Disclaimer: I’m not an immigration agent, and the below is just from my experience!
So you want to go to London?
Red phone boxes, black cabs and the Queen, these are the things that cross our mind when we think of the United Kingdom. If you’re from New Zealand or Australia, you might also think of all the steady stream of friends that seem to be leaving home to work in London, the most common base for great European adventures, and a well known and well used, OE destination.
OE, or Overseas Experience, is a term used in New Zealand that means spending time travelling or working overseas. It usually happens after finishing university and most often means moving to London. So how do you do it?
The UK Youth Mobility Visa
Governments love to change visa rules regularly, and this one is no exception. Usually you’ll hear the term “working holiday” but if you want to the technical name it’s a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa. If you have a grandparent born in the UK I will be super jealous of you, because you may be eligible for an Ancestry Visa which I highly recommend investigating. If you just miss out like me then the Youth Mobility Visa is your best shot!
Am I eligible for a Youth Mobility Visa?
- Between 18-30 (inclusive)
- No dependants
- Money in the bank, the equivalent of 1,890 precisely
And most importantly, a passport from one of the following countries:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong (extra sponsorship and TB test requirement)
- Republic of Korea (extra sponsorship requirement)
- Taiwan (extra sponsorship requirement)
If you made it then hooray! So how do you actually apply for the Youth Mobility Visa for the UK?
You have to apply online outside the UK for this visa. If you’re travelling or not living in your home country you need to apply from somewhere you have the right to live for a minimum of 6 months and that is recognised by the UKBA.
The visa currently costs £244GBP. You must apply online and at this time you also book an appointment to go and have your photo taken and your biometric data, which sounds hardcore but is just your fingerprints and a photo. Fingers crossed you live near one of the “visa application centres” which are generally in all the main cities.
You show up, they take your fingerprints and photo, stamp your stuff, and then post it off. My application went from the Gold Coast to Sydney, where they sent it to the Philippines for processing, go figure. If there are no problems they email you as soon as it’s processed and post it all back again.
The process has changed since I applied and there is now a requirement to provide a UK address. This is actually very important as you will now need to pick up your Biometric Residence Permit from the local post office within 30 days of your arrival date. Find a friend whose address you can use and where you can get to within 30 days of arriving.
Documents you need
- Completed online application form
- Passport – Mine wasn’t valid for the whole visa. I applied for a new passport while in the UK and carried both with me whenever I travelled. I haven’t checked recently with the UKBA if you now require a passport that is valid for the whole visa.
- Recent passport sized photo
- Evidence of £1890 pounds through an original statement or letter from the bank. This is called “maintenance funds” and there is no requirement for it to be present for any length of time. I spent mine and saved up again before going.
- IHS Healthcare Form and fee paid, which is now £600 for the 2 years. Go here to pay and get your reference number.
Arrive early just to be sure and bring all the documents above. You will have your fingerprints and photo taken, and pass over all of your documents. I had to post my own but now you can choose to come back and collect your passport or have it posted to you (for an additional cost of course).
How soon should I apply?
The UK Youth Mobility Visa has this really annoying thing where they give you a start date based on when you apply, not when you enter the country. Thankfully, This can be up to 6 months in the future, but you’re also advised a decision will be made within 3 weeks.
I was travelling through South East Asia on my way to the UK, so needed to make sure I had my passport back in time to leave, while not applying too early to lose time on the visa. My brain hurts remembering the stress over figuring out when to apply!
In the end my visa took less than two weeks to process, and I arrived two weeks after the start date. It’s a balancing act for sure.
The process can be a little daunting, and I had SO many questions I couldn’t find the answers to. Looking back on the process it was much more stressful than it needed to be, and I have a law degree! Of course, it was all worth it for the trip of a lifetime though, so if you’re thinking of getting the UK Youth Mobility Visa, all I can say is DO IT. Then you get to have awesome adventures like this one, this one, this one, and THIS ONE.
Any questions, feel free to ask below!
P.S. You don’t have to go to London you know, there are other awesome places in the UK…like Edinburgh!