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Offshore work

It is employment on oil, gas and any other, installations fixed to the sea bed that are wholly at sea on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Persons seeking entry to the UK as offshore workers do not require authorisation for such employment, but as a concession, they can be given leave to enter to allow them to go offshore for such employment.

The majority of offshore workers are employed for short periods on the UKCS and will require entry for less than six months to go offshore before returning home for leave. However, some may wish to base themselves, and their dependants, in the UK. Exceptionally, as a concession, offshore workers and their dependants are allowed to base themselves in the UK while employed offshore on the UKCS. They must be employed on the UKCS and may not base themselves here for offshore employment elsewhere.

They must provide written confirmation from their employer of the nature and duration of their employment, confirming that it is wholly and only offshore in the UKCS. They and their dependants must provide documentary evidence satisfying the issuing officer that they can be maintained and accommodated without recourse to unauthorised employment or public funds.

It is important to note that offshore workers are not dealt with the same as crew joining a ship. Offshore workers are not seafaring ‘crew’ as defined in the Immigration Act 1971, and are not dealt with in accordance with the provisions for seafaring crew. Offshore workers do not benefit from the shore leave and visa waiver concessions afforded to crew in accordance with law, policy and international conventions such as ILO108 (International Labour Organisation).

Offshore work: What is an ‘oil installation’?

It is an oil rig fixed, permanently or temporarily, to the sea-bed in the UKCS zone. Vessels which service installations, taking supplies and staff to and from an installation are not installations. The crew on these service vessels do not, therefore, fall under the offshore concession. They may, however, qualify as joining ship crew if the vessel spends the majority of its time outside UK waters.

A ship, including one engaged in oil or renewable energy activities, does not qualify as an oil installation. Similarly a seismic vessel is not an oil installation.

The UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) is the 200 mile zone in which our sovereignty relates only to the exploitation of resources. This should not be confused with the 12 mile zone which is defined as ‘UK territorial waters’ (where immigrations controls are applied).

Shore Leave

Subject to normal visa requirements, off-shore workers are allowed to live in the UK during their shore leave. Their dependants are also exceptionally allowed to base themselves in the UK.

Offshore work: Entry Clearance

Entry clearance is not mandatory for non-visa nationals except if they intend to stay as offshore workers for more than six months.


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