Getting a UK Youth Mobility Visa for Canadians

How to make the hop across the pond

The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa is essentially a working holiday visa for people aged 18-30 who want to travel or live in the UK for up to two years and work at the same time.

When I got confirmation I’d be able to do an internship with CBC London in April, the bureau producer suggested I look into one.  It seemed like a good idea.  Now that I have it, it means for the next two years I’m able to live and work in the UK (how convenient!).

Eligibility

Citizenship: Every year a number of youth from a few countries are eligible for a UK Youth Mobility Visa.  You must be from:

  • Australia
  • Canada (that’s us!)
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Hong Kong
  • Republic of Korea
  • Taiwan

Age: You must also be between 18-30 years old.  Specifically, you need to have turned 18 by the time your visa begins and you can’t be older than 30 when you apply for the visa.  You can apply when you’re 17 and enter the country at 18.  You can apply when you’re 30 and enter the country at 31.

Money: You need at least £1,890 (about $3,540.92 CAD) in your bank account.  You’ll provide a bank statement to that effect with your required documents.

You can’t apply if you have:

  • children who live with you;
  • children you’re financially responsible for; or,
  • already been in the UK under the scheme or in the former ‘working holidaymaker’ category*

*This means you can only have the UK Youth Mobility Visa once in your life, so choose wisely as to when you want it.

Required documents: You’ll need to provide a few documents along with your application.  You don’t need these to fill out the online form, but you’ll need them for your in-person meeting and to mail off with your application to the processing centre.

Applying

So you’re eligible?  Splendid!  Let’s do this.

First I recommend you take a look at the official guidance document, just so you know what you’re getting in to.

Then to get started:  Fill out the online form.

What you need:

  • Payment for the visa processing fee and user fee.  Together they’re $427.00 USD / ~$618.24 CAD.
  • Payment for the immigration health surcharge for an IHS reference number. £200 per year the visa is valid, £400 total.  That’s USD $616 / ~$891.89 CAD.
  • Current and previous passports
  • Dates of all international travel, including to the UK (this took me awhile)
  • Your parents’ full names, birthdates and locations.
  • An address for where you’ll be staying in the UK.
  • Which Visa Application Centre you want your in-person interview at.  Here’s a list of centres in Canada.

You’ll get emails confirming your payments and be able to download an appointment letter after choosing when and where your in-person meeting will take place.

Once you pay for the immigration health surcharge you will be covered by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) upon arrival in the UK and between the valid dates on your visa.

UK_VISA_Mel_Had_Tea-2
These books are all great to read pre-departure. Granta’s ‘Britain’ Volume, Lonely Planet’s Guide to London and Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’.

In-Person interview and biometric gathering

Before you go to your meeting, make sure you have all your supporting documents and passport photos that meet UK specifications.  You’ll need them, so bring them with you!

Example of my documents: a statement of accounts from my bank, invitation letter from the CBC where I have my internship, the address I’ll be staying at in London, two copies of a UK passport photo, and my IHS number. Don’t forget to write down your IHS number! I thought it would be on the letter you bring to your appointment, but it’s not. I had to run out into the hall to check my cellphone and get it during the interview, which they kindly let me do.

My visa centre was in Halifax at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel.  They operate out of a conference room only once a month from 8:00am-2:00pm.

This is why it’s important to book early!  They only have so many appointments, although I’ve been told the winter is apparently slower for them.  You can see why it’s important to book early though, otherwise you risk not getting your visa back in time for your intended departure date.

My interview was very straightforward.  After getting a DHL envelope from the security guard in front of the conference room and filling out my information, he gave me a quick scan with his metal detector and told me to leave all my electronics outside the room.  He told me he’d watch my stuff so I left it on a chair just outside the door.

Inside were two men sitting at a large table.  One of the men asked me some questions about my documents and made sure I had filled out all the forms correctly.  Then he put all my things in the DHL envelope and passed it on to his partner along with me.

His partner took my photo on a white backdrop and collected my fingerprints on this little scanner machine about the size of a receipt printer.  He then handed me my DHL envelope with everything in it, had me seal the envelope and drop it in the ‘mailbox’.  The mailbox was a wooden dresser they’d cut a hole in the top of to use like a drop slot.  The front of the dresser was padlocked and had a bunch of DHL stickers all over it.  Kind of funny, but hey, you do what the visa man tells you.

I dropped it in and that was it!  A couple days later I received an email saying my application had arrived at the processing centre in New York.  Then I got another email update saying my visa application had been finished.  And then…

Less than two weeks later

My passport, containing a lovely youth mobility visa.
My passport, containing a lovely youth mobility visa.

My passport was returned to me in the mail!  I had to be home to sign for it upon arrival.  It had this lovely UK Youth Mobility Visa fastened inside.

Your mileage my vary: the visa office strives to complete all visa applications within a three week window, but of course this depends on the volume they receive.  There’s also the option to pay more for priority service, which I didn’t.

After you receive your visa

Woohoo!  Do a happy dance to celebrate.  But, it’s not over quite yet.

There’s still the Biometric Residence Permit

Once you arrive in the UK, you need to pick up your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP, that’s a mouthful).

If you apply for the Youth Mobility Visa after May 31, 2015, you get a sticker in your passport instead of the full 2-year visa granted.  The sticker is valid for 30 days from the date the visa begins.

Update: A few days I arrived in the U.K. in March I headed over to the post office indicated in the correspondence I received. I queued up with the best of them (Brits are pro at queuing) and provided my passport and local address to the nice woman at the counter who went out back and returned with an envelope containing my beloved BRP!

Fun tip: When I arrived at the post office there was an option to take a ticket for either ‘Travel Services’ or ‘Counter Services’. I took one of each. It turns out the BRP is a ‘Counter Service’. Just to save you some time in the queue.

Your BRP must be collected from the post office within 10 days of your arrival in the UK.  The BRP is your proof of your right to work in the UK and you should always keep it on you during your stay.  The BRP is your ‘real’ visa that allows you to work and live in the UK.

During the initial online application you’ll be told a specific post office branch in the UK where you can pick up your biometric residence permit (BRP).  The post office you get is based off the UK postal code you enter during your online application.  That post office branch address will also be with your passport when it’s returned in the mail with your visa.

Once you’ve picked up your BRP, it’s done and you’re officially in the UK on a 2-year Youth Mobility Visa.  Congratulations!!!  Pour yourself a beer or champagne.

Photo of passport containing youth mobility visa on the table along with some British books.

Cost of a UK youth mobility visa

Visa and user fee (together): $427 USD / $618.24 CAD

Immigrant Health Surcharge: $616 USD / $891.89 CAD

Total Cost: $1,043 USD / $1,510.13 CAD

The charges were processed in USD to my Canadian credit card.  The reason everything is in USD is because the visa processing centre is in New York (yeah, phooey).  With currency fluctuations those CAD numbers could change.  They loonie was really weak when I was doing my application, so the exchange rate wasn’t in my favour.

You’ll also need to have at least £1,890 (about $3,540.92 CAD) in your bank account to provide documentation that you have adequate funds to travel/live in the UK.  It doesn’t cost you anything, but the money needs to be there.

A note on timelines

The UK government website suggests that you apply for your Youth Mobility Visa during the three month window before your intended departure date.  They don’t want you applying a year or two ahead of time because it clogs up the system.  They may reject you if you do.

Make sure that your passport is valid for the whole time you’ll be in the UK.  This will save you some trouble.

And that’s it!  Have fun in England!

Disclaimer: The information in this article is correct as I’m hitting publish.  There is the possibility that the visa process could change in the future.  Always check with the UK Government Visas and Immigration site for the most recent rules and regulations.  Whatever you decide to do is at your own discretion.  If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer.

15 comments on “Getting a UK Youth Mobility Visa for Canadians

  1. Pingback: Sunday Sundries, Vol. 37: Penthouse Poems » Mel Had Tea

  2. Hi Mel, I found this post about a month ago via Facebook and I’m now looking into the possibility of a Youth Mobility Visa for myself. I have a few questions for you regarding supporting documents and info. Since you’re doing an internship with the CBC, you obviously had a letter outlining that. Is it possible – or rather, realistic – to apply for the Visa without an offer of activity? And as for where you’re staying while you live in the UK, does that mean I’d have to secure [permanent] accommodation before applying? I don’t know how I’d go about doing that especially since my arrival date is undetermined, and I can’t imagine trying to rent an apartment over the internet is a smart idea for myself or for landlords. I wonder if you can use a hostel address instead. Lastly, you mentioned you had to declare all your international travel. What does that mean? International travel – ever in my life? Travel to the UK if I get approved for the Visa? Or travel within the year of my departure? Sorry for all the questions – yes I’m Canadian too – but let me know if you can shed light on any of them! Thanks!

    • Hi Mary,

      Those are some great questions. You do not have to have an offer of employment to apply. I included it because I figured it was being thorough and couldn’t hurt. The address you use can absolutely be a hostel or hotel or friend’s place that you’ll be staying at when you first arrive in the UK; from what I understand, it’s more just so they can designate where you’ll pick up your biometric permit once you land (so they don’t assign you to a post office in London if you’ll be in Wales, or something akin). As for declaring int’l travel – YES. Literally every time you have been out of the country. Ever. It was by far the biggest pain in the ass, but it actually gave me the opportunity to make a complete log of every time I’ve travelled, which (you never know) might come in handy again in the future. It was the most time-consuming part of my application.

      Let me know if that helps! I’d love to hear more about your UK plans! 😊

      • Hi Mel,

        Thanks so much! I’m going to be going on a long trip from mid-May to mid-July, and since you’re not supposed to send the application outside of the three-month window before going I’ll have to wait awhile before I send mine. But I’m really excited and I want to do it now! lol
        With that said, does my outgoing trip to the UK (plane ticket) need to be booked and confirmed before applying for the Visa? That, as well as the hostel or other accom I’ll be staying in once I get there? My international travel list won’t actually be that long, not at this point anyway, but do you know if you need to list upcoming travel too that’s booked? Since I wouldn’t be able to go until late this year at the earliest it won’t be applicable anyway, but I’m just curious as to whether travel ‘plans’ are also classified as international travel.
        I’ll definitely keep you updated once I have a better idea of whats going on, again I’m a little sad I can’t really get the ball rolling yet haha! I was planning to move to Toronto for school, but since I didn’t get into my university I’ve been rethinking a lot of things. If I have a chance to move to the UK and get this Visa I’d much rather hold off on moving somewhere else in Canada when I can live abroad instead 🙂 hoping this all works out! thanks again for sharing your YMB experience as its been incredibly helpful!
        Will you be living in London after your internship is over then? Looking forward to hearing about your plans too!

        Cheers,
        Mary

        • That’s awesome! No, your ticket to the UK doesn’t need to be booked before you get your Visa, you just need to say which day you intend to travel to the UK. Same with accommodations, booking not needed. Future plans Do Not count. They only want places that you have been to, or your travel history. After my internship is done in May I’m heading to the Balkans for a bit and then back to Canada, but part of getting the Visa was leaving my options open for the future! I like the idea of coming back to London to work over the next couple years.

  3. alyssa anderson

    Hey Mel,
    A Friend of mine sent this to me and I want you to know how much of a help its been. But I have a few questions. As for finding the dates of all international travel, If you dont have your previous passports (alot of my stuff is in storage and have no idea where they would be, of even if i still have them) is there an easier way to get them? I have rough ideas of when I traveled but other than that I dont have solid dates. It also says we need our previous passports, is there a way around that? I was thinking about going to the passport office to see if they could also give me dates.
    Thanks 🙂
    Alyssa

    • Hi Alyssa, congrats on deciding to apply! If you don’t have your previous passports it’s not a problem. A lot of people hand in their old passports when they get new ones, so it’s not uncommon for people to not have their previous passports. To get my old travel dates I dug through emails, checked credit card statements and even asked my parents. Another trick I had was looking back through vacation photos and checking the metadata to see when the photos were taken — find photos from the first and last days of your trip and BOOM! dates ahoy. If you took photos on your smartphone it’ll automatically capture the date for you as well. That’s a good point about going to the passport office — I’ve never tried that but if you’re really having a hard time it couldn’t hurt. If you do try that, let me know if it works! I’m curious to know. Tell your friend thanks form me for sharing the article and let me know I can help in any other way! When are you planning to head to the U.K.?

  4. Leah Woolridge- McPherson

    Hi Mel,

    Thank you for this blog. Super helpful! I actually am worried because I stated on my application I had my old Passport in my possession and when I went to search for it in the boxes under my house I was unable to find it. Do you know if this will be an issue? I know i have to have it somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find it yet.

    Leah

    • Hi Leah,

      Glad it helps! As for your passport, my intuition says it will probably be fine. I checked that box but I never had to show them my old passports or prove I had it. They might just ask so that they know your previous passport wasn’t stolen. As long as it’s somewhere around your house, I’d say you’re fine. In the mean time, I know applying is stressful! Hang in there and hope you hear back soon. Did you get an interview date yet? When are you heading to the U.K.?

      • Leah Woolridge- McPherson

        Thank you so much, Mel! I mailed my passport out from the Toronto office on Thursday and got an email saying it arrived today! Super excited about the process and hoping I get lucky and hear if I am approved next week. I am planning to head to the UK between June 28 and July 28th!

        • Woohoo! That’s awesome Leah. Crossing my fingers for you and wishing you safe travels. ❤️

  5. Hey! I am preparing to apply for the YMS I just had one question:

    as far as the maintenance funds, does the 1890GPB have to be a total closing balance or does it have to be a consecutive amount dating a certain amount of time? ex: if I were to give my bank statement with a 1890GBP closing balance is it okay that its the closing balance of that day or would it have had to be in your account for say 2-3 months?

    Hope its not too confusing lol

    Thank you,

    Jasmine

    • Hi Jasmine!

      No, I totally get what your saying. I wondered the same thing. What the bank provides is just a statement of funds so it’s literally just the cash that’s available to you on the day you go to the bank to get your statement. So it doesn’t have to be sitting there for any amount of time, just as long as it’s there when you go to get your statement. Hope that helps! And good luck with your application. 😁

  6. Hi Mel, Thanks so much for this post. When did you apply for your Tier 5? I know that the visas work on a quota system and for 2017 Canada has been allocated 5,500 visas. However, I can’t find any information (I’ve called the UK Visas Home office and emailed them and called the UK Embassy in Ottawa with no luck) that tells me when the visas are actually released. i.e. if the full 5,500 became available in January of 2017. When I called the person I spoke with hesitantly told me that there are 2 periods – March and October – but I haven’t been able to find anything to confirm this. I’m actually in the UK right now on a student visa and have to go back to Canada to get the Tier 5. I can go back in August or November, but am worried that when I go back the quota will be filled and I’ll be stuck. So if the quota allocation takes place in January, I’d go back in August, but if there are those two periods in March and October it’d be safer for me to go back in November. I’m just really afraid that when I go all the visas will already be taken and I’ll have to end my job in the UK early! If you can offer any insight into this, if you’ve heard of anyone being declined because there were no visas left, and if you could tell me when you applied that would be much appreciated! Sorry for such a long post!

    • Hi Audrey, glad to hear you’re loving the UK! I’ve never heard of anyone getting turned down because the quota was full, but the quota system does exist. I applied for my Tier 5 Youth Visa in March 2016. When speaking to UK Visas and Immigration I was told the Tier 5 Youth Visas are given on a first-come, first-serve basis to eligible applicants. I’ve also been told the Visa office won’t tell you whether or not their quota is full, or how many spots are left. Honestly, I would just go for it an apply ASAP.

      Do you already have a job in the UK, or are you going to start looking once you get your visa? Since you’re already in the UK, you might also try stopping by the High Commission of Canada at Canada House at Trafalgar Square—they deal in passport services for Canadians and might be more helpful!

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