Why it’s time for youth mobility visas for EU nationals

4 October 2021

The Youth Mobility Scheme allows employers to access younger workers from countries such as India and Iceland for two years. With skills shortages afflicting critical sectors, now might be the time for the government to consider a youth visa agreement with the EU.

The long-running HGV driver crisis and its recent knock-on effects on the UK’s fuel and food supply chains have prompted the government to issue 10,500 temporary visas to fill skill and staff shortages in these sectors.

While we hopefully will have turkeys on our tables for Christmas, it is unlikely that this post-Brexit immigration giveaway will solve longer-term structural problems in the road transport sector and our supply chains. Shortages in this industry are now endemic in many countries, and a combination of poor working conditions together with the memories of huge delays at the UK border in 2020 mean it is unlikely that the promise of a short-term visa will lure many drivers to these shores.

The 30,000 visas available for Seasonal Agricultural Workers, many of whom come from the EU, does not even touch the sides of what this sector needs. And if that wasn’t enough for the government, the hospitality industry has now come out to push for bartenders, chefs and sommeliers to be included in the shortage occupation list.

The debacle throws a spotlight on the government’s failure to plan for this huge adjustment to the labour market. It was clear that the end of free movement would have obvious consequences for sectors with low wages, tight margins, and existing staffing shortages. The outcomes we are seeing, while not entirely predictable, could at least have been foreseen as one of a range of consequences for shutting the UK off from lower skilled workers. While the new immigration system did lower the overall skills threshold for Skilled Worker sponsored visas, it was always going to keep out the very workers that UK employers are crying out for now.

While all this has unfolded, the UK has quietly signed youth mobility agreements with India (May) and Iceland (July). From January 2022, nationals of these countries will join the ranks of existing beneficiaries from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

These Youth Mobility Scheme visas offer those aged 18-30 a one-off visa that enables them to work in any occupation for up to two years (with the notable exception of being a professional sportsperson). India is the one exception in that visa holders must have a degree or three years’ skilled work experience. Visa holders need to leave the UK at the end of the visa unless they can switch into a long-term work visa.

So why not agree youth mobility visas with EU countries to alleviate some of the UK’s current labour market challenges, while at the same time offering the possibility of cultural exchanges that Brexit has cut off?

“Valuable route”

In response to a parliamentary question, the immigration minister Kevin Foster responded this week: “Our Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) agreements provide a valuable route for mutual cultural exchange and are not simply a one-way route for recruiting labour from overseas. We will therefore not add nations to the YMS route unilaterally."

“We are open to negotiating YMS arrangements with other countries and territories, including the EU or nations within it. However, as each YMS is subject to a bilateral, reciprocal agreement which also provides benefit to UK Nationals, with the detail negotiated and agreed between the relevant parties, we are unable to disclose the status of ongoing negotiations with partner countries as they occur.”

There is nothing preventing either the UK or each EU Member State from signing these bilateral agreements. EU countries regularly sign bilateral reciprocal youth mobility visa agreements with third countries, as seen with the revamped Italy/Canada agreement signed last year. This offers greater professional career development work opportunities and the possibility to apply for the 12 month visa twice. The UK/Iceland agreement is the first with a European (albeit only EEA) country which will allow up to 1,000 young Icelanders a year to come to the UK to work for two years.

Youth mobility won’t solve the UK’s current labour shortages. The government won’t want to be seen to be rushing to sign these agreements for fear they could be miscast as a knee-jerk reaction to our current woes. But the sooner they do agree them, the better.

This article was first published by Personnel Today on 4 October 2021 (Subscription Required).


For further information on any issues raised in this blog, please contact a member of our Immigration team.


About the author

Nick Rollason heads our immigration team and advises on all areas of UK immigration and nationality law. He has particular expertise in providing strategic advice to businesses on their global immigration needs. He is regularly consulted by the UK immigration authorities on proposed changes to the UK immigration rules and policy.


Latest blogs & news

Nationality and Borders Bill shows questionable priorities

The Nationality and Borders Bill, the government’s signature piece of legislation on immigration, shows questionable priorities at a time when the UK is in the midst of a wider immigration crisis.

Why it’s time for youth mobility visas for EU nationals

The Youth Mobility Scheme allows employers to access younger workers from countries such as India and Iceland for two years. With skills shortages afflicting critical sectors, now might be the time for the government to consider a youth visa agreement with the EU.

Covid and post-Brexit immigration rules serve up a recipe for disaster in the hospitality sector

From being the centrepiece of England’s post-Covid recovery with ‘eat out to help out’, the hospitality sector is now struggling to rebuild after lockdowns, furlough and rising food prices. At the same time many restaurants, cafes and pubs are coming up against the hard realities of a post-Brexit immigration policy and discovering what it means for their business.

(In)definitely maybe – when indefinite doesn’t quite mean indefinite

You have come to the end of your long immigration journey, paid thousands of pounds to UKVI to obtain permission to enter, permission to stay and then, finally, indefinite leave to remain (ILR) (also called settlement). When obtaining ILR, individuals may understandably breathe a sigh of relief – it’s over! For many who, for various reasons, choose not to naturalise or register as British, ILR can provide adequate status to live and work in the UK permanently.

What next for EU citizens in the UK?

The vast majority of EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens who were UK residents by the end of last year were able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by the 30 June 2021 deadline. Applying to the EU Settlement Scheme meant that an EU citizen could stay in the UK for the long term.

Missed the EU Settlement Scheme deadline? FAQs on what to do next

The deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) was 30 June 2021. But for those who missed it – all is not lost. The Home Office will continue to accept applications from individuals with ‘reasonable grounds’ for having missed the EUSS cut-off point. In this blog, we explore what might constitute a ‘reasonable ground’ and consider the legal implications for those who have fallen short of the deadline.

The Home Office has shown efficiency and innovation in dealing with EU nationals-it now needs to show its humanity

In February 2019, shortly after the launch of EU Settlement scheme for EU nationals to apply for their UK status, my colleagues and I visited one of our global media client’s offices to present on the new EU Settlement Scheme at a town hall meeting with all of their EU national employees. 

eSports vs. the Law

Gone are the days of computer gaming being viewed as a secluded activity; gaming is now a thoroughly social experience that attracts a global audience of millions and players can compete for large sums of money and celebrity. This burgeoning industry is largely in a virtual world and has developed in a blockchain, decentralised fashion. Often the UK government talks up the UK gaming industry and how keen the government is to support this sector, and there have been instances that show support, but when it comes to playing games competitively, law and regulations have not yet caught up.

Final countdown to the EU Settlement Scheme deadline

The UK left the EU in January 2020, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement there has been a grace period in place since 1 January 2021 which ends on 30 June 2021. The basis of the grace period is that those EU citizens (and EEA and Swiss citizens) who were residents in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. 

Throwing a spanner into football’s European Super League plans using immigration laws

The furore around the announcement by a number of football clubs of their intention to create a European Super League has led to governments displaying their opposition to the idea and issuing threats on the legislative leverage that could be used to stop the breakaway league from getting going.

CQC and EHRC publish new memorandum of understanding agreement

On 9 March 2021, the Care Quality Commission (“CQC”) and Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) published a new memorandum of understanding agreement (“the MoU”). The MoU seeks to increase the effectiveness of the two organisations’ work in safeguarding the wellbeing and rights of people receiving health and social care in England, through developing a supportive framework and strategic partnership.

UK budgets for yet more immigration changes

Any sense of a post-Brexit slowdown in UK immigration changes was quickly swept away last week with a thorough spring clean and polish to a wide range of rules.  As is commonly the case at this time of year, a statement of changes in the Immigration Rules was released in advance of 6 April when many of the changes will come into force. We set out the main changes below and also include a quick summary of the headlines from the Budget on how new immigration categories aim to assist with the economic recovery.


Best practice guide for charities responding to Illegal Working Civil Penalty Information Requests

COVID-19 has had a severely damaging affect on all organisations and no less so those in the charitable sector.  Be that on a dramatic hit to donation levels, resourcing issues through furloughing or redundancies and difficulties in delivering programmes and training.  In a battle to survive and deliver on core services, it is easier than ever to forget crucial internal risk and compliance processes. 

COVID-19, Trafficking, and Vulnerability

The COVID - 19 pandemic will certainly go down in history as one of the worse periods in modern times. Many of us will have stories to tell the future children about a time when the world was held to ransom by the pandemic and people were forced to stay home and could only leave if they had a legitimate reason, such as going out for medicine or food. So, what of those who are “home” but, don’t have the choices we do? 

Switching from Tier 2 to Global Talent

The Tech Nation Visa (officially known as the Global Talent visa) enables the brightest and best tech talent from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector, contributing their cutting-edge expertise, creativity and innovation to maintaining the UK’s position at the forefront of the global digital economy.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa

The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) visa has officially opened for applications on 31 January 2021. Given the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the BN(O) visa, it is quite understandable that applicants may still have questions about this visa route and personal considerations on applying. 

In this blog we answer some of your most frequently asked questions about the BN(O) visa to help you consider whether this is the right UK visa path for you and your family. Our earlier blog also details the key highlights of the visa.


The end of free movement: what SMEs need to know

EU free movement rules ended for the UK on December 31 2020. As a result, recruiting an EU citizen who is not already living in the UK now involves a visa application.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement – does it make any difference to UK and EU immigration?

Citizens’ Rights were one of the first and most important components to be negotiated and protected in the November 2019 Withdrawal Agreement.  However, whilst the rights of British citizens resident in the EU and EU citizens resident in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 are protected, free movement of people ended on that date.

What now for performers in the UK and EU?

As covered in our previous blog, the end of free movement will affect the ability of entertainers from the EU to work in the UK. But recent press has also surrounded the ability, or lack of it, of touring British citizen performers to work in the EU.

Criminality - in the eyes of immigration officials, a stain that can never be washed

The UK’s Immigration Rules include general grounds for refusal which most immigration applications must not fall foul of – the general grounds are divided between mandatory and discretionary grounds, under which applications must or may be refused respectively. The general grounds now also apply to most EEA nationals wishing to enter the UK.


Share insightLinkedIn Twitter Facebook Email to a friend Print

Email this page to a friend

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

Leave a comment

You may also be interested in:

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility