If you’re interested in travelling to Europe, then a working holiday in the UK is a great option. Not only can you spend time exploring England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, but you can also make some extra money at the same time.
How would you like to spend the weekend scaling the fortress walls of the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland? Or perhaps you’d rather use your free time to explore the archaeological mystery that is Stonehenge? Maybe you’d simply prefer to relax with a cup of tea and crumpets in the lobby of a posh hotel in London?
On the working holiday UK visa, you can do it all.
Plus, if you’re living and working in the UK, nearby countries such as France, Spain and Portugal are just a quick ride away. With a Tier 5 Visa, working and travelling around the UK is simple.
This guide will show you the ins and outs of the working holiday program in the UK. You’ll be on your way to a new adventure in no time!
What is a Working Holiday in the UK?
The United Kingdom’s working holiday program is known as the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS). It allows young travellers to come to the UK and experience a vibrant new culture while also working to fund their travels.
When you research different visa programs, you might notice that there are several types of Tier 5 visas. But if you’re a young person interested in travelling and working within the UK, it’s the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme that you want to apply for.
Visas are granted for 24 months from the date of entry and allow holders to study, work, and travel within England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
There are many cities and countries to choose from within the UK. And although most people are immediately drawn to London, there are plenty of other exciting locations outside the city. That’s the best thing about a working holiday visa; you can choose to settle down in one place or explore all four countries.
☞ See Also: How To Get A Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand
Who is Eligible For a Working Holiday in the UK?
To participate in the Youth Mobility Scheme, you need to be a citizen from a country with a bilateral working holiday agreement with the UK. There are currently only eight countries participating in the agreement, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Monaco, New Zealand, and Taiwan.
However, you can also apply for the visa if you are a British National from another country besides the UK. This includes citizens from Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bermuda, and several other territories.
Besides your nationality, there are several other requirements you must meet:
- Be age 18-30 (must apply for the visa before you turn 31)
- Have no dependents (or anyone under 18 who you are financially responsible for)
- Have a minimum of £1890 in savings
- Not currently living in the UK
If you are deemed eligible for the Tier 5 YMS visa, then you’re just a few steps away from applying for this fantastic adventure.
How To Get a Working Holiday In The UK
While the Tier 5 YMS application process is straightforward, several extra steps are important to note. Since you can apply for the Tier 5 visa up to six months before you travel, you’ll have plenty of time to get your application documents in order.
Fill out your Application
The online application is relatively simple and should take around 30 minutes to complete. Before you start filling out the form, make sure you have the following documents and information at hand:
- Current passport
- Previous passports (for a history of your past travel)
- Birth dates and birth location of your parents
- Intended address in the UK
- Bank statement with £1890 balance and the application date as the closing date
On the online application form, you will also need to enter your proposed start and end date. As a reminder, the date you want to enter the country needs to be within six months of your application date.
You will also need to pay the visa fee of £244 at this time.
Remember, filling out the online application is just the beginning of the process. You still need to complete the following steps before you actually obtain the visa.
Pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge
Depending on your nationality, the online application tool may require that you pay an Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS). This is so you can take advantage of the UK’s National Health Services (NHS) once you arrive.
The IHS cost is £300 per year. If you plan to stay in the UK for the entire duration of your tier 5 visa (2 years), you will be required to pay £600. You can pay this fee using any major credit card when filling out your online application.
Once you pay the fee, you will receive an IHS reference number. Just remember to print it out, write it down in permanent ink, or save it on your computer! You’ll need this number throughout the visa application process.
Get Biometrics Taken
As part of the application process, you’ll need to submit your biometrics to obtain a Biometrics Residence Permit (BRP) once you arrive in the UK. This means you’ll need to visit a biometric centre in your home country to take your photograph, fingerprint scans, and collect your signature.
Once the online application has been submitted, you will receive details on where to get your biometrics taken. When you arrive for your appointment at the biometrics centre, bring the following documents with you:
- Printed and signed Tier 5 MYS application
- Appointment booking confirmation letter
- IHS Reference Number
Make sure to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment. Once you’re called, the entire meeting should take between 30-45 minutes.
Collect Your Visa
At the biometric centre, the agent will collect your biometrics, documents, and passport to send them to the visa processing centre.
The average visa processing time is between two and six weeks. However, wait times can be longer during the busy season and in non-commonwealth countries. You’ll receive an email once they receive your documents and when they approve your visa. Likewise, you will also receive a rejection email if you do not meet the necessary criteria.
Once your visa has been approved, it will be printed in your passport. You can return to the biometric centre to collect your passport, or you have the option for it to be mailed to your home address (for an extra fee).
Congratulations! After your passport is returned, you’ll have the Tier 5 YMS visa allowing you to travel abroad to the UK. Now you can book your flights, look for housing, and search for a new job.
How To Start Working in The UK
Although you’re on your way to starting a new journey in the UK, there are still a few steps you need to take once you arrive. This ensures that your transition to a new country, and possibly a new job, is as seamless as possible.
Collect your Biometrics Residence Permit
Once you touch down in the UK, you have exactly ten days to collect your Biometrics Residence Permit (BRP) from the Post Office. Don’t skip this step, as you’ll be fined £1,000 if you fail to collect your BRP!
This card will show your details, biometric information, and immigration status. Think of the BRP as your residence permit and official form of identification for your stay in the UK.
Open a Bank Account
To get paid by your employer, you’ll need to open a bank account in the UK. Each bank offers different benefits and plans for foreign nationals, so you should do some research to see which bank is the best fit.
Some popular banking choices include Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays, the Co-Operative Bank, and Santander.
Apply for an NI number
Since you’re responsible for paying UK taxes, you will need to apply for a NI number. With this number, you’ll be registered for the UK’s social security system. You can start working temporarily without the NI number, but your employer will eventually require it after a few weeks.
Obtaining your NI number requires you to call the National Insurance number application line:
Telephone: 0345 600 0643
Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm
The service representative will collect your passport and work permit information. Within a few days, you’ll receive the application packet in the mail. All you have to do is fill out the forms, send them back to the NI centre in the pre-addressed envelope, and receive your NI number a few days later.
Register with the National Health Service
During the application process, you paid an Immigration Healthcare Surcharge that lets you take advantage of the National Health Service in the UK. Although you received an IHS number, you still need to register with the NHS itself.
First, you need to locate the nearest General Practitioner (GP) in your city. As a resident, you can only be seen by a GP that services the postal code of your home address. For example, you can’t register or visit a GP in Manchester if you’ve claimed residency in London.
Bring your passport and NI number to the GP’s office. After filling out a few forms, the office will set you up as a new patient and provide you with an NHS card. The card may take a few days or weeks to arrive in the mail, but once you have an NHS number, you can start using the UK’s healthcare services.
What Type of Work Can You Do On a Working Holiday in the UK?
The Tier 5 YMS is an open visa, which means you can work in almost every line of work. You aren’t limited to part-time, temporary, or traditional backpacker-type jobs. The only restriction is that you cannot work as a sports coach, doctor, or dentist.
However, there are a few jobs that are common for young, working holiday visa holders.
The hospitality industry has one of the highest demands for employment in the UK. Whether it’s at a small bed and breakfast in the Welsh countryside or a glitzy 5-star resort in London, there are plenty of opportunities for working holiday participants.
If you’re good with people, you can take a customer-focused position such as front-desk clerk, concierge, or hotel event planning. If you prefer to work behind the scenes, you can still work in a hotel as a line cook, housekeeper, or maintenance worker.
With millions of restaurants, cafes, and bars in the UK, it’s easy to see why there are many job opportunities in the service industry. And with flexible hours and work schedules, a service job is the ultimate position for your working holiday.
Working as a bartender or waiter is an ideal entry-level position that can be found in all cities, villages, and towns in the UK. If you have more experience, there are often open jobs working as a chef or bartender.
If the food industry is not your thing, consider working in retail. Depending on your age, the minimum wage in the UK is between £6.15 – £8.21, which can give you a good chunk of change for travelling.
Just because you’re on a working holiday doesn’t mean you have to take up temporary work! With the Tier 5 visa, you can work for a variety of businesses, including financial firms, software companies, or consulting groups. Of course, you’ll need the right qualifications and experience first.
Since most companies are in the market for long-term employees, having the two-year Tier 5 visa is appealing. It’s much easier to land an office job in the UK compared to other countries that offer shorter working holiday programs.
Where To Find Working Holiday Jobs
There are many ways to find a working holiday job in the UK. While the line of work will depend on which city or region you choose to live in, there are a few places where you can start looking for work immediately.
Online Job Sites
One of the easiest ways to search for working holiday jobs is on the internet. There are several large aggregate sites like Reed.co.uk, Glassdoor.co.uk, and Indeed.co.uk with thousands of positions listed every day.
On these sites, you can sort by job type, length of employment, and salary. This is a great feature for working holiday participants since they can filter by temporary, part-time, or seasonal jobs. Looking at online job sites is a great first step to figuring out what type of work is available in the UK market.
If you’re not sure where to start your job search, you can always opt to sign up with a recruiting agency. After the agency learns more about your experience and ideal line of work, they will search through their database of open positions to see if there is a good match.
Working with a recruitment agency opens up a world of employers that might not list their jobs online. An agency can specialize in a particular line of work (like technical or medical recruitment), or they can focus on temporary jobs (perfect for working holiday participants).
Applying in Person
While hitting the pavement and handing out your resume may be more tedious than other job-seeking methods, it could still land you the ideal position. Cafes, restaurants, and bars might even advertise their open roles online, which means you need to apply in person to be considered for the job.
It’s important to carry your resume and cover letter when you apply for a job. If possible, ask to speak directly with the hiring manager. This is your chance to make an excellent first impression and ask any questions you have about the position.
Are There Disadvantages to the Working Holiday Program in the UK?
Going on a working holiday is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that young travellers should take advantage of. But just as there are incredible benefits, there are also some disadvantages that you should be aware of before applying.
For one, applying for the Tier 5 YMS visa can be expensive. Not only do you need to pay the £244 visa fee and the £600 Immigration Health Surcharge, but you also have to have £1890 in savings. And that’s not even considering the cost of flights, accommodation, or other expenses during your trip.
Another disadvantage is that the visa application process can be more complicated than other working holiday programs. You are required to visit a biometric centre as part of the application process; often, the centre might be in a different city or state.
Even if you do get accepted, other logistics need to be sorted out on your arrival. You’ll need to apply for a NI number, register with the NHS, and open a bank account before you start working.
But despite these hurdles, a working holiday in the UK is still a fantastic opportunity. After jumping through these hoops, you won’t even think twice about them once you’re settled.
What To Expect From The Working Holiday Program in The UK
Besides embarking on a new adventure, you might not know what else to expect from your working holiday in the UK – and rightfully so; there are plenty of new experiences, cultural differences, and unique challenges that you’ll face once you’re there. But here are a few things to keep in mind to make your transition a smooth one.
Consider Your Location
Some cities in the UK are known as being some of the most expensive in the world. Although the minimum wage in the UK is between £6.15 – £8.21, it might only cover a portion of your travels, accommodation, etc. To top it off, the UK tax is also particularly high, which means you’ll even have less money being deposited into your bank account.
If you want to make your dollar stretch further, consider living in a smaller town or village or sharing a flat instead of renting your own place.
Travelling Can Be Cheap…or Expensive
One of the most significant benefits of living in the UK is the region’s central location. You’re only a few hours away from mainland Europe, the Mediterranean, and Scandinavia. With thousands of affordable budget flight options, the UK is the perfect jumping-off point for travellers of all kinds.
However, travelling in the UK is another story. Public transportation can be expensive, and even taking the underground metro a few stops can make a dent in your wallet. All it means is that you need to carefully calculate (and stick to) your budget when planning a trip around or outside the UK.
Prepare for a Big Change
Whether you’re moving to a new flat or a new country, you can expect to go through some type of change. While a working holiday is exhilarating and exciting, there are times where you might get homesick. If this happens, don’t worry! It’s common for expats to miss their home, family, and friends.
One of the best ways to combat this change is to make friends in your new home. Not only will have you people to explore the city with, but you’ll also have friends to fall back on when you’re feeling homesick or alone. As long as you come to the UK with an open heart and mind, you’re guaranteed to find other like-minded people.
The United Kingdom is a diverse region that has something to explore around every corner. From the rugged mountains of Wales to the rolling hills of the English countryside, you’ll never get bored travelling through the UK.
Thankfully, a two-year working holiday visa gives you plenty of time to explore everything the region has to offer. And since you’re allowed to work, you can make extra money to spend on last-minute flights around the country or late-night beers with your new friends.
So, who wouldn’t want to spend time in the United Kingdom? If you have the means and are the right age and nationality, nothing is stopping you from jumping at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Learn more about the Tier 5 Visa here.
Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
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