It’s an Australian rite of passage, really – moving to the ‘Big Smoke’ of England to spend a year sipping lukewarm ale in adorable old pubs and marvelling at everybody’s posh British accents. Well, I am officially the latest Aussie to leave the motherland in search of new adventures – although my destination of Cornwall might be a little unusual compared to the usual rush to London. Nonetheless, I’ve got my two-year Youth Mobility Visa (aka a working holiday visa) for good old Great Britain and I’m trading the city lights of Adelaide for the rustic laneways of the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.
Here’s how I got my visa.
This is the usual disclaimer. I am not a migration agent. This is not specific advice. You know the drill – if you have any thorny, specific questions – ask an expert.
Eligibility for the Youth Mobility Visa
Meeting the eligibility criteria for the Youth Mobility Visa to the UK is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is show the following:
- You are older than 18 but younger than 30;
- You have at least £1,890 or equivalent in savings;
- You have never held a Youth Mobility Visa before; and
- You are from one of the eligible countries.
Essentially, if you’re an Aussie between 18 and 30, and you can get your hands on about $3,500 AUD, you are in good stead for getting a Youth Mobility Visa.
What’s this about a cap on places for the Youth Mobility Visa?
If you’re an obsessive reader of Government information like I am, you may have seen that the English ‘Border Force’ website states that there is a cap on the number of places that are available for Australians coming to the UK. As I am a worrier by nature, and I was applying in June – which all Facebook users know is peak ‘Seeya Oz, I’m off to Europe’ season – I was concerned the places may have run out by the time I applied.
I shouldn’t have been. Apparently, the amount of visas given out to bright eyed and bushy tailed Australians has never come anywhere near meeting the cap. It seems no one has ever been turned down on the basis that the places have all been filled, so you will be fine.
Do I need to have had the funds for the Youth Mobility Visa in my account for 90 days?
If you look closely at the Government website, you will see that it tells you that for Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) visa holders, you need to have had the funds in your account for at least 90 days. This sent me into a huge flap, because due to long and boring financial arrangements, my money had not been in an account in my name for 90 days. I panicked a lot and initially thought that I could not apply at all (are you getting the feeling I’m good at panicking?)
It turns out, however, that the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) visa is a different subsection of the Tier 5 stream than the youth mobility visa. As a result, it is my understanding that you do not need to have the fund in your account for 90 days. You just need to have a statement that shows the closing balance is above the minimum requirement, with the statement dated no more than 30 days before you made the application. In my case, it had been deposited the same day as the statement was dated.
The Process for Applying for the Youth Mobility Visa
I had previously been through the process of applying for a working holiday visa to Australia for my husband (and screwed it up), which was super easy – even fixing my error. By contrast, there was a little more to the UK one, including sending off hardcopy documents (why) and attending an in-person biometrics appointment.
I also, frankly, didn’t find the UK website very helpful. Not only was the form kind of confusing, but it gave me additional requirements after the application had been printed, meaning I had to find a few extra documents at the last minute. To help you out, here’s my guide on how to make it through the process:
1. Collect your documents
There are quite a few documents that need to be submitted with your application, in hard copy. So make sure you have the following:
- Your passport, with at least one page that is blank on both sides (this was a problem for me, and I had to apply for a whole new passport. Boo);
- Passport photograph, which is pretty self-explanatory;
- An official bank statement or letter from your bank showing the sufficient funds, which must be dated no more than 30 days before you submit the application and must include your name, address and account number(s);
- Criminal history check/driving record, if you have declared offences (including traffic offences).
The application asks for original documents, however since it only asked for the originals after I’d submitted the application and my bank is online only, I was not able to get a hardcopy statement. I sent a printed version of the one generated online and I had no issues.
Also, do not staple your documents. I did this, thinking I was being helpful. I was not, and had to unpick all of the staples before I posted it to the visa processing centre.
2. Complete your application online
The next step is to complete the fairly tedious application process online through the UK website. This took me about an hour, mainly because it has a really slow process of adding in every country you’ve visited in the last 10 years. It only accepts up to a maximum of 30 countries, so I also attached a hard copy printout of all the other countries I’d visited.
It also asked for all of my family in the UK, including in-laws, which was again pretty tedious considering I’m married to a Brit and have a lot of in-laws. I only added in Tom’s immediate family. It also strangely asked me who was employing me and how much I’d be paid. I just added £0 and put in “not yet determined” in the employer’s name box. I think this is only there because they use the same form for all temporary worker applications.
Do you need to declare speeding fines?
The application also asked if you’d been convicted of any crimes or offences. I certainly don’t have a criminal record, however, I did get a speeding fine back in 2009. From what I have read, it seems that the general consensus is you probably don’t have to declare it, but you might as well. This is the approach I took and declared the speeding fine and how it happened.
The downside of this was that the paperwork said that if you’d ticked “yes” you had to submit a road traffic summary and criminal history check with your application. Honestly, again I’m not sure you actually have to send these things for a speeding fine, but just in case I did so, since I already have a criminal history check from applying for a partner visa with Tom, and it took 5 seconds to generate a traffic offences report from the SA Government website.
3. Pay for your application and the NHS supplement
Once you have checked and submitted your online application, you need to pay the kind of extortionate fees. The visa itself is £244, which is pretty reasonable, however its the £300 you have to pay as a health supplement that really made my eyes water. Note, you have to pay for the 2 years even if you only intend on staying for one year. Oh well, at least I know I have access to the glorious NHS!
4. Choose your appointment time, and attend biometrics
Once you’ve dutifully paid your fees, you’ll need to choose a time to go in and attend your biometrics appointment. In keeping with it not being the world’s easiest process, the relevant office is only open for 3 hours on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I selected my appointment and it then gave me a bunch of papers to print off and bring with me, including a checklist of documents I needed to bring.
A few days later, I arrived at the visa processing centre – ten minutes early (just) as directed. I had to get my photo taken and be fingerprinted. This is an extra step that is not required for an Australian visa, but it didn’t take too long. The processing officer then stamps your documents and gives you a fact sheet about where to send the papers. Note, the staff are just ‘agents’ for UK Border Force and will absolutely not answer any questions, at all, that you might have.
5. Send off your application, documents (including passport) and a reply paid envelope
After your appointment, you have five days to send off your application. Again, the documentation was not terribly clear as to whether this is five working days or five calendar days, but to be safe I just posted it the day after my appointment. You also need to include a reply paid envelope – this is what your passport comes back in so I chose a pre-paid registered post envelope. You then send it to the visa processing centre in Sydney.
After a couple of days, I got an email advising me that all my documents had been scanned and would be returned to me. Within a few days, they were back in my letterbox. This did beg the question, why can’t you just scan and upload your documents in the first place? But I digress.
6. Get your Youth Mobility Visa!
The website and information sheet both told me that I would get an email once my visa had been processed, but I never did. Instead, I just got my passport and a visa grant letter in my mailbox. Oh well, the main thing is that the visa is here and I’m headed back to beautiful Brittania!