The Youth Mobility Scheme visa is now open to 18- to 30-year-olds from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino and Iceland, as well as British Overseas citizens, British Nationals Overseas and British Overseas Territories citizens. It is also available to those from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan through a ballot system. The first ballot of 2023 opens from 00.01am on Tuesday 17 January and closes at 00.01am on Thursday 19 January. 

As long as applicants from these territories hold at least £2,530 in available funds and are aged 18 to 30 at the time of application, they are able to apply to stay in the UK for up to 2 years. If you are from a country with a ballot, you need the email confirming success in the ballot. There are some additional requirements if you are from San Marino and Iceland.

An important benefit of this scheme is that visa holders are allowed to study and work while in the UK. The UK Government acts as the visa holder's sponsor instead of the employer, which means that UK businesses will not be required to carry the financial and administrative burdens of sponsorship. The Federation of Small Businesses have expressed their enthusiasm towards the scheme and how this introduces new flexibility for businesses to employ workers from outside the UK, as not only will they be free from requiring to sponsor these workers, they will also not have to contend with the skills and salary thresholds required by the Skilled Worker visa route. It also enables small businesses to 'trial' an employee before engaging with the sponsorship system.

Visa holders must not take part in any work as a professional sportsperson.  There is also a bar on visa holders being self-employed, unless it is in a business with no employees, no premises (or only rented) and equipment worth no more than £5,000 - so most social media influencers should be fine!  Any entrepreneurs who cannot meet the requirements and wish to set up shop in the UK can do so through the Start-up or Innovator visa routes instead.

The Youth Mobility Scheme is designed for young people to participate in a "cultural exchange" and experience life in the UK for up to 2 years, much like the Australian working holiday visa. Visa holders should therefore note that it is not possible to extend their stay past 2 years under this category. It does not provide a route to permanent residency ("settlement") either. So if they develop a penchant for Brighton's beaches or the Great British pub during their time and decide that they simply must stay in the UK, they will need to switch into a new visa category to do so.

Another huge benefit is that participants in the Scheme may leave and re-enter the UK an unlimited number of times during their stay. The excellent travel links across the country means that visa holders can use the UK as a springboard for further European travel.

The Youth Mobility Scheme visa is full of potential, and it is exciting to see how young people and businesses alike may benefit from this scheme in the near future.