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Seasonal Worker Visa Eligibility

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The Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker visa has replaced the previous T5 Seasonal Worker visa. It 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 “pork butchery” for up to six months.
  • Drive heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to transport food until 28th February 2022.

 

Those who work in edible horticulture can apply at any time, providing they have a sponsor and meet the relevant eligibility requirements.

Those applying to drive HGVs or to work as pork butchers must apply by the following deadlines:

  • 1st December 2021 to drive HGVs
    31st December 2021 to undertake pork butchery work

 

Edible horticulture sector

This applies to those 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.

 

Pork butchery work

The seasonal worker visa applies to butchers under occupation code 5431 involved in slaughtering and butchering pigs or processing and preparing pig meat. For the role to be eligible, the work must take place in a slaughterhouse, processing site, or farm.

Butchers were already eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, however this route requires payment of a minimum salary of £25,600 per year. This is not the case for a seasonal worker, for which the eligibility requirements only specify “national minimum wage.”

 

Haulage driving for transportation of food goods

This means working as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver under occupation code 8211, where the work involves the transportation of food goods.

 

Seasonal worker visa requirements

The applicant must initially meet the entry clearance requirements which includes fees, providing biometric data, having a valid passport or other accepted identity document, and have been issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from their employer, otherwise referred to as the “sponsor.” The applicant must also be over the age of 18. Applications can be made three months before the start date of the work.

The CoS must have been issued by the sponsor, who must have an endorsement from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and are licensed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. The sponsor must also 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.

Other eligibility criteria include:

  • The offer of the job must not have been withdrawn since the CoS was issued
  • The CoS must not have been used in a previous application which had previously been decided
  • The CoS must state the role is in the edible horticulture sector, as detailed above

 
The applicant must meet a financial requirement, or if they cannot meet it, the sponsor must do so. They must show 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 covers the 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.”

 

How must does a seasonal worker visa cost?

The application fee is £244 per person although the fee is reduced by £55 if the applicant is from one of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.

 

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 or pork butchery workers, the visa will be valid for up to six months. Poultry workers already granted a seasonal worker visa must leave by 31st December 2021. HGV workers must leave the UK by 28th February 2022.

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.

 

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 any documentation.

The requirements for a seasonal worker licence are:

  • The organisation must be endorsed by DEFRA as an approved scheme operator; and
  • Licenced by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority

 
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 scheme operator’s licence rating
  • Suspension of the scheme operator’s licence
  • Revocation of the licence
  • Report the scheme operator to the police or other relevant authorities

 
Approved scheme operators have specific responsibilities towards their sponsored workers, which includes ensuring their welfare. This is in addition to their general sponsor duties and other compliance matters.

 

Monitoring workers’ welfare

Scheme operators must ensure that:

  • The work environment is safe and complies with Health and Safety requirements
  • They take sufficient steps to make sure their workers understand Health and Safety procedures, and provide translations into the workers’ first language, if necessary
  • Workers are treated fairly by their employer, and must not penalise workers for failing to work at the set piece rate
  • Workers must be given a contract of employment in their first language, as well as in English. These contracts must not be zero-hours
  • Workers are paid appropriately including satisfying the National Minimum Wage requirements, fair rates for piecework and holiday pay
  • Allowing workers proper breaks and time off
  • Workers know the procedure for reporting sickness and injury, including how they make a claim on medical insurance
  • Provision of appropriate equipment so that workers can perform their job safely. Workers must not be charged for safety equipment or replacement of damaged or worn items
  • Employers with whom the scheme operator has placed workers do not impose additional unnecessary charges on the worker, either directly or indirectly
  • Workers are housed in a safe and hygienic accommodation in a good state of repair
  • Workers are transported in safe vehicles
  • Workers are not subjected to or threatened with violence
  • Workers are not subjected to discrimination
  • Workers’ travel documents, passports, and other documents are not withheld from them
  • Procedures are put in place so that workers can report any issues

 
Those organisations in the agricultural industry looking to recruit “skilled workers” may be able to sponsor a worker via the skilled worker route as an alternative.

In the agricultural industry, skilled workers might include farm managers or owners, agricultural technicians or contractors, herd managers, crofters, bee farmers, arboricultural consultants, gamekeepers, and poultry or pork butchers, according to the government’s list.

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: edible horticulture (protected and outdoor vegetables, herbs, leafy salads, potatoes, soft and orchard fruit, mushrooms, vines and bines). Poultry production (current application window closed), pork butchery, and HGV for transportation of food goods.

How many months can a seasonal employee work?

For seasonal workers in edible horticulture or pork butchery, they can stay up to six months. Poultry workers already granted a visa, must leave by 31st December 2021, and HGV workers must leave the UK by 28th February 2022.

Last updated: 1 November 2021

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