Is UK-EU Youth Mobility visa on the cards?
UK Youth Mobility visa Scheme is a form of working holiday visa for young people who wish to come to the UK and experience UK life. This is a reciprocal visa scheme under which people up to a certain age limit are able to apply for fixed-term visas to travel and work in the other country, without meeting eligibility requirements for other types of visa such as salary thresholds. The UK already has Youth Mobility visa Schemes with a number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, San Marino, Monaco, Iceland and India.
Since Brexit, the possibility of reciprocal Youth Mobility Scheme between the UK and EU has been discussed but so far has not materialised. The topic has returned this year again and our article focuses on the recently published Report on the future UK-EU relationship that recommends introducing Youth Mobility visa for EU nationals.
Recommendation for reciprocal UK Youth Mobility Scheme for EU nationals
European Affairs Committee produced Report on the future UK-EU relationship 4th Report of Session 2022-23 – published 29 April 2023 – HL Paper 184. This Report concludes that many of the barriers to business and professional mobility highlighted by representatives of various sectors of UK economy may be partially addressed through a reciprocal youth mobility arrangement with the EU and/or individual Member States. For this reason the Report proposed that the UK and the EU should negotiate a youth mobility visa arrangement.
The current staff shortages in many sectors of UK economy may mean that this time there is a good chance that Youth Mobility Scheme for EU nationals may be introduced. The young Europeans may certainly help to plug the staff shortages and boost the economy.
From the UK government’s perspective in terms of limiting the net immigration, Youth Mobility visas should not cause concern as the Youth Mobility visas are temporary and do not lead to permanent residence. This is another reason why Youth Mobility Scheme may ultimately be introduced for EU nationals.
Conclusions and recommendations of the Report – Post-Brexit EU-UK mobility
According to the Report, Post-Brexit changes to arrangements for mobility between the UK and the EU have had a particularly significant impact on younger people. The Report therefore recommends that the Government should approach the EU about the possibility of entering negotiations around an ambitious reciprocal youth mobility partnership. In common with existing youth mobility arrangements that the UK and individual EU Member States have agreed with other jurisdictions, this would allow young people to apply for fixed-term visas to travel and work in the other partner on preferential terms.
The Report further states that ‘the simplicity of agreeing with the Commission a single youth mobility arrangement that applies across the EU (rather than 27 separate arrangements) is attractive to the UK. They therefore recommend that as a first step the Government explores this possibility with the EU rather than negotiating it separately with each EU Member State.
The Report further recommends that ‘any such scheme should ideally be reciprocal, that numbers should be capped and that participants should have no automatic permanent residence rights in the country that they visit.
The Report finally states that the establishment of a UK-EU youth mobility partnership would have little impact on wider levels of immigration.
Benefits of any potential EU-UK Youth Mobility Scheme
There is potentially a long list of benefits for the UK that can result from introducing reciprocal EU- UK Youth Mobility Scheme. The UK economy, especially businesses in sectors such as the food industry and hospitality, experience acute labour shortages and the young Europeans could be the help those businesses need.
Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), stated that there had been a “massive fall in the number of lower-skilled workers who have been able to come into the UK”. He suggested that there was a link between this trend and the well-documented labour shortages that have recently been experienced in some sectors. Based on membership surveys conducted by the BCC, it identified hospitality, catering and tourism; transport, logistics and storage; and production and manufacturing, as among those sectors that had been most severely impacted by closure of free movement for EU nationals after Brexit. The impact is particularly significant on small businesses as they are less able to absorb additional costs that are now associated with recruitment from the EU, such as sponsorship licence and sponsored work visa fees, compared to larger organisations.
There are certainly many potential advantages of introducing the Youth Mobility Scheme for EU nationals. However, the decision is ultimately with the UK government to take the steps.