How to Get a Working Holiday Visa for the UK

working holiday visa uk


A working holiday visa allows people from overseas between the ages of 18 and 30 to come to the UK to work and travel for a period of two years. Following changes in UK immigration law on 1st January 2021, the T5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa, formerly called a Tier 5 visa, enables individuals who satisfy eligibility criteria to come and live and work in the UK.

Who can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa?

You can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa if you:

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 30
  • Want to live and work in the UK for up to two years (24 months)
  • Have £2,530 in savings in your bank account and can provide evidence when you apply for a working holiday visa.
  • Have certain types of British Nationality or citizenship from: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks, and Caicos Islands. Or are from the following countries or territories: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Taiwan
  • Meet other eligibility requirements.

The earliest you can apply for a Mobility Scheme visa is three months before travelling to the UK. For example, if you plan to travel on 15th September, your application should be made on or around 16th June. The decision-making process takes approximately three weeks for applications made from outside the UK.

What you can and cannot do under a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa

You can:

  • Study – although for some courses you will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme Certificate (ATAS). The ATAS certificate requirement applies to all international students (other than exempt nationalities, which are citizens from the: EU and EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, or the USA) who are under immigration control and intend to study at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects. These sensitive subjects are those where students’ knowledge could be used to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), or their means of delivery.
  • If you are applying to study an undergraduate course with an integrated masters degree, you may also be required to obtain ATAS clearance. An ATAS certificate must be obtained before applying for permission to enter the UK, and you can apply up to nine months before the start date of the course. Once obtained, it is valid for six months.
  • Work in most jobs.
  • Set up a company providing the business premises are rented, and any equipment is not worth more than £5,000. You must also not have any employees.
  • Be self-employed.

You cannot:

  • Work as a professional sportsperson
  • Extend your stay
  • Receive public funds
  • Bring in any family members – they must apply separately

How long am I allowed to stay in the UK?

You can stay in the UK and work for up to two years (or 24 months). The visa allows you to enter and leave the UK as much as you like over the duration of the visa. If you turn 31 whilst you are in the UK, you are allowed to remain as long as your visa is valid.

You can only get the Youth Mobility Scheme visa once in your lifetime. Once you have applied for and travelled to the UK on the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa, you can never apply for it again.

How much does a Youth Mobility Scheme visa cost?

A Youth Mobility Scheme visa currently costs £244 to apply.

In addition to the application fee, you may also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of the application process. You must complete the healthcare surcharge payment and return to the online immigration application in less than thirty minutes. If you are making a postal application, you are required to pay the healthcare surcharge before you complete your application.

The healthcare surcharge is set at £470 per year for Youth Mobility applicants, and you must pay for the duration of the visa, so the actual healthcare surcharge you would be required to pay is £940 for a two year visa. If you do not pay the healthcare surcharge or pay an incorrect amount, you will receive an email from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) asking for payment. Once you receive the email, you must pay the surcharge within ten working days if you are already inside the UK, or seven working days if you are applying from outside the UK.

Your visa application will be rejected if you do not pay the full amount in the time requested.

How do I apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa?

You must apply for this visa online. If you are applying from outside the UK, you will need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre to get a biometric residence permit. You are required to collect your biometric residence permit within ten days of your stated date of entry to the UK (even if your entry is delayed). When you are issued with a decision letter, it will tell you where to collect your residence permit, which will be either a nominated Post Office or your sponsor, if you chose this option when you applied.

You must also supply the following supporting documentation with your application:

  • A valid passport or other identity document detailing your nationality – you will need a blank page in your passport for your visa
  • A bank statement you have at least £2,530 in savings for at least 28 consecutive days prior to your application
  • Your tuberculosis test results if you come from a country where you have to take a test
  • A certified translation of any document not in English or Welsh

Most applications are rejected because of insufficient documentation being provided to UKVI and applicants being unable to prove they have the necessary maintenance funds (currently set at £2.530) via bank account documentation.

Seasonal Workers Pilot (Temporary Worker visa)

Another option for a working holiday visa in the UK could be the Seasonal Workers Pilot. Launched in 2019, the scheme has been extended into the autumn harvest 2021 making 30,000 visas available for migrant workers to come to the UK and work on farms for a period of up to six months under a temporary worker visa.

Pilot operators receive licenses, which allows them to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to seasonal workers. This allows workers to apply for a visa under the new Temporary Worker route.

The Temporary Worker visa allows seasonal workers to enter the UK to perform certain employment roles. The main requirements are:

  • A sponsor must have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship
  • The role meets the requirements for sponsorship
  • The job will pay the National Minimum Wage
  • You have sufficient funds available to maintain yourself for the duration of your stay (if maintenance is not certified by your sponsor)
  • You must have a tuberculosis certificate if you come from a country that requires a test to be taken
  • You are not ineligible under the general grounds for refusal.

The earliest you can apply for a temporary workers visa is three months before the date you are due to start work. You should usually receive a decision within three weeks when you apply from outside the UK, but it is advisable to check processing times when making your application as COVID restrictions continue to impact operations and processing.

The visa costs £244, however your fee will be automatically reduced by £55 if you are from one of the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, or Turkey.

Your sponsor must give you a certificate of sponsorship. This is not an actual certificate but a reference number that must be added to your application form for a Temporary Worker visa.

You will need to provide:

  • A valid passport or other travel identification. You will need a blank page in your passport for the visa
  • A bank statement showing you have at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before travelling to the UK (day 28 must be within 31 days of the visa application) unless you are exempt
  • Test results from a tuberculosis test if you are from a country that requires the test to be taken
  • A suitably qualified professional must translate any document not in English or Welsh and mark it as a certified translation
  • Your certificate sponsorship reference number from your sponsor (your certificate is valid for three months from the date it is given to you)

What you can and cannot do under a Temporary Seasonal Worker visa

You can:

  • Work in the job described in the certificate of sponsorship
  • Study – however, for some courses you will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate

You cannot:

  • Accept permanent employment
  • Work in a second job or a job that is not described in your certificate of sponsorship
  • Receive public funds
  • Bring any family members with you

How do I apply for a Temporary Seasonal Worker visa?

You must apply online for a Temporary Worker visa. You will need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre, which will allow you to get a biometric residence permit.

You will have to collect the biometric residence permit within ten days of the date given as your stated date of arrival (even if you arrive at a later date).

If you have a child during your stay in the UK, they do not automatically obtain British Citizenship. You can apply online for a visa for your dependent, which you will have to do if you want to travel in and out of the UK with your child. You will need to provide a full UK birth certificate for each child born, showing both parents’ names when you apply for the visa.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.


Anne Morris is the founder and Managing Director of DavidsonMorris. A highly experienced lawyer, she is recognised by Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 UK as a trusted adviser to multinationals, large corporates and SMEs, delivering strategic immigration and global mobility advice. Anne is also an active commentator on UK immigration and HR matters.

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