UK expands youth mobility scheme visa to Indian nationals
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India and UK
Samar Shams
Samar Shams is a London-based immigration and global mobility partner at Spencer West

Expansion of the UK’s youth mobility scheme will serve as a spirit level for the government’s post-Brexit playing field. India has been added to the countries already covered by the scheme, but with additional eligibility requirements. However, in what is surely a missed opportunity to help with widely reported labour shortages, to date there has been no mention of EU countries being included.

Scheme overview

The scheme is a visa route allowing 18 to 30-year-olds from particular countries to come to travel to, work, and experience life in the UK for up to two years.

The existing scheme, for nationals of countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong has very few eligibility requirements. Each country is subject to a cap on the number of their nationals who can be granted scheme visas. For example, Australia’s allocation of places in 2021 is 30,000.

Eligibility requirements

The addition of India to the scheme follows a memorandum of understanding on migration and mobility signed by the UK and India in May 2021. At the time, the two countries announced that a “young professionals” visa would be introduced allowing up to 3,000 Indian nationals to come to the UK for work, and that the route would operate similarly to the youth mobility scheme.

It is now clear, however, that the visa for young professional Indian nationals, which will open on 1 January 2022, will actually fall within the existing scheme. But, unlike others on the scheme, Indian nationals will be subject to particular eligibility requirements that do not apply to other applicants:

  • they must hold a qualification at bachelor’s degree level or higher; and
  • have at least three years of work experience in medium- or high-skilled roles.

India’s scheme allocation in 2022 will be 3,000 places and will run according to invitation to apply arrangements. Applicants must submit expressions of interest by a certain date. They will then be selected at random and invited to apply.

What about EU nationals?

In the Home Office’s 2018 white paper “The UK’s future skills-based immigration system”, the government confirmed that it proposed a UK-EU youth mobility scheme “as part of its mobility framework to ensure that young people can continue to enjoy the social, cultural, and educational benefits of living in the EU and the UK”.

Although Iceland has also been added to the youth mobility scheme for 2022, with an allocation of 1,000 places, to date the government has not confirmed that the scheme will expand to include EU nationals. Doing so could help businesses struggling to fill roles. It will be interesting to see how level the playing field will be for EU nationals, should the scheme eventually be opened to them.