Employers still have options despite UK rejecting EU youth mobility deal: Kathleen O'Donnell

The Government has rejected an EU proposal that would have allowed young adults aged between 18 to 30 years to move across the Channel more easily, and given them the opportunity to stay in the destination country for up to four years.

The European Commission said it was stepping in after the UK approached several unnamed EU countries to discuss individual deals. It said this risked ‘differential treatment’ of EU citizens, and instead there should be a bloc-wide deal to ensure they are ‘treated equally’.

In its rejection of the proposal, the UK government stated that “free movement within the EU was ended and there are no plans to introduce it”. They added the UK was only open to agreeing such schemes with individual EU member states “where it’s in the UK’s interest and supports the skills and opportunities of our youth”.

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Currently, there is no youth mobility scheme between the UK and Europe, instead young people must apply under the immigration rules of either the UK or whichever of the 27 European countries in which they wish to work.

Kathleen O'Donnell shares her expert insightKathleen O'Donnell shares her expert insight
Kathleen O'Donnell shares her expert insight

The UK offers certain non-EU countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, the opportunity to apply under the UK Youth Mobility Scheme. This is available to applicants between ages 18 to 30-35 depending on their country of nationality. Nationals of Taiwan, Hong Kong and India must be selected via ballot before applying for a visa.

Additionally, applicants must meet the financial requirements to show they can support themselves while in the UK. and they cannot apply if they have children under the age of 18 who live with them or for whom they are financially responsible.

Following the recent increases in salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa i from £26,200 to £38,700, businesses facing staff shortages are concerned their talent pool will further shrink. UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said, “The Government seem to be running out of answers to fix the UK’s long-running labour market shortages.”

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Around 8,500 hospitality visas were issued last year and UK Hospitality notes 95 per cent of these will no longer be eligible.

Youth Mobility schemes would be of particular interest to many sectors, including hospitality as applicants apply for their own visa, do not require sponsorship or incur the high application fees associated with sponsorship, and are not required to meet a particular salary threshold.

As Erasmus once said, “The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth”.

The removal of barriers to facilitate young people working in another country allows them to step outside of their comfort zone, build their CVs, expand their network and enhance their awareness of other languages and cultures. When they return home, they bring this invaluable experience to benefit their own economies.

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Whilst the hopes of a wider UK-EU scheme seem to have been dashed for the moment, UK employers should still avail of the great pool of talent available under the existing Youth Mobility Scheme and ensure their talent acquisition teams are aware of the benefits of hiring under this visa pathway.

Kathleen O’Donnell is a director in the Sheffield office of the global immigration law firm Fragomen.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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