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The Impact of Seasonal Work Visas in the UK

Client Advice

The Impact of Seasonal Work Visas in the UK

The Impact of Seasonal Work Visas in the UK

Seasonal workers are a branch of temporary workers who enter the UK to work for short time periods. From 2022-2023, seasonal work visas made up approximately 50% of all temporary worker visas in the UK. As you can see, seasonal workers are clearly vital contributors to the UK economy. However, there is a quota and strict requirements to obtain this type of visa in the UK.

Discover more about seasonal work visas in the UK and how this branch of temporary work impacts the agricultural sector.

What is a Seasonal Worker Visa?

Horticulture or poultry production workers who travel to the UK for labour can receive a seasonal visa. They are allowed to stay for a maximum of six months within a 12-month timeframe and must have an approved scheme sponsor. However, poultry production seasonal workers can only stay in the UK between 2nd October – 31st December each year. This type of visa cannot be used for permanent residency and applicants cannot be joined by other family members.

Jobs Included Under a Seasonal Work Visa in the UK

Horticultural Work

Includes any work growing the following:

  • Protected and field vegetables
  • Soft and top (orchard) fruit
  • Mushrooms
  • Vines and bines
  • Bulbs and cut flowers
  • Potted plants
  • Ornamental nursery plants
  • Tree and forest nurseries

Poultry Production Work

Includes the following jobs and occupation codes:

  • Butchers (5431)
  • Bird/game dressers, killers, pluckers, poulterers, poultry processors, poultry stickers and trussers (5433)
  • Food operatives (8111)
  • Poultry catchers/handlers (9111)
  • Poultry vaccinators (9119)
  • Poultry meat packers (9134)

How to Apply for a Seasonal Visa in the UK

Applicants can apply for seasonal worker visas through the official Gov.uk website. Applicants will need to fill in the form with their personal details and upload any supporting documentation. They will also need to prove their identity at a visa application centre or via the UK Immigration: ID Check app.

Applicants will need to obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a Home Office licensed sponsor. The CoS cannot be awarded more than three months prior to the visa application date. Finally, applicants will also need to prove that they have enough savings to support themselves whilst living in the UK.

Seasonal worker visa applicants who wish to work in poultry must apply by 15th November each year. Those working in horticulture can apply at any time.

How Do UK Seasonal Worker Visas Impact the Agricultural Industry?

UK farmers rely heavily on workers coming from abroad to complete seasonal labour. According to an official government survey, approximately 471,000 people work in the UK agricultural sector. At least 58,000 of these people are seasonal or casual workers. Seasonal workers originally came from Ukraine and Russia, but multiple nationalities now travel to the UK for seasonal labour.

Over the last few years, farming businesses have reported seasonal labour shortages. They have requested that the government increase the quota for agricultural seasonal visas in the UK. 

As it stands, the UK seasonal worker visa scheme currently has a quota of 45,000-55,000 per year. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) stated that at least 45,000 visas would be awarded in 2023 and 2024. This number could be increased by a further 10,000 if demand is particularly high.

Moving forward, the government is encouraging farmers to gradually replace foreign workers with domestic machinery. However, a report suggests that seasonal workers should still be important in farming until better technology is more commonplace.  An independent review is currently conducting an investigation into labour shortages in the food supply chain. These findings should inform the government’s decision about the future of agricultural seasonal work visas in the UK.

Whilst it’s unclear whether seasonal workers are here to stay beyond 2024, the National Farmers’ Union reports that seasonal labour “will continue to increase” for the time being.

Seasonal Worker Recruitment Solutions for Agricultural Businesses

Do you need to increase your seasonal workforce in 2024? From food operatives to strawberry pickers, we’ve got you covered here at RE Recruitment. Our expert recruitment team specialises in supplying seasonal workers within the UK food processing, farming and fruit-picking sectors. Contact us today to find your next batch of UK seasonal workers.

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