An essential guide to a working holiday in the UK

An essential guide to a working holiday in the UK

A working holiday in the UK is a one-of-a-kind experience. Not only do you have access to the exciting global hub that’s London, but also cool cities like Edinburgh, Liverpool and Manchester, beautiful landmarks like the white cliffs of Dover and Hadrian’s Wall, and everything in between, including Cadbury, ‘Spoons and bangers and mash.

Trust me, it’s not all work and no play – you’ll have access to stellar public transport and cheap flights to anywhere in Europe. Luckily the UK government doesn’t have many limitations on the kind of work you can get, so recent grads and professionals can also try their luck while living that wanderlust life. Lots of travellers on a working holiday can be found in the big cities, but you could choose anywhere up to the Scottish Highlands to make your temporary home!

I applied for this visa myself as an Australian citizen and I’m currently based in London (it’s a bit of a cliché, because there are LOADS of Aussies here). I moved over in summer of 2019, and as there’s a lot of information to absorb, hopefully some of my knowledge will help you to have the most amazing working holiday in the UK.

Jump straight to:

  1. What is a Working Holiday Visa for the UK?
  2. How much does a Working Holiday Visa for the UK cost?
  3. What are the Working Holiday Visa requirements for the UK?
  4. How long does it take to get a Working Holiday Visa for the UK?
  5. Can you extend the Working Holiday Visa for the UK?
  6. What types of jobs can you get with a Working Holiday Visa for the UK?
  7. How to find a job for your working holiday in the UK
  8. Where to stay on your working holiday in the UK
  9. Essential things to know before going on a working holiday in the UK
  10. What to do when you arrive for your working holiday in the UK

What is a Working Holiday Visa for the UK?

The Working Holiday Visa for the UK gives eligible young explorers the opportunity to live and work for up to 2 years. The official name of the Working Holiday Visa is the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.

How much does a Working Holiday Visa for the UK cost?

London, England 📸:@stefa.ninchen

There are a lot of costs to consider when planning a working holiday in the UK. Not only do you have to pay for the application, but also for the healthcare surcharge (which allows you to use NHS services), flights to the UK, living costs and evidence of savings.

The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa application costs £244. You have to pay for the healthcare surcharge as part of the application and the cost can vary depending on your situation (check how much you have to pay here.) The healthcare surcharge averages £600.

As part of the application, you have to prove that you have at least £1,890 in savings. If you are coming to the UK without a job and a place to stay, it’s good to have around £3000 in savings to live comfortably while you set yourself up.

What are the Working Holiday Visa requirements for the UK?

To be eligible for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, you have to be between the age of 18-30 and a citizen of either Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea or Taiwan. British overseas citizens, British overseas territories citizens and British overseas nationals can also apply for this visa.

The UK doesn’t currently offer Working Holiday Visas for citizens of other countries. If you’re from anywhere else in the world and want to work in the UK, you’ll need an offer of employment to obtain a work visa.

Currently countries that are a part of the European Union don’t need a Working Holiday Visa for the UK to work, but this may change in the coming years because of Brexit.

The requirements you must meet are:

  • You are between the age of 18-30 (if you turn 31 while your visa is valid, you can stay until it ends)
  • You must prove you have £1890 in savings (through bank statements)
  • You must show your tuberculosis test results if you come from a country where this is required
  • You’ll need to provide a current passport or travel ID

You won’t be eligible for this visa if you’ve already been on the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa or the former Working Holidaymaker Visa in the UK.

For proof of funds, if you are providing an electronic printed bank statement, the pages will need to be stamped and dated by your local bank branch.

For more info on completing and submitting your application, read the Home Office’s application guidance.

How long does it take to get a Working Holiday Visa for the UK?

Seven Sisters walk, England 📸:@safari_world_town

The earliest you can apply for this visa is 6 months before you arrive.

The application for the UK Working Holiday Visa needs to be submitted through the UK Government website. After you’ve completed the online application, you’ll be redirected to book a biometrics appointment at your closest UK consulate or VFS Global Services Office (the company that processes UK visas). This is where you’ll hand in your passport and application documents, and have your photo and fingerprints taken. Depending on the time of year, it may take a week for your appointment after completing the online application.

Once your application is submitted, VFS gives you a timeframe of 3 weeks, however it can take more or less time than this. You can also fast track your application for a higher cost.

If your application is approved, you will receive a vignette sticker in your passport with your entry date. You have to enter the UK within a month of that date. Then once you arrive, you’ll need to pick up your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 10 days.

Can you extend a Working Holiday Visa for the UK?

No, you can’t extend this visa and you can only apply for this visa once. If you’d like to stay longer in the UK, check to see if you are eligible for a different visa.

What types of jobs can you get with a Working Holiday Visa for the UK?

Fort William, Scotland 📸:@krisijanis

Unlike most Working Holiday Visas for other countries, you can work most jobs in the UK for the entire 2 years and there is no limit to how long you can be with an employer. Popular jobs include bartending, au pair/nannying, customer service, working in hostels, retail and hospitality.

  • Retail pays around £8-9 per hour.
  • Bartending/waitressing pays around £8 per hour.
  • Au pairs average around £70-100 per week (depending on hours)
  • Customer service pays around £9-11 per hour.

There are some restrictions:

  • You can be self-employed, but you can’t have any employees. Your premises need to be rented and your equipment cannot be worth more than £5,000.
  • You can’t work as a professional sportsperson, or a doctor or dentist in training unless you have a UK qualification.

How to find a job for your working holiday in the UK

Bath, England 📸:@marioklassen

While it might seem daunting at first, it’s actually not as hard as you think to score a good job in the UK without any help from recruiters.

Make sure to keep an eye on job advertising websites like Indeed, Guardian Jobs and Reed, where you can also upload your resume for people to get in touch. LinkedIn is also a good bet.

If you’d like to go through a recruiter, Britbound and Michael Page are popular with working holidaymakers.

Where to stay on a working holiday in the UK

Often lots of people stay in hostels when they first arrive. Not only is it the easiest option, but you’ll most likely meet others in the same situation and make some friends. A lot of the hostels in London have job noticeboards, and positions available to work there.

Explore all of the hostels in the UK

Essential things to know before going on a working holiday in the UK

Stonehenge, England 📸:@___zandy

  1. You might feel lonely, but you’re not alone! There are heaps of Facebook groups that are focused on young people moving to the UK and cover frequently asked questions and regular meetups. Aussies in Manchester, Aussies in London, Kiwis in London, Canadians in London and London New Girl are great starting points. Without these groups my move to the UK wouldn’t have been so seamless, as people ask questions you’ve never even thought of.
  2. Public transport in the UK is great but expensive. A Railcard cuts down the cost of travel and only costs £30 for under 30s. If you’re headed to London, you can buy an Oyster card or just use your contactless bank card.
  3. Europe is literally at your doorstep and flights are cheap. If you’re keen on a weekend trip away, keep an eye on sites like Skyscanner, Ryanair, EasyJet and Eurostar.
  4. If you want to drive in the UK, you can use your normal licence for the first year, but after 12 months you will need to trade it for a UK license. This does however depend on what country you got your licence in. Check here.

What to do when you arrive for your working holiday in the UK

1. Pick up your Biometric Residence Permit

  • You’ll need to pick up your Biometric Residence Permit within 10 days of arriving, at the post office you chose during your online application. This is a residence card that validates your visa and you’ll need to carry it with you when exiting and entering the country. Once you’ve got this, guard it with your life! It’s a massive hassle to get a replacement.

2. Apply for a National Insurance Number

  • In order to work in the UK, you will need a National Insurance Number. It’s easy to apply for one, just call the HM Revenue and Customs number to make an appointment at a nearby Jobcentre Plus office.
  • It doesn’t cost you anything to get this number, despite what third party companies might say – it is really simple to set up by yourself. Once you’ve attended your interview it takes around 4-5 weeks to receive the number in the mail. If you don’t have a permanent address initially, it’s best to nominate a friend or family member’s address so you don’t miss the letter.
  • You can start working while you wait for this number. You might be taxed at an emergency rate, but you can claim this back later.

Liverpool, England 📸:@csbphotography

3. Open a bank account

  • When you first arrive for your working holiday in the UK, you might find it hard to open a bank account with the traditional banks, as most of them require that you have a job and a permanent address.
  • Digital banks like Monzo and Revolut are popular choices because you can easily open an account on your phone, and you simply need an address for the card to be sent to you.

4. Find somewhere to live

  • Facebook groups for the area you want to live in are a great way to get to know potential flatmates and to find somewhere cheap.
  • The best sites for home hunting are SpareRoom and RightMove.
  • When thinking about saving money, you’ll need to consider the first month’s rent and the deposit to hand in as soon as you’ve found a place.

5. Register with a GP

  • When you’ve found a place to live and you’ve moved in, you can then register with a nearby GP. In the UK, you can only register with one in your neighbourhood.
  • You’ll need to provide proof of address when doing this.

6. Register with your local council

  • Not everyone does this, but if you are looking to improve your credit score and apply for a credit card, this is a good way to boost it up.
  • Also, if you are from a Commonwealth Country, you may be eligible to vote in the UK elections, so registering with the local council will allow you to vote.

London, England 📸:@suitcaseonmysleeve

I hope this guide to a working holiday in the UK will help you along the visa process and moving your life abroad! Do you have any tips of your own? Share them in the comments!

Download the Hostelworld app now to start your travel wishlist!

 Keep reading:

🌟 The ultimate backpackers guide to the UK

🌟 The 12 best road trips around Scotland

🌟 The ultimate guide to backpacking Scotland

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About The Author

Hayley McKenna

Just another Aussie living in London with travel on the mind. Junior Content Writer and #HostelworldInsider at Hostelworld. I have a bad habit of spontaneously buying cheap flights to random places. I love antique shopping on the weekends. 🌍Favourite place on earth: Nice, France. 🏠Favourite hostel: King Kong Hostel Rotterdam, Netherlands. Keep up with my travels on Instagram: @suitcaseonmysleeve and my blog

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