Working Holiday Visa for the UK: An Overview


The UK is a popular destination for Australians interested in living and working somewhere new. Depending on your age and the type of work you’re interested in doing, you might find that a working holiday in the UK is a good way to get the best from your time there. You can find a job, earn some extra cash, and have more to spend on enjoying yourself and exploring the best the UK has to offer.

Working holiday visas in the UK are called Tier 5 visas, and offered under the Youth Mobility Scheme. There are strict criteria about who can apply, and there may be a cap on the number of visas issued in any specific time period. This guide covers all you need to know about the visa type, and how to get it, to help you plan your trip.

We’ll also cover a great way to lower your costs while you’re in the UK, by cutting the price of currency conversion and international payments with a borderless account from Wise.

Types of Visa in the UK

If you need a visa for the UK, you can apply to any of the following options¹:

  • Short term visas for tourism or business purposes
  • Study visas
  • Working holiday visas under the* Youth Mobility scheme*
  • Work permits, and visas for investors and entrepreneurs
  • Family visas
  • Visas for people looking to settle in the UK or gain British citizenship
  • Asylum and refugee visas

There’s plenty of information online to help you work out if you need a visa to cover your trip, and if so, the type that would suit you best. You can also get help to apply for your visa from the UK government’s service partner, VFS. You’ll probably have to attend a VFS visa application centre as part of your application, and can also choose to pay for premium services to make your application easier. Different packages are available, allowing VFS to check your application documents and support with preparing the paperwork needed, or speed the process along. More about this on the VFS Global website.

This article will focus on the visa type you’ll need if you want to take a working holiday in the UK. This is known as a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.

Why is a working holiday visa different from a work visa?

Working holiday visas are issued by many countries, and are quite different from a regular work permit or employment visa. For a work visa you’ll typically have to have a job offer already confirmed, and you may need the employer to act as your sponsor through the visa process.

A working holiday visa is usually more flexible in that respect, allowing you to arrive in the country and find a job when you’re ready to do so. The primary purpose of a working holiday visa is to allow people to visit a new country, and explore. Working should not be the main aim of your stay, but is an option if you need more money to make the most of your time there.

If you want to get a working holiday visa for the UK, you’ll need to fulfil certain eligibility criteria, including being within the age range 18 to 30, and having a fixed amount of funding to cover your costs while you’re away². More on these requirements, a little later.

In what situations are working holiday visas ideal?

A working holiday visa is a great option for people who fit the age criteria, and want to take a longer trip to a new country. You’ll be able to travel and take on short term and seasonal work to top up your funds as you go. This means that you don’t need to save the full amount needed to support yourself before you head over to the UK.

The UK Youth Mobility Scheme offers visas for up to 2 years, and will allow you to work, study or become self employed. There are some restrictions to the work you can take on, and you won’t be able to access public funds or draw benefits while you’re in the UK².

That said, if you’re under 30, and looking for a new adventure, a working holiday could be the answer.

Who can apply for a working holiday visa?

The Tier 5 visa which covers working holidays is available to people aged between 18 and 30, from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan. You may also be able to apply if you’re a British overseas citizen.

The number of Tier 5 visas issued is subject to an annual cap. That means that only a fixed number can be issued in any given year. Even if you fulfil all of the eligibility requirements, you might find that your application is not successful, simply because the cap has been reached for the year already.

To apply you must have at least £1,890 in savings, and you can only receive a visa under this scheme once. It’s also helpful to know that you can’t apply for this scheme if you have children who are financially dependant on you or who live with you².

How to apply for a working holiday visa

There are several steps required to get your Tier 5 working holiday visa. Firstly, you’ll need to arrange the paperwork needed for your application³:

  • Your current passport
  • A bank statement or other proof of funds demonstrating you have over £1,890 in savings
  • You may also need a clear TB certificate, depending on where you’re coming from

You can then complete the application form online, via the UK government website. You will have to pay the visa fee, and healthcare surcharge at this stage too. There’s more information on the costs of your visa, a little later⁴.

The next step is to arrange an appointment at a VFS Global visa application centre near you. There are offices in:

  • Brisbane
  • Canberra
  • Melbourne
  • Perth
  • Sydney

VFS is a service partner of the UK government. You can choose to simply attend their office to give your biometric data and hand over the documents you need, or pay more for a premium service package. If you pay an additional fee you can either get help with arranging your application, or even have it processed more quickly. Once you have had your appointment, you’ll get a decision on your application in around 3 weeks⁵.

There are slightly different arrangements for residents of Adelaide and Hobart. Instead of travelling to one of the VFS offices, you can submit your application by mail, and go to a local Department of Home affairs office to give your fingerprints and other biometric data⁶.

How much does it cost?

As part of your application you’ll need to pay a fee, and also a payment which is intended to cover some of the costs of your healthcare while you’re in the UK.

  • Visa application fee - £244²
  • Healthcare surcharge - £300 per year for a working holiday visa type⁷

The healthcare surcharge is payable for many visa types, and allows you to use certain services from the UK NHS - National Health Service - for free. However, you’ll still need to pay upfront for some things, like eye tests, dental care and prescription drugs. Check out the details of what’s covered, to help you decide if you also require additional health and travel insurance.

How long does it take?

You can apply for your UK working holiday visa up to 6 months before you intend to travel. You’ll need to arrange and attend your biometric enrolment appointment in most cases, and then wait around 15 working days to receive a decision on your application. It could take longer if demand is high⁷.

Your visa will be issued with a 30 day travel window, allowing some flexibility in when you actually head off to the UK. However, if you miss this travel window you’ll need to apply again.

You might be able to opt for a priority service, which could speed the process - but applying well in advance is advisable⁸.

Planning a working holiday in the UK? Manage your money easily, and save on bank fees, with Wise

Make the most of your money, and save on bank fees and currency conversion costs with a multi-currency borderless account from Wise.

If you’re planning a working holiday, a borderless account is the perfect way to manage your money across multiple currencies. In fact, you can keep a balance in over 40 different currencies, all in the one account, and switch between them whenever you want to. There are no exchange rate markups or other hidden costs to worry about. You just pay a low, transparent fee, which can make it much cheaper to convert currencies, or send international payments, compared to using a regular bank.

You can activate your own local bank details to receive payments for free in both Australian dollars and British pounds, as well as other major currencies like US and New Zealand dollars, and euros. That means you can manage your money like a local, whether you’re in Australia, the UK - or even the US, New Zealand or the euro area.

See if you can save money with Wise, today.










All sources correct as of 7 May 2019

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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