The Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker visa, which replaced the T5 Seasonal Worker visa, allows qualifying workers to come to the UK to undertake seasonal work only.
The following sectors are eligible for Seasonal Workers to come to the UK to:
- Work in edible horticulture for up to six months. This includes picking fruit and vegetables.
- Work in poultry production to work in the UK between 18 October – 31 December each year.
Note that the temporary visas for HGV food drivers expired on 28 February 2022.
Edible horticulture sector workers
The visa applies to roles involving growing:
- Protected vegetables, such as those grown in glasshouses
- Field vegetables, such as those grown outdoors, and includes herbs, leafy salads, potatoes and other vegetables
- Soft fruit, either grown outdoors or under cover in glasshouses or polytunnels. Including strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, blueberries and all rubus and ribes species
- Orchard fruit (also referred to as “top fruit”), such as trees bearing apples, plums, cherries, or apricots
- Vine and bines, this includes both climbing or twining flexible stems of particular plants, e.g., hops (bine), and grapes (vine)
- Mushrooms (normally grown indoors) cover the “agaricus bisporus” species but also include more exotic species.
Those who work in edible horticulture can apply at any time, providing they have a sponsor and meet the relevant eligibility requirements.
Poultry production workers
All roles in the poultry production sector are now permitted as seasonal workers to enter the UK to work from 18 October – 31 December each year. Under the Immigration Rules, the Certificate of Sponsorship must confirm that the role is in the poultry production sector
Poultry production workers must apply by 15 November of the relevant year.
Seasonal worker visa requirements
The applicant must initially meet the entry clearance requirements which includes application fees, providing biometric data, having a valid passport or other accepted identity document.
The applicant must also be over the age of 18.
The applicant must have been issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from their employer, otherwise referred to as the “sponsor.” The sponsor must be listed as “A-rated” on the Home Office’s published register of licensed sponsors, and they remain approved as a sponsor on the date the application is determined.
The CoS must not have been used in a previous application which had previously been decided, and the offer of the job must not have been withdrawn since the CoS was issued.
Applicants have to meet a financial requirement, by evidencing that they have held at least £1,270 for 28 consecutive days, with day 28 falling within 31 days of applying for the visa. Proof must be sent when the applicant applies, unless the sponsor will cover the worker’s costs during their first month in the UK up to £1,270. If the sponsor agrees to support the applicant, then this must be confirmed on the CoS by completing the “sponsor certifies maintenance” section on the certificate. This can be found under “Additional data.”
Seasonal worker minimum salary requirements
Pay rates for Seasonal Workers have been brought in line with the National Living Wage (NLW) level. From 1 April 2023, the UK NLW is £10.42 per hour.
Minimum working hours requirement
In early 2023, the Government announced a minimum work hour guarantee of at least 32 hours paid work a week to Seasonal Visa workers, bringing these in line with seasonal poultry workers.
How must does a seasonal worker visa cost?
The application fee is £259 per person.
How long can a seasonal worker stay in the UK?
The visa validity is determined by the type of work being undertaken. For edible horticulture workers, the visa will be valid for up to six months. Poultry workers can work in the UK until 31 December of that specific year.
Applicants can enter the UK as soon as their visa is valid, which can be up to 14 days before the start of their job.
When can you apply for a seasonal worker visa?
Applications can be made three months before the start date of the work.
Home Office guidance issued in March 2023 introduced a temporary concession in relation to the ‘cooling-off’ period for seasonal workers. The guidance states that the Home Office will “exceptionally permit workers to re-enter the UK five months after their 2022 leave expired, rather than having to wait for the full six months cooling off period to elapse”.
This is a ‘one-off re-set’ to enable workers to return at the beginning of the 2023 harvesting season, and the normal rules will apply to any leave granted for 2024 onwards.
How long does it take to get a seasonal worker visa?
An applicant can apply for a visa up to three months before the date they are due to begin work in the UK. The start date is listed on the CoS. As part of the application, the applicant will need to prove their identity and provide supporting documentation. Extra time may be needed if a face-to-face appointment is deemed necessary. Applicants will be notified when they start their application.
Once the application has been submitted online, the applicant’s identity proven and provided the necessary documents, a decision is usually made on the visa within three weeks.
What seasonal workers can and cannot do
A seasonal worker is allowed to work in the job described in their CoS, and they may also be able to study, although some courses require an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate.
A seasonal worker cannot take on a permanent job, work in a second job or any job that is not detailed in their CoS, receive public funds or bring family members with them.
Seasonal Worker visa supporting documents
When the application is made, the applicant will need to provide:
- Their CoS reference number (the sponsor will give this to the applicant)
- A valid passport or other document showing the applicant’s identity and nationality
- Evidence they have sufficient personal savings (minimum is set at £1,270) in the form of bank statements or similar documentation.
- Alternatively, if the sponsor is supporting the applicant, it must be shown on their CoS
- The applicant will also need a blank page in their passport for their visa. If they have another form of travel document, it must have enough space for the visa
- A certified translation of any documents that are not already in English or Welsh, aside from their passport.
The Home Office may request additional information or documentation from the applicant after they apply.
How to apply for the Seasonal Worker Visa
A seasonal worker visa must be applied for online at the gov.uk website. Part of the application requires proof of identity, and how this is done depends on where the applicant comes from and what type of passport they hold.
They will either:
- Have their fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre
- Use the UK immigration ID checking app to scan their identity documents. They will also be able to sign into or create a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account.
Applicants will be informed whether they need an appointment when they apply. If so:
- The centre may need to retain the applicant’s passport and documents whilst they process the application
- The applicant may have to travel to their closest visa application centre, which may be in another country.
If the application has been made via a visa application centre, the applicant may be eligible to pay to receive a quicker decision, although this depends on where the applicant applies from.
If the applicant has a child whilst they are working in the UK, the child does not automatically become a British citizen.
Seasonal worker sponsor licences
If an organisation wishes to sponsor a seasonal worker, the must hold a valid Temporary Worker sponsor licence for the Seasonal Worker route. If they do not hold this licence, they must apply for one by completing the online application form at the gov.uk website, pay the relevant application fee, and submit supporting documentation.
Individual organisations and employers are not eligible for a sponsor licence on this route, even if they are licensed as a sponsor on other routes.
Licence holders must comply with all their sponsor duties, including additional responsibilities as an approved scheme operator. Failure to comply may cause:
- Downgrading of the licence rating
- Suspension of the licence
- Revocation of the licence
- Being reported to the police or other relevant authorities
Skilled worker visa as an alternative
Employers looking to recruit skilled workers on a longer term basis may be able to sponsor a worker via the skilled worker route as an alternative.
Eligibility or the Skilled Worker route include the requirement for the role to feature on the Home Office list of eligible occupations, which currently include farm managers or owners, agricultural technicians or contractors, herd managers, crofters, bee farmers, arboricultural consultants, gamekeepers and butchers.
If the job is eligible for the skilled worker route, the salary must be at least £25,600 per year, which equates to £10.10 per hour, or the “going rate” for a particular role – whichever is the highest figure. There are some circumstances where sponsors can offer a lower salary, but this must meet specific criteria. In any event, the sum paid cannot be lower than £20,480. Workers must also be able to speak and understand English to at least the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Skilled workers must have a job offer from a farm willing to employ them before they can apply for a visa.
The licence application fee medium to large organisations must pay is £1,476, which is reduced to £536 for small sponsors. Once the licence is approved, which can take around eight weeks, it will be valid for four years with options for renewal. The application fee is payable each time the licence is renewed.
Seasonal Worker Visa FAQs
What is a seasonal worker?
Seasonal workers are hired for a certain period of time. They are temporary workers that help out with increased work demands or seasonal work that arises in different sectors, particularly the agricultural industry.
What jobs are considered seasonal?
The following sectors can hire in the UK under the seasonal route: edible horticulture (protected and outdoor vegetables, herbs, leafy salads, potatoes, soft and orchard fruit, mushrooms, vines and bines) and poultry production.
How many months can a seasonal employee work?
Seasonal workers in edible horticulture can stay up to six months. Poultry workers must leave by 31st December of the same year.
Last updated: 18 March 2023