What is a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa?
The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa allows young people to live and work in the UK for up to two years. You have to be between 18 and 30 years of age (more specifically, you have to apply and arrive in the country before your 31st birthday), have saved up a certain amount of cash (£1,890 as at October 2016) and be one of the nationalities listed on the website.
My experience is that of an Australian, applying from Australia, but probably has many parallels to other nationalities.
How much does it cost?
The application fee is £230.
If you are applying from Brisbane, Canberra or Perth, there are extra costs of 105 AUD at the time of your biometric appointment (more on that later).
There is also something called the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS). I just missed out on having to pay for this. I understand that now Australians have to pay £300.
How do you apply?
You have to apply before you enter the UK. The timing of your application is fairly important. As part of the application process you can pick the day your visa will start, and it must be within 3 months of submitting your application. Example – You want to arrive in the UK on 1 June. To make the most of your two year visa, you should put that date in your diary and be ready to hit send on your application when 1 March arrives.
Make sure you have at least 2 1/2 years left on your passport. This isn’t compulsory, but it’s worth considering ahead of time as it’s easier to get a new passport back home than while you are living overseas.
Pay for the IHS as you will need the reference number in your visa application. I understand you can also complete this after you have completed the online application so long as you have the reference number before you attend the biometric assessment.
Fill in the online application form. As part of the form you get to pick the start date for your visa – this must be within the next 3 months. You will also need a UK address and phone number. Of course you probably won’t have a permanent address yet, but you will have to know where you will be staying (which is contrary to the official advice, which is to not book anything before your visa is approved …). Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) will be delivered to a post office near the address you provide.
Step 4 Biometric assessment
As part of the visa application you have to pick a date to attend your biometric assessment appointment where they will take your finger prints and take a photo of you. Try to do this as soon as possible after you submit your application, otherwise it will hold up the whole process. The photo they take will be on your visa, so you might want to look nice!
When you go to your biometric assessment appointment, bring these documents:
- Completed and printed online application form
- A bank statement showing you have at least £1,890 in savings – if you cannot get a bank statement, they’ll also accept a letter from your bank printed on their letterhead. It must include your name, account number, date, and account balance. My bank allowed me to print this myself online with the previous day’s account balance.
- Recent passport photo
- Appointment booking confirmation letter
- Passport with a page that’s blank on both sides
- IHS Reference Number showing you have paid
- A second form of photo ID like a current drivers licence (original and colour photocopy of both sides)
Full guidance on supporting documents can be found here.
This is my experience of the biometric assessment appointment in Sydney, which may or may not be representative of others’ experience. I’ve heard others say their whole appointment took less than an hour, so I may have been there on a particularly busy day.
When you arrive you will be let in by a guard who will ask you to put all your possessions, including your phone, in a locker. Then he lets you into a waiting room. I had to wait more than an hour here, which was pretty boring with nothing to do. I wished I had brought a book or magazine to read (if it wouldn’t have been confiscated as well).
You then get called into the next room, where you do some more waiting. I probably sat here for about 20 minutes before I got called up to a counter.
At the counter you will be asked to fill in a form saying what you are submitting. I paid extra for sms notifications about when to collect my visa, but I never received anything so I wouldn’t recommend that particular service. You can also pay extra to have the visa couriered back to you. I opted to collect it myself as I worked nearby – in hindsight the courier may have been easier.
They then package up your application, passport and supporting documents and tell you to go and sit down to wait to have your biometrics taken. That’s a relatively short wait, before you go into another room for finger printing and they take your photo, after which you are free to go.
Then you wait to hear back. For me, I got an email after a week saying that ‘a decision had been made’ and that my documents were being returned, and that the visa application centre would contact me when I could return to collect my visa and passport.
And so I waited patiently for another week. Then another week. During this time you start to doubt yourself and curse yourself for not triple checking your application. Against official advice, I had already booked my flights, given notice at my job, prepared to put my apartment up for rent, started sell off my possessions …and I was terrified I’d either been rejected or my passport lost in transit or worse – stolen.
So submitted requests for information through the online form on the help page and their response was that they would get back to me within 3-6 working days (they never did). I waited for a few more days, then gave up and called the phone number (also on the help page). You have to enter your credit card details and it costs a few dollars – totally worth it though to talk to an actual person. They weren’t terribly helpful, they basically told me to go and just ask at the collection centre. I had been nervous about doing this a) because of all the super security I’d had to go through last time and b) because I’d been told to under no circumstances return to the collection centre before I received my letter saying my visa was ready.
So I took an afternoon off work in anticipation of a long and ghastly wait … but it was all pretty quick. I arrived, explained my situation to the guard, he put me in waiting room one (without confiscating all my possessions!) then a few minutes later someone came out and dumped a package in my lap and walked away. I ripped open the packaging with bated breath, pulled out my passport, leafed frantically through the pages … and found nirvana. My visa approval, valid for 30 days. Don’t be alarmed – this is what I was expecting to see. You enter the country on that visa approval, then go to collect your residence permit from the post office.
Unfortunately it wasn’t until a few days later I realised I didn’t actually know which post office I had to go to, and I figured there were probably many to choose from in London. So a word of warning – when you finally receive your passport back, don’t throw out the postage packet without checking if there is a BRP decision letter inside! Rookie error.
If you are an idiot like me, don’t fear. I contacted the advice service ([email protected]) and they emailed me the details.
The whole process had taken just under one calendar month, so slightly longer than the 2-3 weeks stated on the website. In all fairness, I did receive an email a few days later telling me that my passport was ready for collection (!)
Collect your residence permit within 30 days of arrival in the country. This went quite smoothly, even without the BRP decision letter. I showed my email from BRP Collection and my passport at the post office and they looked me up – easy peasy. The collection date was a week later than I’d expected it to be, which was a bit inconvenient (and I lost a week off my 2 year working visa as I had to delay starting my job until I had the residence permit) but I can’t really complain about a forced week’s holiday in London can I?
So that’s my experience of applying for the UK’s Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa – if anyone else is going through the process, I hope this helps!