What is a Seasonal Worker
visa and who can apply?

In October, the Home Office published its latest Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, setting out several changes to the rules for overseas nationals seeking to work in the UK.

One of the key changes highlighted in the document was in relation to the Seasonal Worker route. A Seasonal Worker visa is designed to allow overseas nationals to come to the UK to undertake temporary work in specific sectors.

The Seasonal Worker route has now been expanded to include roles in the poultry production sector for the period from 18 October to 31 December each year. The change has been made to help support the sector during a peak seasonal demand period in the run up to Christmas. The expansion also sets specific salary requirements for poultry workers to ensure that they are paid a wage in line with the requirements under the Skilled Worker route.

Below, we provide a brief recap on the Seasonal Worker route including eligibility requirements for both the visa applicant and their sponsoring employer.

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.

In order to apply, you must have a job offer from an approved sponsor in the UK and meet the eligibility requirements for the route.

A Seasonal Worker visa will allow you to work in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship. You can also study in the UK whilst you are here. As this route is designed to facilitate temporary work, you cannot take a permanent job or work in any other job that is not described in your certificate of sponsorship. You also cannot bring family members to the UK with you or get public funds whilst you are here.

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 Worker visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on your certificate of sponsorship. If you are applying for a poultry Seasonal Worker visa, you must apply by 15 November each year. You can apply for horticulture Seasonal Worker visas at any time of year.

You must apply online for a Seasonal Worker visa. As part of the application process, you will need to prove your identity by either:

The application fee is £259.

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.

Sponsorship requirements for employers

In order to sponsor a Seasonal Worker, you must be an approved scheme operator and hold a valid Temporary Worker sponsor licence for the Seasonal Worker route.

There are already overarching bodies (scheme operators) which have been approved for a sponsor licence for this route to sponsor workers in poultry production and/or horticulture. No further scheme operators will be issued with a sponsor licence on this route without prior approval to be a scheme operator.

Individual employers and organisations are not eligible for a sponsor licence on this route, even if they are licensed as a sponsor on other routes.

Employers that have already been granted a licence must comply with all sponsor duties (including additional responsibilities as an approved scheme operator). Failure to maintain compliance could result in the licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked.

More information can be found in the guidance for sponsors here.

Recruiting temporary workers

If your business intends to sponsor overseas nationals under any of the Worker or Temporary Worker routes, Smith Stone Walters can help. To find out more about the tailored service we can offer, please contact us today.

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