be seen.

We will continue to cover updates as they arise. If you have any queries, please get in touch with our immigration team.