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EU to consider EU-UK youth mobility scheme

22 April 2024

The European Commission has proposed to open negotiations with the UK to implement an EU-UK youth mobility scheme.

What’s the news?

On 18 April 2024 the European Commission proposed to the European Council to start negotiations to open a reciprocal youth mobility scheme between the EU and UK for citizens to study, work and live for a limited period.

The scheme as initially proposed would:

  • Apply to EU and UK citizens aged 18 to 30;
  • Allow stay for up to four years in the destination country for multiple purposes including study, training, work or travel;
  • Apply to UK citizens for admission only to one EU country (although it is not clear whether a UK citizen could apply for admission to more than one EU country, up to a maximum of four years in total);
  • Not be subject to a quota;
  • Allow participants to undertake higher education courses on a home student (rather than international student) fee basis; and
  • Ensure that citizens of all EU member states are treated equally (which would not be the case if bilateral agreements were concluded between the UK and individual EU countries).

Why’s this of interest to UK employers?

If some version of the scheme is implemented, this may reduce the need for UK employers to sponsor EU citizens for internships and would assist in filling post-Brexit labour market gaps, for example in the hospitality, retail and childcare (au pair) sectors.

What are the next steps?

The European Council will now consider the proposal, and if approved, negotiations will begin.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have stated they are not interested in progressing a scheme at EU level, preferring instead to negotiate bilateral agreements with individual countries. However, it is too early to predict whether any formal approach from the EU may be rejected outright, or if individual EU or EEA countries will move to conclude youth mobility arrangements with the UK. We shall continue to monitor developments.

If you have any queries about this topic, please contact a member of our immigration team.

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