Applying for the right visa can be a complete mindfield (did you read about my experiences when going to Russia?!), so I think this post written by the Wanderlust Vegans is particularly helpful for those of you who might be planning a Canadian adventure sometime soon!
Pros and Cons: Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) Visa
About 2 years ago we found ourselves looking for some change. Things were going pretty well for us but living on the west coast of Canada we felt a little bit isolated. It is expensive and far to travel to anywhere from there and you don’t get that much holiday time each year. We had done some travelling in the past but we hadn’t had chance to see Europe, something we’d always wanted to do. We were getting close to being 30 years old, the cut-off age for UK YMS visas so we decided that we wanted to take advantage of it whilst we could. We knew that living in the UK would be an interesting place in itself and also an excellent base for exploring Europe and all the different cultures there.
If you are considering getting the same visa then there are some things you should know. We have created a list of pros and cons to help you make a decision.
When we got our YMS visas we were eligible for NHS medical coverage without any additional charge as long as we were working in the first year of the visa. The 2nd year we were covered regardless of whether we were working or not. Now there is a surcharge you have to pay for the medical coverage but it is convenient to have medical coverage taken care of for the 2 years at a relatively low cost.
From our perspective as Canadians we found the wages to be relatively good. We have never had jobs that paid really well back in Canada. Most of the jobs we’ve had are not that much more than minimum wage. The GBP is a lot stronger than CAD and most of the jobs we’ve found in the UK paid more than minimum wage. This means we’ve been making a lot more than we used to back in Canada. As a result we’ve been able to travel much more than we had originally expected. The increased wages combined with living a more minimalist lifestyle has meant that we are no longer worried about the big upfront cost in moving to the UK.
This is the main reason you are going to want to get a visa. There are many reasons you might want to move across the sea but maybe like us you were just looking to see something different. You will without a doubt get to see lots of things much different than back in Canada. Living and working in the UK has been a fantastic life experience. We have learned to deal with change, making new friends, finding jobs and it has improved our confidence. We’ve ended up getting a variety of jobs through temp agencies which has led to some work experience outside of the fields we previously worked in. We have had a lot of fun learning about the local customs in the UK and travelling around Europe as well. Each country in Europe will have something you can’t find anywhere else. There is so much opportunity to travel both in the UK and around Europe. The deals you can find are incredible. Exploring Europe is a cliché gap year thing to do but it really is a lot of fun and will enrich your life.
We had to get British passport sized photos, fill out an application form and then go to an appointment at a visa application location. From there our passports where sent off and then sent back to us again. We were accepted and free to live and work in the UK. They placed the visa in our passports. There was lots of appointment dates free and we were able to book 2 at the same time. The whole process took about a month which is not too bad at all. It probably could have been shorter than that if we picked an earlier appointment date.
There are also some downsides to the YMS Visa which you may want to know about.
There are a number of expenses that you will have to take care of in order to get the visa. It now costs £230 to apply for the YMS visa and you have to prove with bank statements that you have at least £1890 in your bank account to prove you are able to support yourself. You have to print your application, bank statements and get British passport sized photos taken. This all costs money. There is only select cities where you can have your visa application meeting so you may have to travel somewhere for your meeting. We had to travel to Vancouver from Vancouver Island. This cost us more money. Once you are in the UK there is no guarantee of a job. You could try to arrange a job before you go but that proves difficult. Being unemployed will cost you even more money. Flights from Canada to the UK can be pretty expensive as well. All these things can start to add up so there is a bit of pressure to find a job ASAP. You are not allowed to get public assistance with this visa. On top of all this, transferring money from Canada to the UK will mean you have to deal with the exchange rate and bank charges so you will want to earn pounds immediately.
There is a bit of a catch 22 when trying to get established in the UK. It is a bit tricky to rent an apartment and get a bank account. In order to set up a bank account you will need an address and in order to get an address you will probably need to have a bank account. Our application asked us for a UK contact which could be a problem if you don’t know anyone in the UK. There may be something you can arrange or a way around this. We got around this since we lived with our friend’s Dad in the UK for the first 2 weeks. We were able to set up bank accounts with their address and they found an apartment for us all to rent. Here comes the next catch 22. In order to rent an apartment you will need a job and it is probably going to be a bit difficult to get a job without a place to live. This can get a bit complicated but it can be done. With any luck it will all fall into place for you.
More than likely you are going to have a lot of fun living in the UK and you will meet lots of nice people. Having Europe on your doorstep is something that you will love as a traveller. You are going to get a bit settled in your ways in the UK and it will begin to feel like your home. Just when you get comfortable your 2 years will be up and you are going to have to say goodbye to all the colleagues, friends and places that you have come to love. There is no option to extend this visa. In order to stay you would need to leave and come back on a different visa which could be difficult to get. Even if you are excited to return home to Canada it is going to be somewhat bittersweet because of everything you are leaving behind.
These pros and cons come from a Canadian perspective in moving to the UK but we're sure they can be applied to other countries as well. Every visa is going to have some sort of costs involved and problem solving but can definitely be worth it in the end. Even though there is a lot of upfront costs and things to figure out you will end up seeing a lot more of the UK and Europe than you will be able to on a backpacking trip. It’s hard to compare a temporary visa to any other travel experience but it is a great way to experience what it is like to live and work in another country.
About the Authors: Wanderlust Vegans is a Vegan Travel Blog by Husband and Wife Minimalist Duo. They are Canadians living in Birmingham, England. They spend their time travelling around the UK and Europe. With this blog they hope to share their experience with minimalism, travel and living a vegan lifestyle. They have been to twenty+ countries and want to show that living a vegan lifestyle is attainable everywhere they go. Join them on their adventure around the globe.