The UK Government should develop a ‘Citizens of the world’ visa programme
The Prime Minister has set out her admirable vision of a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’, where we are “a country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike”.
An important tool for achieving this is immigration policy. Specifically, enabling talented people from around the world to live, work, invest and study in this country. And, of course, for Britons to do be able to do the same in other countries. This two-way migration strengthens Britain’s economic prosperity and cultural influence.
Currently, the UK has a relationship with eight countries – Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan – where a limited number of visas are granted each year to applicants aged 18-30 from each country that want to live, work or study in the UK for two years.
The UK classifies these as Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visas. They are offered on a reciprocal basis, meaning that the exact same number of visas each year are available for UK citizens to live, work or study in the partner country.
Applicants must prove that they have sufficient funding to support themselves in the UK, including having £1,890 in their own personal bank account. Successful applicants can work, or not, in the UK during their stay, as long as it is not as a professional sportsperson or a doctor or dentist in training.
The number of visas available varies: in 2018, for Australia, there was a cap of 34,000 places for both countries. But for Japan, Monaco, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong it was only 1,000 places for each of these countries and the UK. The number of visas granted to applicants to come to the UK usually does not meet the cap granted for each country.
As part of its post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ strategy, the UK should seek to significantly expand the number of countries that it has a reciprocal relationship with on Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visas. Specifically, it should focus on developing these reciprocal relationships with Commonwealth countries. This new expanded scheme could be renamed the ‘Citizens of the world’ visa programme.
However, the UK should stipulate that it will only, in future, offer a reciprocal relationship on these Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visas with countries that meet basic human rights conditions. . These conditions could include the outlawing of the death penalty, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and allowing women access to contraception services.