Australian citizens are able to travel as a tourist around the UK (as well as most of Europe) just using their passport. However for those who aspire to work and live in the UK, you will need a visa. There are various different types, including sponsorship visas, skilled worker visas – for a comprehensive list look here – however the visa I’ve opted to go for is the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.
If you’re 18-30 years old, applying for a youth mobility visa to live and work in the UK is easy. You need to meet some basic requirements and supply some documentation and you’ll be on your way!
There is lots of information online, however I spent hours on various websites collating the correct information. Until I had my visa in my hands, I was never sure if I’d missed a step or if I was doing the right thing. Hopefully this comprehensive list provides all the information you need to make one of the first big steps to moving to the UK.
Country of residence:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong – must have a letter of sponsorship
- Republic of Korea – must have a letter of sponsorship
- Taiwan – must have a letter of sponsorship
- You can’t have children who live with you
- You can’t be financially responsible for any children
- You must have the equivalent of £1890 in savings – note that this can’t be seen to be one lump sum entering your account, like a gift from a family member, which you may then pay back.
Information you’ll need for your online application
- Parents’ legal names, according to their passports. You don’t need a copy of your parents’ passports, just the information. It might be a good idea to get photos of the passports for your own peace of mind – after submitting my application, my mum told me that my dad’s passport name doesn’t, in fact, contain his second middle name. I lost sleep wondering if this tiny detail would mean a denied visa – luckily everything was fine.
- You will need to provide the address of your first place of residence in the UK. At first I freaked out – how could I have a place to live without even having a visa (ie. right to live and work in the UK)? After much scouring of the internet I discovered that this address is used to send your biometric residence permit to the nearest post office. I chose the address of a hotel in the city centre, assuming that it would be easy to travel to the city to collect my permit (note that this needs to be done within 10 days of your visa start date). You don’t actually need to be staying at this address, but make sure you keep a note of what you used.
- You need to nominate a date for your visa to start. Be careful – with the Youth Mobility Visa you will need to arrive in the UK in the first 30 days of the visa commencing. You can’t arrive before the start date of your visa. Our visas start on 1 January 2016, however when booking our flights the cost jumped up $2,000 between a 31st December arrival and an arrival on the following day. Unfortunately the latest, most reasonably priced flights arrive at 8pm on 31st December so we will have to wait for 4 hours in the airport before moving through customs. If you get caught out and arrive before your visa starts, you are able to exit and re-enter the UK in the first 30 days; jump on a train to Paris for the weekend!
Completing your application online
- Complete the application online at visa4uk.fco.gov.uk.
- After all the information is collated, you’ll need to pay £225 for the application. If you are in Brisbane or Adelaide (or will be travelling to either of these cities for your appointment) you will need to pay an extra (inexplicable) fee.
- After you’ve completed your application online, you will be prompted to book an appointment. These appointments need to be made within 3 months of the start date of your visa.
- After your visa application is complete online, you will be prompted to apply for an IHS reference number. The surcharge allows residents of the UK access to the public health scheme, similar to Medicare in Australia. Luckily, some people are exempt from paying this surcharge (you still need to apply online to get a reference number) and are still able to receive free healthcare. Australians are exempt!
Documentation to bring to your appointment
- Current passport – make sure your current passport is up to date and will be valid for the entire duration of your visa. Normally, you will need a few months at the end of your intended stay.
- Old passports – if you have an existing or expired passport you’ll need to bring this. This includes passports in previous names.
- Completed and printed online application form.
- The email you receive confirming your appointment time.
- Bank statement/letter showing at least £1890 (approximately $4,000) in your bank account. My bank (Commonwealth Bank) provided me with a signed letter and Justin’s bank (Suncorp) provided a transaction record.
- Passport photo which must be less than 12 months old. The staff member in the immigration office will glue this to your application form.
- Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) reference number.
- A second form of ID like a drivers licence.
At your visa appointment
- Bring all the above documentation along to the application centre.
- Luckily, at my appointment, I arrived 15 minutes early and only had to wait for one person to finish their appointment. When I returned to pick up my passport, I overheard the receptionist telling someone else that they were running 90 minutes behind schedule (luckily I didn’t have to wait this long as I was picking up the passport, not applying). Both times were around midday, so just be wary that you may have to wait for a long time, especially if you’re doing this during work.
- The staff will ask you a few questions (mainly conversational, all the information they need is in the application form), take your photo and fingerprints (referred to as your biometric data) and send all of your documents and this information to Manila for processing.
- Unfortunately there is no way to track the progress of this, you just have to wait for an email to say that a decision has been made, then a second email to say your passport is ready for collection. You find out whether your visa has been approved only when you collect your passport.
Waiting for your visa to arrive
- It will take approximately 3 weeks for a decision to be made and for your passport to be returned (hopefully with your visa inside!).
- Due to our work schedules, Justin and I had our appointments on separate days – his was on Thursday, mine was on Friday. Less than one week later, Justin had an email saying that a decision had been made and that his visa was being sent back to the application centre. A few days later it had arrived. I waited for at least another week before my “decision made” email hit my inbox and another week for it to arrive in Brisbane. There was no explanation for the difference in processing times. Don’t freak out if this happens to you.
- You can have your passport couriered to you (for an extra fee) or collect it from the office where you had your appointment. The staff member will show you your decision letter and visa and get you to sign something to say you’ve collected your passport.
What to do when you arrive in the UK
- You will need to collect your biometric residence permit within 10 days of your specified arrival date (the date on your visa, not the date you actually get to the UK). This will be at the post office specified in your decision letter.
- As mentioned above, you need to arrive in the UK within the first 30 days of the start date of your visa. You can exit and re-enter the UK in this first 30 days to activate your visa.
There is a lot of information here, but if there is something I have missed or you’d like to know more about, comment below! The processes are constantly changing – if you’ve had a different experience, let me know.
Note that any dollar or pound amounts, time periods and requirements were correct at the time of writing this article. Please check online at www.gov.uk before you apply for your visa to avoid any disappointment.