What is a Seasonal Worker Visa and who can apply?

In October, the Home Office published its latest statement on changes to immigration laws, making some changes to the rules for foreigners who want to work in the UK.

One of the key changes highlighted in the documents was around the path of seasonal workers. A seasonal work visa is designed to allow foreigners to come to the UK and work temporarily in a specific field.

The seasonal workers route is now being extended to be involved in the poultry production sector from October 18 to December 31 each year. The change was made to support the sector during peak seasonal demand leading up to Christmas. The expansion sets specific wage requirements for poultry workers to ensure they are paid in accordance with the requirements of the skilled worker pathway.

Below is a summary of the seasonal worker pathway, including eligibility requirements for visa applicants and sponsoring employers.

Overview of the Seasonal Worker route

You can apply for a Seasonal Worker visa to come to the UK and work in:

  • Horticulture for up to 6 months – for example, picking fruit and vegetables or flowers.
  • Poultry from 18 October to 31 December, in the same year.

To apply, you must have a job offer from an approved sponsor in the UK and meet the pathway eligibility requirements.

A seasonal worker visa allows you to work in the occupation listed on your sponsor’s certificate. You can also study abroad in the UK while you are still at school. This route is designed to facilitate temporary work, so you cannot do full-time or other jobs not listed on your certificate of support. You also cannot bring family members to the UK or receive public funding while you are in the UK.

Applicant eligibility requirements

To be eligible to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa, you must:

  • Be 18 or over at the time you apply
  • Have a certificate of sponsorship reference number from your UK sponsor
  • Have enough money to support yourself in the UK – you’ll usually need to have at least £1,270 available (unless you’re exempt).

How to apply?

You can apply for a seasonal work visa up to three months before you start working in the UK. This date can be found on your sponsor certificate. If you are applying for a seasonal poultry worker visa, you must apply by November 15 each year. You can apply for a seasonal horticulture worker visa at any time of the year.

A seasonal work visa must be applied for online. As part of the application process, you will be asked to prove your identity with one of the following:

  • Attending an appointment at a visa application centre to have your fingerprints and photograph taken
  • Using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document.

The application fee is £259.

After applying online, verifying your identity and submitting documents, you will usually receive a visa decision within three weeks.

Financial support requirements for employers
To sponsor seasonal workers, you must be an approved scheme operator and hold a temporary worker sponsor’s permit for the seasonal worker route.

Umbrella entities (scheme operators) are currently approved to support permits for this route to support poultry production and/or horticultural workers. No further sponsoring licenses will be issued to Scheme Operators for this route without prior approval to become Scheme Operators.

Employers and organizations are not eligible for a sponsor license under this route, even if they have a sponsor license under other routes.

Licensed employers must comply with all sponsor obligations (including additional responsibilities as an approved scheme operator). Failure to comply may result in demotion, suspension or revocation of license.

Recruiting temporary workers

If your business is looking to sponsor overseas nationals through the labor or temporary worker route, Smithstone Walters can help. Contact us today to learn more about the customized services we can provide.

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