On 31 May 2023 the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement and UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement came into force. Alongside various trade benefits, such as the removal of almost all tariffs on UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand imports and exports, the Agreements represent a slight extension of youth worker visa schemes on both sides of the pond. There are also minor changes to visa routes for service suppliers, and for executives establishing overseas branches in the UK.
Youth Mobility Scheme
The UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme currently allows Australian, New Zealand and other Commonwealth citizens aged between 18-30 to apply for visas to live and work in the UK for a maximum of two years, with no extension option. The age range for the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme will be increased from 18-30 to 18-35, and visa holders will now be given the option to extend their stay for an extra year, up to a new total of three years. New Zealand citizens will benefit from these changes from 29 June 2023, and Australians from 31 January 2024. It has not yet been confirmed whether existing Youth Mobility Scheme visa holders who are already in the UK will be able to roll over into a third year, or whether the changes will only apply for new visa applicants.
UK Expansion Workers and Service Suppliers
The UK-Australia deal also provides benefits for Australian senior managers and specialist employees looking to establish an overseas branch in the UK. The UK Expansion Worker route has been amended to exempt Australian nationals and permanent residents from the requirement to have worked for the business outside the UK for at least 12 months. There is also an exemption to the requirement for the company to have been trading overseas for at least three years for Australian businesses.
The UK Service Supplier route has been amended to cover services provided under the UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreements. This will provide new opportunities for contractual service suppliers to work in the UK on contracts for up to a year. The route will also now cover applicants that are permanent residents of Australia and New Zealand, not just citizens.
Whilst these changes to the Expansion Worker and Service Supplier routes may be welcomed, the routes are only useful in such limited circumstances that sponsorship under the standard Skilled Worker route will almost always still be preferable.
Changes to Australian and New Zealand visa schemes
Australia and New Zealand have made similar reciprocal agreements for British citizens. The working holiday visa schemes in both countries currently allow British citizens aged 18-30 to stay for two years, with the option to extend for longer if the applicant undertakes a period of agricultural work. The changes will increase the maximum age to 35 and extend the maximum stay to three years, with no agricultural work requirement. There are also similar benefits for UK service suppliers and business visitors. Further detail on the changes in Australia is available here, and in New Zealand here.