There are a variety of visas that might be appropriate for a gap year in the UK. It depends on whether you want to work, study, travel or all three, and how long you would like to stay.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are other visa routes that may be open to each individual. We would advise anyone looking to come to the UK for more than just a visit to take immigration advice, looking at their whole family and immigration background, to make the most appropriate and efficient application.
The most likely applications for gap year students are:
Visit visa are designed for tourists or those wishing to visit family or friends in the UK for a short period of time.
Visitors with nationality from the European Union, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, do not currently require a visa to visit or work in the UK. All they need to enter is a passport or a national identity card.
Visitors from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR), Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the USA can enter the UK to visit for six months without a visa. But you cannot work while in the UK and must leave after six months.
All other countries will require a visa, which can be obtained from the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. A simple visit visa will cost £89 but again you cannot work and will only be allowed to stay for six months.
Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa
The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa is designed to allow young people from specific countries the opportunity to experience life in the UK. This visa is the most appropriate for a gap year if you meet the requirements. The criteria you will be required to meet are specific:
- You must a be a national of:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Korea
- You must be aged between 18 and 30 years
- You must have savings of £1,890.
- You must have no children under 18 who are financially dependent upon you.
- You must not have previously been granted leave under this scheme or a working holidaymaker visa.
There is a Home Office fee of £235 and you are required to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge of £300. If granted, the visa is for two years and allows you to work and live in the UK. You can go in and out of the country within that time.
It is important to bear in mind that you cannot switch into any other visa category from this visa; you must return to your home country to make any further applications for leave. You are also unable to have any family dependants on your visa.
Tier 5 (temporary worker – charity worker) visa
This is a route that allows for unpaid work for a charity. You are unable to undertake any paid work whilst in the UK under this visa and can be a national of any country. The basic criteria are as follows:
- You must secure sponsorship from a licensed employer.
- You must complete work that is connected to them whilst in the UK.
- You must have £945 in savings.
The Home Office charge a fee of £235 together with the immigration healthcare surcharge. You are able to apply for family to join you on this visa. You will be granted leave for 12 months or for the duration of the job on the sponsorship certificate.
It can be worth considering a student visa application for a gap year. If you have a course of between six months and a year, you can apply for a student visa that will also allow limited amounts of work to be undertaken so long as you are still able to fully comply with your course requirements.
The requirements are more onerous than the other visas:
- You need to be 16 or over.
- You have been offered a place on a course.
- You can speak, read, write and understand English.
- You have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course – the amount will vary depending on your circumstances.
- You are from a country that’s not in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
- You meet the other eligibility requirements.
You will be granted a visa for the length of your course plus an additional four months at the end of the course, which could work quite well for work and travel.
You can apply to extend this visa whilst in the UK.
Each case would need to be looked at carefully.