Hong Kong was added as a participant in the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) in January 2014. This means that nationals of Hong Kong, who are aged between 18 and 30, may obtain visas to the UK for two years. Successful applicants may freely take employment (except for work as a doctor or dentist in training, with limited exceptions, or as a professional sportsperson) and, subject to certain restrictions, undertake self-employment or study.

Hong Kong joins the existing participants: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, Taiwan, and South Korea. It should also be noted that there is a quota on the number of visas which may be granted to applicants from each country every year.

The major challenge with Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visas can be what they lead to. Holders may neither extend the visa nor switch into Tier 2 (General) while in the UK. Therefore, an employer can have a valuable employee for up to two years, at the end of which continued employment can be difficult or impossible.

It could, however, be noted that, if the employee is undertaking a role which cannot be filled by a settled worker and the employer has a sponsor licence, it is possible to complete the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and assign to the migrant a Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (RCoS) – subject to a monthly quota. The migrant would then need to return home in order to make an application for a visa under Tier 2 (General).

It is therefore worth checking if you have any Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) employees whom you may wish to keep on after expiry of their visas. If there are, forward planning is essential if you wish to continue to employ them.