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The Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement


Policy Brief: The Case for Brazil to be added to the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme

Dr Daniel Robins, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge




  • The Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) allows adults under 30 from selected countries to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
  • In 2018, HM government suggested extending the YMS to other countries to allow young EU citizens to live and work in the UK. To date, the scheme has not been extended to any EU countries but has been extended to India.
  • This policy brief makes the argument that Brazil is an ideal candidate to be added to the Youth Mobility Scheme and doing so would be mutually beneficial to all stakeholders.



After Brexit, the issue of which immigration policies should replace the end of free movement from the EU to the UK became paramount (Consterdine 2019). This has been compounded by widespread labour shortages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit (Davis 2021).  One option considered by researchers and policy makers was to expand the YMS to allow more young adults to live and work in the UK. Historically, only people from the following places are eligible for the YMS: Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan.

In 2018 the government announced that it would seek to expand the YMS to include EU countries (Sumption & Reino 2018). However, to date there has been no such expansion. Instead, the UK has begun to look elsewhere to form trade deals and migration agreements. A recent trade deal between the UK and India has resulted in the Migration and Mobility Partnership agreement (Home Office 2021) which will effectively add India to the list of countries eligible for the YMS. This policy brief suggests that Brazil should also seek to be added to the UK’s YMS.


The Case for Brazil to be added to the YMS

There are multiple reasons that Brazil is an ideal candidate for the YMS. These are summarised below:

  • Like India, Brazil is an emerging superpower, and a large player in international trade. Most importantly it is neutral in terms of the UK’s new relationship with the EU. India’s success in being added to the YMS scheme suggests a similar move would also be possible in any new trade deals created between Brazil and the UK.


  • Brazil has already successfully agreed deals to be added to the equivalent ‘working holiday’ visa schemes of New Zealand, France, Germany, Japan, and Canada (Caia no Mundo, 2021). This sets a precedent for the workability of Brazil joining the UK’s YMS.


  • Brazil enjoys a generally positive international reputation (Buarque 2020). A new migration (and possibly trade) deal would help consolidate Brazil’s already friendly relationship with the UK.


  • There is already a sizeable Brazilian population in the UK, estimated at around 220,000 (Evans 2020) making it the most popular destination in Europe for Brazilian migrants (Margolis 2013). Adding Brazil to the YMS would be less about creating a new migration stream and more about recognising the existence and contributions of an already well established one.


  • Brazilians in the UK are generally viewed in a positive light by native citizens and other migrant groups (Robins 2019).


  • Many view their migration in terms of ‘lifestyle’ motivations rather than economic ones (Robins 2018; Robins 2019). Migrating through the YMS would thus be an accurate reflection of how many young Brazilians view their migration project.



Consolidating Brazil’s and the UK’s friendly relations

The UK has now entered a new era of international relations where it is positioning itself to look beyond the EU for trade and migration agreements. Previous research amongst British diplomats has found that the although the UK views Brazil in a favourable light there is sometimes a perception amongst British diplomats that Brazil is ‘on the fence’ in terms of its relationship with the UK and other countries (Buarque 2020). A reciprocal migration agreement such as the YMS would help confirm Brazil as a friend of the UK but without risking a deterioration of relations with other international players. In this way it would help promote cultural exchange, cordial relations, and international mobility similar to how the Brazilian government’s Ciência sem Fronteiras program previously allowed young Brazilians to study abroad, and the ‘Think Brazil’ campaign helped to raise Brazil’s profile in the UK and consolidate good relations between the two countries (HM Government 2017). The Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paul (FAPESP), São Paulo’s state research funding body currently has a memorandum of understanding with the UK’s national equivalent, United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI). One of the outcomes of a new deal between Brazil and the UK could involve closer collaboration with national Brazilian education and research bodies such as Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Novel Superior (CAPES) and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and the UKRI to create educational exchange programs and research collaborations between Brazilian and UK higher education institutions. One projected outcome would thus be to promote educational mobility for young Brazilian and British students.


A more efficient migration system for the UK and for migrants

Expanding the YMS would reflect the already established reality of Brazilian migration to the UK. Historically, many Brazilians have lived and worked in the UK via ancestral EU passports. This option is no longer available meaning the easiest way for new arrivals to live and work in the UK is via student visas. Student visas have also historically been a popular entry method with those unable to claim an EU passport (Martins Junior & Dias 2013). However, since 2012, these too have become more restrictive (Martins Junior 2017). Yet, there is strong evidence that the lack of official channels for young Brazilians to enter the UK to work has not prevented them from being able to do so (Robins, forthcoming). Yet, their status often means they are at risk of exploitation once they begin to work in the UK (ibid.). Allowing young Brazilians access to the YMS would help recognise their established history of contributing to the UK economy without fear of exploitation or deportation.


See also:



Buarque, D., 2020. A country on the fence: United Kingdom’s perceptions of the status and international agenda of Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Politica Internacional, 63(1), pp.1–17.

Caia no Mundo, 2021. O que é Working Holiday Visa e como funciona. Available at:

Consterdine, E., 2019. Youth Mobility Scheme: The Panacea for Ending Free Movement? National Institute Economic Review, 248(1), pp.40–48.

Davis, E., 2021. Employee shortages: Where have all the workers gone? BBC News. Available at:

Evans, Y., 2020. Brasileiros no Reino Unido, 2020, London.

HM Government, 2017. Think Brazil: May 10-19. HM Government. Available at:

Home Office, 2021. Policy paper: MoU on the migration and mobility partnership between India and the United Kingdom. Available at:

Margolis, M., 2013. Goodbye Brazil: émigrés from the land of soccer, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Martins Junior, A., 2017. The production and negotiation of difference in a world on the move: Brazilian migration to London. Goldsmiths University. Available at:

Martins Junior, A. & Dias, G., 2013. Imigração brasileira contemporânea: discursos e práticas de imigrantes brasileiros em Londres. Análise Social, 48(209), pp.810–832.

Robins, D., 2018. Imagining London: The role of the geographical imagination in migrant subjectivity and decision-making. Area, 51(4), pp.728–735. Available at:

Robins, D., 2019. Lifestyle migration from the Global South to the Global North: individualism, social class and freedom in a centre of ‘super- diversity.’ Population, Space and Place, (January), pp.1–13. Available at:

Robins, D. Forthcoming. ‘Invisible’ labour migration: the impact of Brexit on semi-documented migrant workers.

Sumption, M. & Reino, M.F., 2018. Exploiting the Opportunity? Low-Skilled Work Migration After Brexit. Migration Observatory, University of Oxford