UK Extends Seasonal Visa Scheme to Urgently Hire Thousands of Foreign Workers

The UK government has announced a significant extension of the Seasonal Worker visa scheme for the food and agriculture sector, now set to continue until 2029. This move aims to mitigate ongoing labor shortages while giving businesses time to invest in automation technologies and attract domestic workers.

Labour Shortages

In response to John Shropshire’s Independent Review, the government recognizes the crucial role migrant workers play in the food supply chain. The extended visa scheme provides much-needed stability for farms and food businesses, enabling them to plan effectively for seasonal labor needs.

Key Points

  • Visa Allocation for 2025: 43,000 visas for the horticulture sector and 2,000 for the poultry industry.
  • Future Allocations: Visa numbers for 2026 to 2029 will be announced later this year.
  • Reduction in Visas: A decrease of 2,000 visas from previous allocations and the removal of an additional 10,000 visas that could have been made available based on demand.
  • Five-Year Extension: The scheme will be available until 2029.
  • Focus on Automation: The government is committed to supporting technological advancements to reduce reliance on migrant labor in the long term.

Domestic Workforce Appeal

Alongside the visa extension, the government is actively working to make the food and agriculture sector more attractive to domestic workers through:

  • Regional Recruitment Strategies: Tailored plans to connect job seekers with local opportunities.
  • Industry-Education Collaboration: Strengthening partnerships between educational institutions and food producers to bridge the skills gap.

Seasonal Worker Visa

The Seasonal Worker visa allows foreign nationals to undertake temporary work in specific sectors within the UK, including:

  • Horticulture: Up to six months for activities such as picking fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
  • Poultry: From October 2nd to December 31st for poultry production.

Applicants need a job offer from a registered sponsor and must meet the visa eligibility criteria.

Sponsorship Requirements

Employers must be approved sponsors under the Seasonal Worker route, with existing overarching bodies authorized to sponsor workers in poultry and horticulture. Individual employers cannot apply for a sponsor license on this specific route.

Ensuring Compliance

Employers granted a license must adhere to all sponsor duties, including additional responsibilities specific to approved scheme operators. Non-compliance could lead to license downgrading, suspension, or revocation.

The Migration Advisory Committee’s ongoing inquiry into the Seasonal Worker visa route is expected to be published in the summer of 2024, potentially providing further insights and recommendations for the scheme’s future.

The extended Seasonal Worker visa scheme offers critical support to the UK’s food industry while promoting long-term solutions through automation and domestic workforce development. This initiative ensures greater stability for businesses and paves the way for a more sustainable agricultural sector in the years ahead.



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