As young Brits get more chances to learn and experience life in other countries, so do the young people of partner countries.
The United Kingdom (UK) government’s planned expansion of successful existing Youth Mobility schemes (YMS) has come into force starting 31 January 2024.
Mutual agreements with Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea have all increased yearly participant quotas for the expanded YMS program.
This also includes expanding the age range so that more young people can qualify and gain vital life experience overseas.
New reciprocal youth mobility schemes with Andorra and Uruguay have also taken effect for individuals aged 18 to 30.
“We are always proud to welcome young people to experience life in the UK and strengthen the close ties between participating partner countries,” Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Legal Migration and the Border, said in a statement.
He added that thousands of young Brits similarly “make life-changing journeys every year through these schemes.”
Expanding the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme
The British government has started its expanded youth mobility schemes with other countries, as outlined in its 2023 Autumn Statement.
In 2023, the government announced that YMS reciprocal agreements for Australian and Canadian youth nationals will increase by 7,000.
It also expanded eligibility and length of stay for participants from the two countries and New Zealand.
Australia, Canada, and New Zealand participants can now extend their YMS visas by one year after the two-year period ends.
YMS visas will rise by 9,100 through improved agreements with Japan and South Korea.
From 1,500 slots, Japan and the UK can now issue up to 6,000 YMS or working holiday visas annually.
On the other hand, the YMS quota for the UK and South Korea will increase from 1,000 to 5,000 participants every year.
Unlike before, young citizens from Japan and South Korea will also no longer need to enter a ballot before applying for the YMS visa.
The UK’s new mutual agreements with Andorra and Uruguay add 600 more placements yearly in the expanded YMS program.
It offers 100 slots for Andorran youth and 500 slots for Uruguayan youth to come to the UK for a maximum stay of up to 2 years.
What is the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme
The YMS visa allows young people to live and work in the UK for up to two years without sponsorship from an employer.
The equivalent of the UK’s youth mobility scheme is the working holiday visa from partner countries.
Both programs aim to strengthen the partner countries’ relationships by allowing young people to explore different cultures and societies.
“Travelling, working, and living overseas can be a wonderful and immensely valuable experience,” Pursglove said.
Arrangements are quota-based and reciprocal, so they do not affect net migration numbers or put pressure on public services.
While participants of both programs can work during their stay to cover expenses, the YMS and Working Holiday visas are not for those primarily seeking employment.
They also cannot bring family or dependants under the YMS or working holiday visas.
Still, they can join YMS participants in the UK only if they apply for and obtain a separate visa.
The YMS and working holiday visas are not routes to settlement in the UK or partner countries.
A future youth mobility scheme with the EU
London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently expressed his wish for the UK to have a youth mobility scheme agreement with the European Union (EU).
He added that young British citizens should have freedom of movement in the EU after the UK left the bloc.
Brexit meant that the UK also had to withdraw its participation in the EU’s Erasmus+ program for supporting education, training, youth, and sport.
Like the YMS, the program offers opportunities for young people to travel and gain work experience, study, or train in another country.
Young people can participate in the program for anywhere between two days to a year, depending on the type of project they choose.
Mayor Khan said a youth mobility scheme would benefit London, as well as the UK, economically, culturally, and socially.
The idea of a youth mobility scheme with the EU after Brexit has been put forward in July 2023.
The UK Home Office said it is exploring the idea of a youth mobility scheme with EU member states.