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The UK working holiday program is very popular for people from all over the world who want to leave their home countries for a while and experience a short-term working experience abroad.
We personally used a UK Working Holiday Visa, now called the Youth Mobility Scheme, to live and work in the UK. It’s a great way to work abroad, save using a strong currency, and travel the world due to its close proximity to Europe.
In this guide, we share our tips and advice on how to make your Uk working holiday dream a reality.
- Our Experience on the UK Working Holiday Visa
- How to Get the UK Working Holiday Visa
- How to Apply
- Other United Kingdom Working Visas
- Get Help With Global Work and Travel
- Where to Find Travel Jobs
- How to Get to the UK
- Where to Stay in the UK when you first arrive
- Helpful Websites
- Moving to London Tips…
- Recommended Things to Organize Before You Go
- Final Thoughts
- More UK and London Travel Tips
Our Experience on the UK Working Holiday Visa
Caz worked in London for 2 years through the working holiday UK program, known as the Youth Mobility Scheme, prior to us getting married.
She taught primary school in East London, lived in homes filled with up to 25 international backpackers, and had an amazing time traveling around the UK and Europe!
After we got married, we both got a visa to live and work in Ireland for 1 year. Once again Caz taught, and Craig worked in construction.
The UK Working Holiday Visa was a way for us to make travel more affordable and interesting.
The opportunity to get a working holiday visa for another country gives you the greatest immersion into its culture.
You will develop a deeper understanding of the people and their day to day lives, you’ll get a real feel for the heartbeat of the country and what drives it, you’ll get out of your comfort zone by trying different and unusual jobs.
And it’s a great way to meet the locals and form lifelong friendships.
Episode 1 of our Travel Podcast
We talk about our experience about our UK working holiday visa in more detail in our travel podcast. You can learn more about the podcast and subscribe here, or click play below to listen.
How to Get the UK Working Holiday Visa
Getting a working holiday visa for the UK largely depends on where you are traveling from. For us as Australians, we entered via the Youth Mobility Scheme, which is eligible for:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- San Marino
The youth mobility scheme is for young people or graduates (18 – 30 years old, or 18-35 for New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Uruguay) from participating countries who would like to come and experience life in the UK.
It allows you to live in the UK for up to two years, contribute to the economy by working, paying taxes and spending on goods and services while young UK nationals enjoy similar opportunities in the other participating countries.
If you are a national of one of these countries, you may be able to come to the UK under the Youth Mobility Scheme. Your national government will be your sponsor.
This is a 2-year visa. It is non renewable, so once you have been there 2 years, you cannot renew for another 2 years.
Workwise, people do anything and everything (more on this later), with the most common jobs being barwork, nannying, temping, teaching, banking, construction etc.
You must have at least £2,530 in your bank account within 31 days of applying for your visa and it must have been in your account untouched for 28 days.
This is proof you can support yourself in the UK (though honestly, this won’t get you very far as the UK is expensive – more on that later).
How to Apply
The first thing you need to know is do you even qualify? You may be passport holders for eligible countries, but you need to tick a lot of boxes.
For example, you must be younger than the age limit, and you cannot be financially responsible for any children. Yes, that means parents are out.
You can also not apply for the YMS visa if you have already had it before. This is a one time work visa, just to make you aware.
If you feel you meet the eligibility requirements, you then need to apply for a Visa by either contacting the British High Commission in your own country, or by applying online here.
As part of the application, you need:
- A valid passport.
- A bank statement showing at least £2,530
- Medical certificates showing a negative tuberculosis (TB) test result
- Documents proving your identity. The way this is done is dependent on where you’re from. You may have to have fingerprints and photographs taken at the visa application center to get a biometrics residence permit, or you may be able to use the UK Immigration ID Check app.
- To pay an application fee.
- Those from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan need to show an email from the Home Office confirming they were successful in the Youth Mobility Scheme ballot.
- From San Marino, you need a a letter from the Directorate of Political and Diplomatic Affairs of the Republic of San Marino Department of Foreign Affairs within 6 months of your application.
- From Iceland, you need an Icelandic Criminal Certificate for Private Use (called a Sakavottorð) dated less than 6 months before your application.
Once you have completed the online application form, you may have to go to your local visa centre, who may have to hold onto your passport and documents while the work permit is processing.
Visas can take time to process so allow yourself plenty of time to put your application in. You may end up waiting longer at busy times of the year so don’t procrastinate!
It’s estimated to take 3 weeks for the visa to be approved, but the UK Gov recommend you put an application in 6 months in advance to account for any issues with your documents.
While you’re waiting, we recommend you…
- Get all the facts on the UK Youth Mobility Scheme visa
- For all other visa questions, including study visas, visit the Official British Government Website
Other United Kingdom Working Visas
The Youth Mobility Scheme is great, but it’s only for select working holidaymakers, so you might be wondering if there’s another scheme you can join.
UK Ancestry Visa
If you are a Commonwealth citizen and at least one of your grandparents was born in the UK, including the Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, or a grandparent who was born before 31 March 1922 in what is now the Republic of Ireland, you have UK ancestry and you can apply to come to the UK to work.
The UK Ancestry Visa is a 4-year renewable visa.
If your parents are British you may be able to apply for Dual Citizenship.
British National Overseas
If you’re from Hong Kong, you may have heard about the recent introduction of the British National Overseas visa, which is a visa specifically for Hong Kong residents.
To be eligible, you need to be 18 or older and born before 1st July, 1997. If you were born after this date, you can apply through your parents who are considered British Overseas citizens.
The BNO visa application can be done overseas and allows you to stay in the UK for 2.5 years or a maximum of 5 years.
Is The A Digital Nomad Visa?
There is no digital nomad visa for the UK or a visa that allows you to be self-employed, you will need to get a job in order to sustain yourself.
Get Help With Global Work and Travel
Want to live and work in the UK but all this sounds really stressful? Then consider an agency to help you with all your documents.
As I shared in this post, I had to figure it out on my own – arriving to London with no money, no friends, and no job. It was stressful and took
I’m so happy to share with you Global Work and Travel, a company that can help you do it with support!
Since 2013, Global Work and Travel have been helping travelers work and fund their travels through cultural exchange programs both paid and unpaid.
One of the elements of a successful working holiday is to find local, seasonal employment to use as a means to fund your travels around the country.
This is not easy, but Global Work and Travel makes it so as they have spent years with hundreds of local businesses that do hire travellers.
They assist you though all parts of the process such as finding flights, recommending you for interviews, and giving you a supportive community when you arrive. See all opportunities here.
We are enthusiastic partners of theirs as we believe in what they do, avid lovers of working abroad, and know they can help you!
Read more in our full post on the Global Work and Travel opportunity.
Where to Find Travel Jobs
Finding travel jobs is the hardest part about setting up your life in the UK. You need to go through the same process as you would for any other job, i.e. apply, interview, complete a contract etc.
To help UK working holiday visa holders out, there are some places where you can find jobs looking for employees from overseas territories.
Note that the employer may want proof that you have somewhere to stay, so you may want to reserve a hostel or premises before you arrive.
- TNTJobs.co.uk – Jobs in London and the UK
- Gum Tree – Great website for job seekers.
- Helpx – an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
- Live In Jobs– FREE Live-in-jobs service for backpackers in the UK.
- Work Gateways – jobs for working travelers in the UK.
- Professional Jobs – Robert Walters Recruitment in the UK has a well established national network of offices covering specialist professions.
- WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Get free accommodation and meals in exchange for your work!
- Pub Jobs – London Pub jobs directory
- Fruit Picking Jobs in the UK – This web site is world wide but has postings for the UK
- Fruitful Jobs– specialists in seasonal labor and short term employment needs.
- Anywork Anywhere– jobs and resources for work and travel throughout the UK
- O’Neill and Brennan Constructions– Construction jobs in the UK and Ireland (Craig worked with them in Ireland).
- UK Recruitment Agencies – For jobs in Teaching, Nursing, Construction, Banking, Legal, Social Work etc Please Note: Employment Agencies are regulated by law and any agency that asks for any fees up front is illegal and should be avoided. The agency will get their commission when they place you!
Also note: everyone in the UK has to have a National Insurance Number, as you will be required to pay into National Insurance (it pays for things like healthcare and other benefits). The payment is done automatically on your PAYE pay check, but you will need to apply for this once you have a job in the UK and start earning money. Click here for the application page.
How to Get to the UK
Getting to the UK is really easy since there are flights to London from everywhere in the world.
We highly recommend you fly into either London Heathrow or London Gatwick, since both these airports are accessible to the main city center via train.
London Standstead and Luton are really far from London and a mission to get to. You’ll hear many British Citizens complain about how much of a nightmare it is getting to and from these airports, so try and stick to the main hubs.
You can also fly to Manchester International Airport which may be cheaper, and get a train or coach to your chosen destination.
For some great travel tips on Finding Cheap International Flights and for Cheap Flights UK whilst living there, please see our Finding cheap flights to anywhere page!
Where to Stay in the UK when you first arrive
They are cheap and a great place to meet like minded people. To find great hostels online with FREE booking and the lowest price guarantee we recommend Hostelworld.com
When it comes to setting up your life in the UK, here are some useful sites that will help you settle in…
- TNT Magazine – The online version of the famous TNT Magazine that is available weekly for free at all London Tube stations and has everything you need to know about moving to London, living in the UK, finding accommodation, finding jobs, where to party, how to ship belongings and much much more…be sure to pick one up as soon as you arrive in London!
- Meetup.com – a great site for finding events and social gatherings, so you can meet other people.
- Gum Tree – community classifieds for London. Great website that sends you daily emails on whatever you’re interested in. For example, info on bar jobs, healthcare jobs, events/gigs, flats/houses for rent, pay rates for different jobs and the prices for renting or sharing a house or bedsit.
- Visit Britain– everything you need to know about visiting Britain.
- Enjoy England – the official website for tourism in England.
- Visit Scotland – the official website for tourism in Scotland.
- Visit Wales – the official website for tourism in Wales.
- Visit London – what to see and do in London.
- Official British Government Website – for all your visa questions and option.
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Travel and living abroad advice from the British Govt.
- Tube Maps – see train station and line information.
- Cycle Paths– bike London.
- London Parks– info on London’s parks and personal space.
Moving to London Tips…
Before you pack your bags and jet off to London, here are some tips to consider to help the move run smoothly…
Get an Oyster Card
The Oyster Card is a card you use instead of paper tickets to pay for public transport. It can be used on buses and the London Underground, and works by topping it up and tapping the gate.
You can also download it as an App on your phone, rather than get a physical card, which is great for those who haven’t arrived in London yet.
Also, you can use contactless payment cards on transport in London, so you don’t need to worry about an Oyster Card if your bank allows this method of payment.
I also recommend downloading the London Underground Map on your phone, at least for the first week or so while you get the hang of it. It can be confusing for first time visitors. See all our tips for getting around London.
Here are some posts to help you explore London:
- Essential Things to know Before Traveling to London
- 16+ Great Pubs in London to Visit for Travelers
- a 3-day itinerary of the best London attractions
- Places to visit in London To Create Lasting Memories
- Best Things to Do in London (Ultimate Bucket List)
- A Guide to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour
Recommended Things to Organize Before You Go
Finally, don’t pack your bags without organizing the following…
- Travel Insurance – World Nomads is recommended by Lonely Planet and travel insurance we’ve used many times working and traveling abroad. You can find more recommendations in our Book your trip page
- Youth Hostel Membership. – Great if you will be backpacking or staying in hostels.
- The London Go City Attraction Pass – Save on Sightseeing in London, gets you FREE entry to 55 sights and attractions!
I moved to London on a Working Holiday visa. It was the best decision I ever made and changed the course of my entire life.
Because of that experience living London, I have made travel the focus of my life for 25 years – that’s living in 5 countries, traveling to over 50, creating thriving travel blog which has allowed me to continue to travel and live from anywhere for the past 12 years with my husband and two daughters!
More UK and London Travel Tips
Need some more inspiration for your trip to the UK? These other guides and resources may be helpful for you…
- Pubs and Clubs – Check out some of the best Aussie and Kiwi pubs.
- Budget Travel Accommodation– see our page on how to get save money on accommodation
- Tax – UK tax explained
- Browse the NHS Website – for info on the UK health system.
- International Travel Insurance – for getting there and traveling around Europe and the UK.
- Camper Van & Motor Vehicle Insurance for Backpackers– thinking of touring Europe in the summer?
- The Countdown Checklist what to organize and when?
- Leaving the UK – so your time has come to an end, what now?