The UK's first post-Brexit trade deal, the UK–Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) (The Agreement), came into force on 31 May 2023. Whilst the key purpose of this agreement is to facilitate trade between the two Commonwealth nations, there are some implications for UK-inbound migration. The two areas of impact are:
- The Youth Mobility Scheme
- The Global Business Mobility Route
Youth Mobility Scheme
The Youth Mobility Scheme allows young persons of certain nationalities to live, study, and work in the UK for a period of time as a young adult. The scheme currently allows individuals aged between 18-30 to spend up to 2 years in the UK. The UK-Australia FTA extends the eligibility of the visa for Australians aged 18-35, and allows Australian nationals to spend a total of 3 years in the UK. In line with the New Zealand Trade Agreement changes, we expect this will be granted in a 2 year (visa) + 1 year (in-country extension) format.
However, those at the upper end of the new 35-year age limit should temper their enthusiasm. Puzzlingly, the Youth Mobility Scheme changes seems to be one of the only aspects of the Agreement which requires additional time to implement. The Agreement promises to do so within 2 years of the agreement coming into force, so by 31 May 2025 at the latest. We understand that changes to UK Immigration Rules will be implemented later in 2023 – to bring Australians in line with New Zealanders who will benefit from the new age threshold from 29 June 2023.
The Global Business Mobility Scheme
The Global Business Mobility (GBM) Route is a combined category of five temporary sponsored work routes, including:
- Senior or Specialist Worker
- Graduate Trainee
- UK Expansion Worker
- Service Supplier
- Secondment Worker
Three GBM Visas have seen minor changes as a result of the UK-Australia FTA.
- Australians applying under the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa to transfer to a UK branch or subsidiary of their overseas employer are entitled to a temporary stay for a period not exceeding 3 years, with possible extension by discretion. Note that the Immigration Rules allows for up a grant of leave of up to 5 years in this category (when the job is expected to last as long), so we must wait to see how this is implemented in practice.
- Australians applying under the UK Expansion Worker Visa no longer need to demonstrate that they have worked for their overseas employer for 12 months prior to the application to come to the UK to open a branch of subsidiary of that company.
- Australians applying under the Service Supplier Visa to complete temporary work assignments will have the same access as EEA nationals; they will be entitled to leave for up 12 months, rather than the 6-month limit for non-EEA nationals.
The Agreement also promises to deal with applications from Australian businesspersons (the Global Business Mobility Route and Business Visitor Route) "as expeditiously as possible". Practitioners will be hesitant to rely on such promises from an organisation with a track record of delays like UK Visas and Immigration, but it is useful to have something with which to hold the Home Office accountable should unnecessary delays occur.
The Agreement ends with regards to migration by promising a review of the progress made on mobility agreements two years after the Agreement comes into force, in 2025.
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