How to apply for a UK Working Holiday Visa

How to Apply for a UK Working Holiday Visa

Red picture of red london telelphone box with lights all around with white text over red panel saying How to Get a UK Working Holiday Visa

Want to experience life as a local in Scotland, England or Wales? You need the UK working holiday visa!

There are several ways of turning the dream of moving abroad and really understanding a new culture into reality. One way is to go on a “working holiday”. This is how I managed to move to Scotland for two years!

I applied for a youth UK visa (technically known as a “Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa”) which allowed me to work anywhere in the United Kingdom for 24 months. This experience was terrifying at the beginning, but truly life-changing overall. Even though I’m no longer in Scotland, I’ve still got a lot of friends who live there and I consider it my home away from home.

I believe that every person should live in another country if they’re given the opportunity. When I made the jump to move to Scotland all on my own, even though I’d never even stepped foot in the country and I didn’t know anyone else who lived there. I was completely alone! It was one of the scariest, but most rewarding decisions of my life and I’m so glad I did it.

If you’re interested in embarking on a working holiday in the UK (and I highly recommend you do!) here’s everything you need to know to apply and obtain the UK working holiday visa.

Two woman happily pose in front of a statue of a Scottish Bag Pipe Player in Edinburgh

Are you eligible for the UK working holiday visa?

Before you’re able to apply for a Tier 5 Youth and Mobility Visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be aged 18-30
  • Have £1,890 in savings and a letter from your bank as proof
  • Have no dependents (no children living with you and no children you’re financially responsible for)
  • Be covered by the National Health Service (NHS) — to do this you pay a one-time £600 Immigration Health Surcharge that covers you for the full 24 months (£300 per year)
  • Have a passport from one of the following countries:
    • Canada
    • New Zealand
    • Japan
    • Monaco
    • Australia
    • Taiwan
    • Hong Kong (Sponsorship required)
    • Republic of Korea (Sponsorship required)

How to apply for the UK working holiday visa

If you’re currently outside the UK, you can apply for a Tier 5 Youth and Mobility Visa online for £244. If you’re not in your home country, you can still apply from a country you have the right to live in for a minimum of 6 months of the year. The only requirement is that the country you’re applying for is recognized by the UK Border Agency.

Once you’ve completed the online application, you’ll have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is £300 per year. If you are wanting to stay in the UK for the full 24 months the fee will be £600. Visit the UK Government website for all documents needed to pay for UK healthcare.

When you’ve applied, you need to book an appointment at your nearest Visa Application Centre (UK Biometrics Office). These offices are located in the Canadian cities of Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa. There are also monthly appointments in Halifax and annual appointments in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Toronto appointments are free, but the other offices do charge a fee which is currently $100 CAD. This includes a priority return of your visa and passport back to your mailing address.

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Girl sitting with banana looking out at Edinburgh from the top of Arthurs Seat. Green and yellow hills.

Your biometrics appointment

It’s important you arrive at your biometrics appointment for your UK visa early. You’ll have your fingerprints and a photograph was taken to obtain a biometric residence permit, so be prepared. Make sure you take all of the following documents with you:

  • Completed online application form (write your IHS number on the front page)
  • Current passport, valid for the duration of visa, with at least one blank page (the visa takes up one full page with the back left blank)
  • Recent passport photo (for your visa vignette) – some offices will take this photo for you, but I recommend bringing extra photos just in case
  • A hard copy of a bank statement or a bank letter on official letter headed paper showing that you have the funds of £1,890 in your account
  • IHS Healthcare Form and proof of the one-time £300 Immigration Health Surcharge paid fee (per year)
  • A credit card (just in case there are any additional unforeseen fees)

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When to apply for the UK working holiday visa

The earliest you can apply for the UK working holiday visa is six months before you travel. But it’s important to know that the visa begins the moment it’s issued — not when you enter the UK. Because of this, I recommend getting your UK visa as close to the date you plan on arriving in the UK as possible, so you can take advantage of the full 24 months.

Two woman and one man outside sitting in a iron boat on land in Pitlochry Scotland

What happens next?

After you’ve applied for your Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa and have attended your biometrics appointment, your documents will be sent away to the visa processing office. Mine was sent to Ottawa. Within a week or two you’ll get your passport back with your UK entry Clearance Visa vignette inside.

You can now hop on a flight and enjoy the UK working holiday of your dreams! It might be a bit daunting going through the visa process at the time, but I assure you it’s definitely worth it in the end.

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Comments 19

  1. Interesting to read what people have to do to come here. Also my new Zealand visa process was pretty different so it’s good to compare.

    1. Post

      I do wonder what people have to do to have a working holiday in Canada! Wonder if it’s similar to NZ or to the UK!

    1. Post
  2. Interesting, I always wondered how you managed to get in! 😉

    Interesting (maybe) stat: 3,228 Canadians made use of the scheme last year. I wonder how many are called Crystal, and how many ended up in Edinburgh. I sometimes wonder about pointless stats.

    1. Post

      Hahaha, I should have kept it shrouded in mystery. I just assume all 3228 Canadians last year were just different versions of me.

  3. Very helpful & comprehensive guide! I got a working holiday visa years ago for Australia and I remember I had to jump through all these hoops and it took weeks to hear back, but my boyfriend at the time, who was British (really seem to like Brits… haha) applied and had been accepted the next day without having to submit half the stuff I did! Getting my marriage visa for the UK was even more of a nightmare! We paid like £500 extra for same day service, but our company messed up the documents they gave us, so we ended up having to wait 8 weeks and I had to cancel a trip to Berlin! I had to pay the healthcare surcharge, as well, which really annoyed me because I had already been living there for 3 years and paying NI tax (which is what the healthcare surcharge goes towards).

    1. Post

      Thank you! I remember when I was looking at moving to the UK everything was so confusing! I know a few people who are British that lived in Australia for a while – I never asked how long it took to get working visas approved as I always assumed all commonwealth countries had the same rules, but it appears not! I think it would take me a few weeks to get approved to move to Australia as well. I really hope you got your £500 back for that mistake that made!

  4. I don’t quality for the program, but you putting this comprehensive guide together makes it a little easier for those researching and wishing to follow in your footsteps. Great job Crystal!

    1. Post

      Thank you very much Roslie! I really hope it helps someone who is thinking about making the move to the UK!

  5. Hey there just wondering what you mean by “it’s important to know that the visa begins the moment it’s issued — not when you enter the UK.”

  6. Hey there just wondering what you meant by “it’s important to know that the visa begins the moment it’s issued — not when you enter the UK.”

    1. Post

      hello! So, I was overly cautious and got my visa in January, but didn’t move to the UK until March – so those two months where I had the visa sitting in my passport, but was still in Canada was two months I could have spent in the UK. I would just book your flight as close to when you will have your visa issued so you will be able to spend the full 24 months abroad. Hope this clarifies it! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  7. Thank you for the info, its amazing, but what about Turkish citizens?


    1. Post

      So, for countries that are not commonwealths like Canada or New Zealand, I highly recommend contacting the British Consulate office in Turkey to see how you can get the UK working Visa.

  8. Hello Crystal, thanks for your article. It was very heplfull! 🙂 Can I ask how are taxes paid?
    Thanks again. 🙂

    1. Post

      They do not pay taxes as we do in Canada and the USA. So, what I did was take my pay stubs and did my taxes in Canada while I was abroad as I was not a permanent resident. I hope this helps!

  9. I am from India. My wife and I will be coming to Scotland next year for training in west Kilbride for a training. Thereafter we like to work there to obtain a work visa . i have experience in manager and organizing things My wife is having experience in Accounting . i have 3 children those studies . i want to continue their study in Scotland.

    Can you help me

    Hope to hear from you soon

    1. Post

      Is it training for a specific job? My suggestion to you is to speak to whoever is training you (if it is for a job) and see if they will sponsor you. I am not 100% sure about visa requirements for India. I also suggest speaking to the British Consulate in your city or close to where you live in India about requirements to move to Scotland and what visas you and your wife will require. It would be a lot easier if the training you were doing was for a job and you could go that route! I wish you the best of luck! Enjoy West Kilbride!

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