Youth Mobility Scheme to open to citizens of India and Iceland from January 2022

10 second summary:

"From 2022, citizens of India and Iceland will be eligible for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa for the UK. This working holidaymaker visa allows 18-30 year olds to live and work in the UK for two years. There will be a strict limit on numbers - only 1,000 visas per year for Icelandic citizens and 3,000 visas per year for Indian citizens who also need to meet an additional qualification or experience requirement."

The Home Office has published new details on the expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme, which from 1 January 2022 will open to citizens of India and Iceland.

Who is this immigration route for?

The Youth Mobility Scheme replaced the Working Holidaymaker visa in 2008 and allows 18-30 year olds from certain countries to live and work in the UK without a sponsor for two years. Access to the scheme is typically agreed on a reciprocal basis – for example Australia offers a Working Holiday Maker visa to British Citizens, so the UK allows Australian citizens to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa.

What’s changing?

From the start of 2022, India and Iceland will be added to the list of qualifying countries whose citizens can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa.

The number of such visas granted to citizens of Iceland will be capped at 1,000 per year and potential applicants will need to obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship from the Icelandic Government before they can apply for the visa. It is not yet clear how the Icelandic Government will decide who to grant these Certificates of Sponsorship to, but it’s likely to be on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

The number of such visas granted to citizens of India will be capped at 3,000 visas per year. Applicants will first need to submit an expression of interest, with successful applicants being selected via a lottery occurring twice a year in January and July.

Indian Citizens will also need to meet the following requirement, in addition to the normal requirements associated with the Youth Mobility Scheme as outlined later in this article. Applicants will need to show that they hold a degree level qualification or have 3 years’ experience at RQF level 3 or above in a role that would be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa.

What are the normal requirements for the Youth Mobility Scheme?

Applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 and no older than 30
  • Not have previously spent time in the UK with a Youth Mobility Scheme visa
  • Not have children under the age of 18 who either live with them or for whom they are financially responsible
  • Have held at least £2,530 in a bank account for at least 28 days prior to the application
  • Hold one of the following passports:
    • British Overseas Citizen (unlimited)
    • British Overseas Territories Citizen (unlimited)
    • British National (Overseas) (unlimited)
    • Australia (30,000 places per year)
    • Canada (6,000 places per year)
    • Hong Kong SAR (1,000 places per year, awarded by lottery)
    • Iceland – from Jan 2022 (1,000 places per year, awarded by the Icelandic Government)
    • India – from Jan 2022 (3,000 places per year, awarded by lottery)
    • Japan (1,500 places per year, awarded by lottery)
    • Monaco (1,000 places per year)
    • New Zealand (13,000 places per year)
    • Republic of Korea (1,000 places per year, awarded by lottery)
    • San Marino (1,000 places per year, awarded by the San Marino Government)
    • Taiwan (1,000 places per year, awarded by lottery)

How long is the visa valid for and what does it allow the holder to do?

Successful applicants are granted a 2-year visa which enables them to live and work in the UK, with very few restrictions on what they can do. Youth Mobility Scheme visa holders cannot work as professional sportspersons (including coaches) and they cannot be self-employed unless they meet all of the following conditions:

  • They have no trading premises other than their home
  • They do not use equipment with a total value exceeding £5,000
  • They do not have any employees

These restrictions are designed to prevent a Youth Mobility Scheme visa holder from running a large-scale business such as a shop, but would not prevent consulting or working as a self-employed therapist, for example.

How much does it cost?

£244, plus a reduced rate of Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) at £470 for each of the two years the visa will be granted for. The total cost is £1,184.

Can the visa be extended?

No, which means that at the end of the 2 years, holders will need to move to a different visa category. For many, this will be the Skilled Worker route, so they’ll need to use at least some of the time on the Youth Mobility Scheme visa finding an employer who is willing to sponsor them.

It’s worth noting that those aged under 26 can typically qualify as a ‘New Entrant’ when applying for a Skilled Worker visa, meaning there is a lower minimum salary threshold associated with the application. Youth Mobility Scheme visa holders who will turn 26 whilst in the UK may want to look into finding an employer willing to sponsor them sooner rather than later.

Our thoughts

For those who qualify, the Youth Mobility scheme is fantastic. It is significantly easier and cheaper than many other UK immigration routes, and often acts as a springboard towards a more permanent move to the UK. It allows the holder to gain UK work experience and prove their worth to a UK employer, often making sponsorship for a Skilled Worker visa towards the end of the two years more of a viable option.

The route’s expansion to cover citizens from India and Iceland will clearly be welcomed by many, although it’s clear that 3,000 visas per year will be nowhere near enough to satisfy demand from India. There are an estimated 246m Indian Citizens aged 20-29, so by any calculation, the twice annual lottery will certainly be hugely oversubscribed, even with the additional limiting requirement that applicants must have a degree or 3 years’ experience at RQF3 or above.

It’s also worth noting that the Youth Mobility Scheme does not allow the visa holder to bring dependent family members to the UK. For a young Australian or Canadian couple, this isn’t really a problem – both can just apply separately. But if the chances of one Indian citizen being randomly selected for one of the 3,000 visas issued per year seem low, imagine how much lower they will be for two partners to be selected independently!  

Finally, in the political announcements that accompanied the design and implementation of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system, much was made of the UK’s willingness to offer reciprocal visa deals with other countries. In May 2021, the UK and India signed a ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’ which led to the announcement of the Youth Mobility Scheme’s expansion to cover Indian citizens. Whilst no such deal has been agreed with the EU as a whole, it is encouraging that we seem to be going in the right direction.

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