Immigration Update: Extension to the Seasonal Worker Immigration Visa

In October, we discussed the UK Government's announcement of an extension to the Seasonal Worker Immigration Rules to include poultry production work and haulage driving to the Seasonal Worker definition in an attempt to attract short-term agricultural workers amid a serious shortage. For an overview of these extensions please visit our article, which you can find here: Immigration Update: UK Government Announces Extensions to the Immigration Rules to Alleviate Seasonal Worker Shortage | Michelmores

The Government has since announced that the Seasonal Worker Visa route will be extended until the end of 2024. Below we provide an overview of the Seasonal Worker Visa route, a more detailed look into the latest extensions, and the Government's attitude towards temporary work in the agriculture sector.

What is the Seasonal Worker Visa Route, and what is the latest extension?

The Seasonal Worker route allows overseas workers to apply to work in the UK agriculture sector for up to six months, via a licenced sponsor. The visa covers a number of temporary workers in the edible horticulture sector. It was announced that there will be 30,000 visas available in 2022, with the potential of an increase of 10,000 if it is found that a greater number is necessary.

On 24 December 2021 the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that the Seasonal Worker visa route would be extended until the end of 2024. There has also been a concession to include ornamental horticulture to the rules in order to support the UK's flower growers, whilst the provision for poultry workers has been removed.

What is the Government's attitude to the Seasonal Worker route?

Whilst the number of visas was increased for 2022, the Government has confirmed that the number will begin to taper down from 2023. It has also identified that the sector will have to improve pay and conditions for workers to ensure that they are paid a UK minimum wage.

Despite making the seasonal worker route more accessible, the Government is still pursuing a policy to ensure that the UK is a high-skilled, high-wage economy and has stated that 'more must be done to attract UK workers through offering training, career options, wage increases and to invest in increased automation technology'. To support this policy, there has been an update to the seasonal worker sponsor guidance to tighten compliance requirements. This update includes a new requirement for sponsors to only place workers with growers who are actively engaging with Jobcentre Plus to recruit UK based workers.

Employers in the agriculture sector, particularly horticulture, should keep a keen eye on any further updates to the UK's temporary worker routes as we move into 2022.

This article is for general information only and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you have any questions relating to your particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.