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UK rejects EU Youth Mobility talks

Brexit has caused headaches for many sectors in the UK, with hospitality and retail in particular finding it extremely difficult to source enough staff to fill key roles. There was a momentary glimmer of hope on the horizon for UK businesses last week when the European Commission (‘the Commission’) announced a proposal to open talks with the UK on a Youth Mobility Scheme for EU and UK nationals. Under the proposal, 18–30-year-old EU nationals would be eligible to apply for a visa to come to the UK (and vice versa) for a reasonable period of time to live and work. The initial proposal suggested a four-year period. 

In making its proposal, the Commission identified some of the current barriers to mobility for young EU nationals wishing to come to work, train and study, and the corresponding impact on the opportunities for young people on both sides of the Channel that come from living abroad and experiencing another culture. The proposal aimed to eliminate some of these barriers, such as the UK’s high visa fees and the additional fees placed on foreign nationals such as the immigration health surcharge. Instead, the Commission proposed a lower level of visa fees, and an exemption from paying the immigration surcharge (applicants would instead require comprehensive sickness insurance), both of which would make the scheme more viable for eligible young people. 

Crucially for UK business, if given the go ahead, the proposal would have meant they would have been free to hire EU nationals on the EU Youth Mobility Scheme without having to sponsor the individual’s work visa. With the minimum salary threshold for visa sponsorship under the skilled worker route having increased by nearly 50% earlier this month, this could have offered a lifeline to businesses priced out of the skilled worker route. This is particularly true when it comes to hiring younger, less experienced staff where the new higher salary threshold is unrealistic. 

There is already a similar UK Youth Mobility visa scheme in operation for a limited number of nationalities, including European microstates such as Monaco and San Marino. Post Brexit, the UK had shown some appetite for establishing youth mobility schemes with individual member states.  However, the prospect of an EU wide scheme appears a step too far. Within a day of the EU Commission announcing its proposal, a UK government spokesperson rejected the plans, stating “[w]e are not introducing an EU-wide youth mobility scheme – free movement within the EU was ended and there are no plans to introduce it.” The government spokesperson did however indicate that it would be open to continued talks within individual countries. Whilst disappointing for UK employers and young people alike, the government’s response is unsurprising given we are in an election year and its current five-point immigration plan is focused on reducing UK net migration figures. Any hopes that the proposals could be revisited should Labour gain power at the next election have also been dashed, with Labour saying they have no plans for a youth mobility scheme. 

For advice on the current UK visa routes, please get in touch with a member of our immigration team. 

"We are not introducing an EU-wide youth mobility scheme - free movement within the EU was ended and there are no plans to introduce it," a government spokesperson said on Friday evening.


uk visas, youth mobility, skills shortage, immigration, retail