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. It’s a perfect way for Canadians to get abroad and get international working experience for a few years, with relatively simple paperwork.
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!).
Citizenship: Every year a number of youth from a few countries are eligible for a UK Youth Mobility Visa. You must be from:
- Canada (that’s us!)
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Korea
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.
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.
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 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.
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 says the earliest you apply for your Youth Mobility Visa is six months before you arrive in the U.K. 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.