Skip to main content

Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, is today urging the UK Government to significantly expand the number of countries, especially ones in the Commonwealth, that it has a reciprocal relationship with on Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visas, and then rename this the ‘Citizens of the world’ visa programme.

Bright Blue is calling for the UK to stipulate that it will only, in future, offer a reciprocal relationship on these ‘Citizens of the world’ visas with commonwealth 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.

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse – Director of Bright Blue – said:

“To provide better overseas opportunities for young people, and show greater alignment with their cultural values, the UK should develop a ‘Citizens of the world’ visa programme.”

“Two years ago, the Prime Minister was critical of ‘citizens of the world’. Many young people took offence, thinking it wan attack on their benign and passionate principles to embrace and ally with people from across the world. This new visa programme could be a means for the Prime Minister to demonstrate to these young people that she really is on their side.

The Prime Minister talks of her vision of a ‘Global Britain’, but her immigration policies undermine this. One of the best ways of achieving ‘Global Britain’ is by 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.

On the eve of a major conference, entitled Fighting for freedom?, Bright Blue is launching this new policy of a ‘Citizens of the world’ visa programme as a petition. The conference will include a keynote speech from the Minister for Human Rights, Dr Phillip Lee MP, and two panel events with high-profile centre-right speakers such as the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP (Chair, Women and Equalities Select Committee) and the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP (Former Secretary of State for International Development).