The Seasonal Worker visa offers overseas nationals a fast-tracked route to work in the UK in certain temporary jobs. However, strict rules apply on the kind of work that be done under this route, and it is only available to employers that have been approved by the Home Office.
In this guide, we explain the key features of the seasonal worker visa, including the requirements that workers and employers have to meet to be eligible to use the route.
What is the Seasonal Worker visa?
The Seasonal Worker visa is the permission needed from the UK’s Home Office for an overseas national to come to the UK to undertake seasonal work within either the horticulture or poultry production sectors for an approved scheme operator. The Seasonal Worker visa is one a number of temporary work visas available to foreign workers to come to the UK.
The current Seasonal Worker visa route replaced the previous Temporary Worker – Seasonal Worker visa (T5) under the UK’s Immigration Rules, where ‘Appendix Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker’ of the Rules sets out the different requirements for this route.
What are the different types of Seasonal Worker visa?
There are two different types of Seasonal Worker visa in the UK: one for working within the UK’s horticulture sector and one for working within the UK’s poultry production sector.
Seasonal Worker visa: horticulture sector
The Seasonal Worker visa in the UK’s horticulture sector is for overseas nationals aged 18+ to come to the UK for up to 6 months to work, for example, picking flowers or fruit and vegetables. There is no set timeframe within which migrants can come to work for their UK sponsors, where individuals can apply and travel to come to the UK any time of the year.
The type of work that can be undertaken in the horticulture sector includes work around:
- protected vegetables grown in glasshouse systems
- field vegetables grown outdoors, including vegetables, herbs, leafy salads and potatoes
- soft fruit grown both outdoors or under cover, including strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, and all ribes and rubus species
- top fruit or orchard fruit, such as apples, plums, cherries or apricots
- vine and bines, such as grapes and hops
- different types of mushroom species, typically grown indoors
- bulbs and cut flowers, such as daffodils, grown both indoors and outdoors
- seasonal bedding and pot plants, such as pansies, violas, geraniums and poinsettias
- hardy nursery stock, like Christmas trees, shrubs, roses, ornamental trees and perennials
- other types of trees and forest nurseries.
Seasonal Worker visa: poultry production sector
The Seasonal Worker visa in the UK’s poultry production sector is for overseas nationals aged 18+ to work in the UK as a poultry seasonal worker, but only between 2 October to 31 December inclusive. These dates represent the busy and peak periods in the poultry production sector, during and over Christmas, where those looking to come to the UK as poultry seasonal workers would need to make their application by 15 November each year.
The type of work that can be undertaken in the poultry production sector includes:
- Butcher (occupation code 5431)
- Bird/game dresser (occupation code 5433)
- Killer and plucker (occupation code 5433)
- Plucker (occupation code 5433)
- Poulterer (occupation code 5433)
- Poultry processor (occupation code 5433)
- Poultry sticker (occupation code 5433)
- Trusser (occupation code 5433)
- Food operative (occupation code 8111)
- Poultry catcher/handler (occupation code 9111)
- Poultry vaccinator (occupation code 9119)
- Poultry meat packer (occupation code 9134)
Seasonal Worker visa requirements
To obtain a Seasonal Worker visa, the applicant must be aged 18 or over and will need to have been assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) by an approved scheme operator. The CoS must confirm certain information, including the applicant’s personal information, that they are being sponsored as a Seasonal Worker, as well as details of their job role, such as its location, start and end dates, weekly hours and salary.
In relation to the salary for a Seasonal Worker visa, the CoS must confirm:
- the applicant will be working in an eligible role in the horticulture or poultry production sectors, either based on the type of produce farmed or an applicable occupation code
- the applicant will be paid at least £10.42 for each hour worked if working in the horticulture sector, or in the poultry production sector as either a food operative, poultry catcher/handler, poultry vaccinator or poultry meat packer
- they will receive at least 32 hours paid employment each week if working in the horticulture sector, or in the poultry production sector as either a food operative, poultry catcher/handler, poultry vaccinator or poultry meat packer
- any workers sponsored as either a butcher or bird/game dresser in the poultry production sector will be paid at least £10.75 for each hour worked and £26,200 per year.
The sponsor must ensure that the sponsored job role pays at least the minimum wage and follows the UK’s rules around maximum weekly working hours. Additionally, the CoS must confirm that the role meets the relevant Agricultural Wages Order rate, where applicable. The rules around sponsoring Seasonal Workers are strict, where any failure to comply with the rules and regulations, and confirming this on the COS, will invalidate an application.
The applicant must also have enough money to support themselves on arrival in the UK. To meet the financial requirement, the applicant must be able to show funds of at least £1,270, where this level of funds must have been held in their bank account for at least 28 days in a row, with day 28 falling within 31 days of applying for a Seasonal Worker visa. Additionally, these funds must be held in accordance with the requirements under Appendix Finance.
It is possible for the applicant’s sponsor to agree to financially support the applicant on their arrival in the UK, although the applicant’s CoS will need to confirm that this is the case by completing the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section under ‘Additional data’.
Seasonal Worker visa sponsorship requirements
To sponsor a Seasonal Worker visa, an employer must be an A-rated approved scheme operator within either the UK’s horticultural or poultry production sector with:
- an endorsement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to be an approved scheme operator on the Seasonal Worker route, and
- a license from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
Individual employers and organisations in the UK are not eligible for a sponsor licence on the Seasonal Worker route, even if they are licensed as a sponsor on other work routes, where an approved scheme operator must be an overarching body.
The Seasonal Worker route is also subject to an annual quota, where 45,000 visas have been allocated to the horticulture sector for 2023, together with 2,000 reserved for the poultry production sector. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are responsible for setting this quota and allocating this quota to approved scheme operators, where UKVI is the division of the Home Office in charge of issuing both sponsor licences and visas in the UK.
There are already overarching bodies (scheme operators) approved for a sponsor licence on the Seasonal Worker route. No further scheme operators will be issued with a licence without prior approval to be a scheme operator. UKVI reserves the right to refuse a licence application, even where a DEFRA endorsement and GLAA licence has been secured.
How to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa
To apply for a Seasonal Worker visa, an application must be made online to UKVI from outside the UK. The cost to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa is £298, although there is no immigration health surcharge to access the UK’s NHS, where this charge is only applicable when applying for a visa from outside the UK for more than 6 months. An application cannot be made from inside the UK, as it is not possible to switch into this route.
As part of the visa application, the applicant must prove their identity and provide any documents in support. They may be eligible to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. If not, they will be asked to schedule an appointment at an overseas visa application centre (VAC). They will find out if they need an appointment when they start their application.
For applicants who are required to attend a VAC, they will need to enrol their biometric information at this appointment, including a scan of their fingerprints and a photograph of their face. They will also need to take with them their passport or travel document, and any other documents needed in support of their application, where the VAC may need to keep the applicant’s passport and documentation while processing their application.
An application can be made for a Seasonal Worker visa up to 3 months before the day the applicant is due to start work in the UK. This date will be listed on the CoS, where the certificate will only be valid for 3 months from the date it is assigned to the applicant.
Once the applicant has proved their identity, provided their supporting documents and enrolled any biometric information, it will usually take up to 3 weeks for a decision to be made. However, if applying for a visa through a VAC, the applicant may be able to pay for a faster decision, although this will depend on where they are applying from.
On the grant of a Seasonal Worker visa, the visa-holder can enter the UK up to 14 days before their start date, as set out on the CoS. Once in the UK, the visa-holder will be able to work in the job role as described in their CoS, and undertake a short course of study, although they will not be able to accept a permanent job or work in a second job. The dependants of a Seasonal Worker also cannot apply to join the visa-holder on this route.
What documents are needed for a Seasonal Worker visa?
To apply for a Seasonal Worker visa, the applicant will need a number of documents in support, including a valid passport or other travel document to prove their identity. The applicant must have a blank page in their passport or space in their document for their visa. They will also need proof of funds to show that they meet the financial requirement, unless their sponsor is prepared to certify maintenance up to the amount of £1270 on their CoS.
The CoS is an electronic record of the applicant’s personal details and sponsored job role in the UK. However, the applicant will need to use the unique reference number from their certificate when submitting their application, which UKVI can then access online.
In some cases, the UKVI caseworker deciding the application may request additional documentation, depending on the applicant’s circumstances. For any documents not in English or Welsh, apart from the applicant’s passport, a certified translation will be needed.
Can you extend your Seasonal Worker visa?
The initial length of a Seasonal Worker visa will depend on whether the applicant is applying to come to the UK as a horticultural or poultry production worker. If working within the horticulture sector, a visa-holder can stay in the UK for a maximum of 6 months in any 12-month period. In contrast, if they will be working within the poultry production sector, they can only work between 2 October to 31 December inclusive each year.
A Seasonal Worker visa cannot be extended. Additionally, upon expiry of this visa, a 6-month cooling off period usually applies to each visa-holder, where they will be required to leave the UK and wait for 6 months to elapse before being eligible to re-apply on this route.
Longer-term UK work visa options
You would need to apply for a longer term work visa if you intend to stay in the UK for more than When it comes to longer term work visa options, it may be possible for a Seasonal Worker to apply for a different type of visa, although they will usually need to leave the UK to do this. They may also need the offer of a sponsored job role. For example, to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, they would need the offer of a job that meets the minimum skill and salary requirements for this route from an employer licensed to sponsor this category of worker. To explore the possible options, seeking expert advice is strongly recommended.
Seasonal worker visa FAQs
How can I get seasonal work visa UK?
To get a Seasonal Worker visa, you will need to find an approved scheme operator in the UK who is able to sponsor you. This could be for work in either the UK’s horticulture or poultry production sectors.
How much is a seasonal worker visa UK?
The cost to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa UK is £298. The applicant may also need to prove they have savings of £1,270 or more, unless their sponsor is prepared to certify maintenance on the Certificate of Sponsorship.
How long does it take to get a seasonal work visa?
When applying for a Seasonal Worker visa to undertake work in the horticulture or poultry production sectors in the UK, you should get a decision within 3 weeks. However, you may be able to pay for a faster decision.
What documents are needed for seasonal visa in UK?
To apply for a Seasonal Worker visa, the applicant will need a number of supporting documents, including a valid passport or other travel document to prove their identity. They will also need proof of funds and an electronic sponsorship certificate.
Last updated: 26 September 2023