UK Seasonal Worker Visa – temporarily expanded to include poultry workers and HGV drivers

We have recently written a few articles regarding the government’s response to the shortage of workers, including the creation of visas (Tier 5 Visa) for seasonal workers in the edible horticultural sector. More recently this has included the introduction of the HGV (fuel) driver visa, which was restricted to EU nationals.

The “New” visa

The government has now announced that the Temporary Seasonal Worker Visa will now replace the Seasonal Worker Visa (Tier 5). The new visa will include two more categories of workers, as well as the traditional horticultural workers. These are poultry workers and HGV food transport drivers, although these visas are only available on a temporary basis, presumably to cover the shortage that is anticipated as we approach the holiday season.

Duration and key dates

The key dates are different and depend on the sector the applicant is applying for. Applicants are allowed to stay in the UK for up to 6 months if they are working in edible horticulture and there is no deadline for applications. However, applicants need to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa by the 15th of November 2021 to do poultry work, and by the 1st of December 2021 to drive HGVs. Those doing poultry work are only allowed to stay up until the 31st of December 2021 and those driving HGVs until the 28th of February 2022.

Eligibility and requirements

The eligibility for this visa is fairly relaxed and not restricted to the EU, however, applicants must apply from abroad before coming to the UK. The key requirements are:

  1. A certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer – this is normally a reference number that is supplied by the employer, who must have a special licence to sponsor persons from abroad.
  2. To have enough money to support themselves in the UK – through bank statements showing £1,270 in the account for at least 28 days before the application. This can also be met if the employer certifies that they will cater for the applicants expenses, effectively guaranteeing that they will cover the workers costs while the worker is here.

How to apply and costs

The application for this visa should be completed from abroad and within the stipulated deadlines, if applicable. The fee is usually £244, although if the applicant is within the EU the fee is reduced to £55. It usually takes around three weeks to receive the decision. For edible horticulture workers, it is possible to apply up to 3 months before the date the applicant is due to start work.

Conditions and restrictions

This visa does not allow applicants to permanently settle in the UK and workers must leave at the end of their allotted time. They can only work in the job that is described in their certificate of sponsorship and for the employer that is sponsoring them. They are not allowed to bring family members, work in a different job, claim any public funds or take a permanent job. However, it may be possible to study some simple courses while in the UK.

In conclusion – clever solution or risky move?

This is clearly an attempt by the government to fill in the gaps left by the departure of many EU citizens, and it may provide a way for them to open up immigration on demand, which is one of the promised benefits of an immigration system that is controlled by the government. It may, however, be that the visas are too restrictive to attract many EU workers back to the UK, and the fact that it is open to countries outside the EU may make it more attractive for those coming from economically less well off countries.

Time will tell if this is beneficial to the economy, or whether this is opening an avenue for migrants to come into the UK legally but then to choose not to return to their own country when their visa expires.

Unfortunately, systems like this have also been abused in Italy and other EU countries, where migrants are let in on temporary visas, leaving them open to exploitation, as the migrants are often willing to work for low wages. It will be interesting to see how they intend to police the new systems, and whether the migrant workers do return home once their visas expire.

Please feel free to share and comment to raise awareness of these issues. Also, if you have been affected by any of these immigration rule changes and need a quick chat with a UK Immigration Solicitor, do not hesitate to contact Tito Mbariti for a free one-off, no-obligation general immigration advice consultation via either phone, WeChat, Facetime or Skype. 

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