Guide to UK working holiday visas | Compare the Market (2023)

Working holiday visas are a rite of passage for many young Australians, and the United Kingdom is a popular destination. There are a few things to think about before travelling halfway around the world though, so before booking a flight and saying your goodbyes, take a look at this guide to working holiday visas for the UK.

Preparing to leave

Do Australian citizens need a visa to work in the UK?

Australians can live in the UK visa-free for up to six months as a tourist. However, if you’re looking to do any paid, unpaid or volunteer work while in the UK, you will need a working holiday visa. There are a variety of working visas available to you based on the type of work you plan to do, as well as a range of study and visitor visas.

The UK Government has a helpful tool to determine which visa you should apply for based on your circumstances. However, the most common types of working visas for Australians include:

Skilled work visa Many jobs can be considered skilled, so long as it meets the eligibility requirements for this visa. You can apply for this type of visa if:
  • You work for a UK employer that’s approved by the Home Office.
  • You have a certificate of sponsorship from your employer.
  • Your job is on the list of eligible occupations.
  • You’re paid at least the minimum salary or going rate for your job. 1

You can stay in the UK with this visa for up to five years. You may renew your visa as many times as you like as long as you’re eligible to do so.

Health and Care Worker visaLike the Skilled work visa, the Health and Care Worker visa allows qualified doctors, nurses, social care workers and other health professionals to work in the UK. You can apply for this type of visa if:
  • You work for the National Health Service (NHS), or an employer approved by the Home Office.
  • You have medical qualifications and training.
  • Your employer gives you a certificate of sponsorship.
  • You’re paid at least the minimum salary for your role. 2

This visa allows you to live and work in the UK for up to five years. You can renew this visa if you’re eligible to do so.

Youth Mobility Scheme visaDesigned to give young people a taste of life in the UK, the Youth Mobility Scheme visa is a type of short-term visa which bundles visiting permits and work permits together. If you’re between 18 and 30 years old, you may be approved for this visa if you meet the following requirements:
  • You have no dependent children.
  • You have British Nationality or hail from certain regions in the UK.
  • You’re from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino or Iceland.
  • You entered the Youth Mobility Scheme visa ballot (for young people from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan).
  • You haven’t been approved for a previous working holiday visa.
  • You have more than £2,530 in the bank when you apply. 3

You can stay in the UK for up to two years with this visa, but you can only use this visa once in your lifetime. If you turn 31 during your stay, you can continue to stay in the UK until your visa expires.

UK Ancestry visaThe UK Home Office provides a visa for those who have ancestral family ties to the UK. You can apply for a UK Ancestry visa if:
  • You’re a Commonwealth, British , Zimbabwean or British territory citizen, or a British national living overseas.
  • You can prove one of your grandparents was born in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.
  • You’re at least 17 years old.
  • You have enough money to fund your trip.
  • You plan to work in the UK. 4

A UK Ancestry visa allows you to work, study and bring a partner and any children with you to stay for up to five years. After this five-year period, you can apply to extend your visa for another five years or apply to settle permanently.

Information correct as of 18/03/2022.

Noteworthy visa conditions

  • Working holiday visas don’t ‘pause’ when you leave the country, and your leave date cannot be changed regardless of how long you were in the UK.
  • Working visas normally allow multiple entries, so you can enter and exit the country as much as you like while the visa is valid.
  • Visa holders must abide by UK laws or risk facing punishment from the UK Government, including deportation.

What else do I need to do before leaving for the UK?

Comprehensive travel insurance is a great idea when going abroad, especially for working holidaymakers. No one wants to think about the worst-case scenarios when stepping into an exciting new country, but it’s good to have a backup plan regardless.

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When getting travel insurance, it’s a good idea to keep in mind:

  • How long the policy will last. If you’re going for up to 12 months, a single trip policy will cover the entire time, although you may need to extend or purchase a new policy if you plan to stay longer.
  • Whether the type of work you intend to do is covered. Any manual labour, or work that is considered risky, will most likely not be covered. It’s important to declare to your insurer anyway whether you intend to do any type of work abroad.
  • If you have enough luggage and personal effects cover.In the case that your belongings are damaged or stolen, make sure your policy covers all your belongings, including items you purchase during your stay.
  • Any medical treatments that’s included. If you’re planning to stay for a while, remember that not everything will be accessible through the NHS, so checking what you’re entitled to with your insurer is a good idea.

Guide to UK working holiday visas | Compare the Market (1)

Setting up after arrival

There are a few things you’ll probably want to sort out as soon as you arrive in the UK, if you haven’t done so already.

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National Insurance NumberBiometric residence permit (BRP)
If you work in the UK, you will need a National Insurance Number to receive your salary, pay tax and more. National Insurance is the UK’s answer to superannuation, funding state pensions and other services such as maternity allowances and bereavement benefits.

Visit GOV.UK to find out how to apply for a National Insurance Number.

All visa applicants staying in the UK for longer than six months are issued a biometric residence permit (BRP), a legally-required form of identification that functions as your proof of right to stay and work in the UK. It will also give you access to any public services and benefits that you may be entitled to.

Once your visa application is approved, you’ll receive a validity sticker and a decision letter, which will tell you which UK post office branch you should collect your BRP from. You will typically be given 10 days to collect your BRP.

You’ll need your BRP to open a bank account and to enter and exit the UK.

Bank accounts

Opening a UK bank account means you can have easy access to your money without incurring expensive international drawing fees from using your Australian one. It’s also a necessary task for when you begin working.

There are a few ways you can set up a UK bank account:

  • Before you arrive: Some online banks will let you open a bank account without a permanent address, but the fees for these accounts may be higher than average.
  • After you arrive:You will need a permanent address to list on the application, which can be a hostel address, a friend’s place or rental accommodation. You’ll also need proof that you live there.
  • Getting a joint account with a UK resident: If you want to open a bank account with a spouse or housemates, you’ll need to have a valid visa as your proof of residency. You can open a joint account with a UK resident while you’re overseas through international banking; however, not all banks offer this option.
  • Through offshore services:Your bank may be able to set up an account for you. These accounts are generally reserved for high-income earners, though it never hurts to ask.

Looking for single trip travel insurance? Compare providers here for a great deal.

Planning to work

The working holiday visa is designed so you can supplement your travels by earning an income. You are permitted to do almost any kind of work; check your visa conditions for those jobs you can’t do. If you really want to travel, consider the types of jobs you are applying for; for example, many casual and short-term jobs involve hospitality. These are often easier to pick up and drop when it suits your travel plans.

Guide to UK working holiday visas | Compare the Market (2)

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Leaving the UK and arriving back in Australia

When your visa is close to expiring, it’s time to leave UK shores. Here are a few things you’ll want to sort out before your flight.


During your stay, you won’t have to submit a tax return, as your employer should be taking the right contributions out using your National Insurance Number. However, upon leaving the country, you need to complete a P85 form so your tax is adjusted and National Insurance payments stop. The UK financial year starts on 6 April and ends on 5 April, so this will be the period covered on the P85 form. 5

You can apply for a tax refund if you think you’ve overpaid. Speak to a qualified financial expert (e.g., an accountant) if you’re unsure of how to proceed.

You will also have to report your overseas earnings with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) when you return. For rules and offsets that you may need to be mindful of, read more on the ATO website.

Electoral roll

When you arrive home, something to remember is re-enrolling to vote. While you don’t have to while working in the UK, voting in Australia is compulsory and not doing so can lead to a fine. To get back on the electoral roll, go the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website. Please note that you can only enrol if you have lived at your address for at least one month, according to the AEC.

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Guide to UK working holiday visas | Compare the Market (3)

Insurance tips for your UK working holiday from our expert, Stephen Zeller

  • Ensure that any work or leisure activities you’ll be performing in the UK aren’t excluded by your policy wording.
  • Purchase cover well before you travel. Travel insurance coverage begins from the moment you pay for it and higher levels of cover can cover cancellations and other hiccups which could happen before you even leave for the airport.
  • Don’t leave any personal or work items in a public place or unattended, as your travel insurance often won’t cover it.
  • Look for a policy that allows you to declare any pre-existing conditions before you travel. The insurer will assess your conditions and could decide to cover you for it. While you will have access to the NHS as part of your visa application, any treatment not covered by the NHS can be covered by travel insurance with medical expenses.

Compare travel insurance for the UK

A working holiday in the UK is a great way to travel and work with minimal restriction. If you haven’t already looked at travel insurance for the UK, now’s a great time to do so! It only takes a few minutes to compare travel insurance quotes from our range of partners with our free comparison service.

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If you’re travelling to multiple destinations, check out our comprehensive guide to travel insurance by destination instead.


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