Australians and New Zealanders coming to the UK for a working holiday will be allowed to work for a full two years, it has been confirmed.

The Home Office has confirmed to TNT that the new UK Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa — which replaces the existing working holidaymaker visa from November 27 — will allow 18- to 30-year-olds to work for the full two years.

This is up from the limit of one year in employment allowed under the current visa.

Applicants will need to prove they have £1600 (or foreign currency equivalent) in the bank when applying.

Currently about 50 countries (mostly members of the Commonwealth) are eligible for the working holidaymaker visa.

However, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, only four countries will qualify for the YMS visa: Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan.
It has been widely expected that South Africans will not be eligible for the visa.

A Home Office spokesperson told TNT that any country was open to apply to join the YMS. A country being admitted would depend upon:
•    The country agreeing to sponsor its citizens (it’s likely that Australians and New Zealanders would be exempt from this);
•    The country posing an acceptably low level of immigration risk (ie its citizens are not deemed to be at risk of overstaying their visa or abusing UK immigration rules);
•    The country not subjecting British people to a mandatory visa scheme (ie British people can visit the country without necessarily getting a visa).
•    The country allowing in young British citizens to do a working holiday; and
•    Satisfactory arrangements being in place to ensure the YMS visa applicant returned home at the end of their visa. How this might work in practice is still to be announced.

The Home Office spokeswoman said that some countries might not seek to be assessed in order to join the YMS. If a country met the criteria there was no reason they should not be allowed to join the YMS, the spokesperson said.

However, South Africa does not have a working holiday scheme for young Britons. Also, the South African government would be unlikely to sponsor its citizens to leave the country, in a bid to prevent a brain drain of skilled young people to Britain.

The New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the increase in time permitted in employment had been confirmed by the UK and NZ governments, and was “great news for New Zealanders aged 18 to 30 wishing to experience life in the UK.

“British ministers and officials have recognised the low risk and high value New Zealanders bring to the UK during their travels,” Helen Clark said.

About 5000 New Zealanders and 15,000 Australians arrive in the UK each year on working holidays.

See TNT’s online visa guide