In October 2022, UK Home Office expanded the immigration and visa landscape by mushrooming seasonal worker visa routes by introducing poultry workers. However, the operation of the UK seasonal farm worker visas route has put forward grave challenges to the agricultural and horticulture industries.
This blog aims to outline the challenges emanating from the administration of the seasonal worker visas scheme, raised demands by different authorities, and the alternative course of action proposed by the immigration minister.
SEASONAL WORK VISA (TIER 5)
UK Seasonal Worker Visa Scheme is an eminent scheme considered one of the leading and successful Home Office policies in the last couple of years. The holder of a Tier 5 visa is allowed to reside in the UK for up to 6-month placement.
The essential requirements to be eligible for the UK Seasonal Worker Visa:
1. Reference Number from Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which the sponsoring employee assigns. After CoS is assigned, it is valid for 90 days.
2. An applicant’s age must be 18 years old.
3. Evidence of enough funds to support and cover living expenses in the UK.
GAPS IN SEASONAL AGRICULTURAL WORKER VISA SCHEME
- The shortfall of seasonal foreign workers
Per the Home Office’s Management Data, 1400 places are vacant out of the quota of 40,000 workforces for the UK edible, poultry, and ornamental horticultural sector for the year 2022. Furthermore, due to a shortage of workers, £60 million of food was wasted on farms in the first half of the year, as stated by the National Farmers Union.
This ineffective administration of the scheme, unbelievable findings and closing of the applications of the visa scheme early in 2022 by the Home Office points towards reduced access to labour.
It is considered destructive for local daffodil growers in Redruth and Camborne constituencies. As per the estimates, the industry faces a sparseness of “between 30%- 40%” of their staffing requirements in Cornwall. The Tory MP further stated that farmers require an extra workforce by the end of January to be assured about necessary workers for next year.
- Increased processing time and exploitation
The usual processing time of the seasonal worker visa application has escalated and trebled in the past years resulting in increased wastage of grown produce and reduced certainty for industries. Another issue is the vital exploitation of this scheme, including excess recruitment fees charged by international agents.
To obtain legal representation or for the faster processing of UK Seasonal Worker Visa system, please visit Global Law’s website, and our regulated immigration consultants will be glad to assist you.
ADDRESSING THE ISSUES AND DEMANDS:
The former environment secretary, Eustice, laid down this critical problem and demanded:
- Provisionally allocation of CoS so that scheme operators are granted seasonal worker visas to recruit and secure them for workers arriving in January 2023.
- Allow CoS issued in 2022 to serve as a basis for workers arriving in 2023, the following year.
George Eustice claimed that Home Office’s Sponsorship Management System must be updated to accommodate the ability to issue provisional CoS that will help producers to apply for new visas instantly.
GUARANTEED COURSE OF ACTION:
Addressing the pressing issues related to the agricultural worker’s scheme, the Immigration minister stated that he would take appropriate quick decisions to unfreeze the scheme if it has been frozen. He also prioritised such businesses that are in dire need of a workforce early in the coming year to prevent the significant frustration caused while making last-minute haphazard recruitment decisions.
Furthermore, he provided two available alternatives to protect the industry in the interim:
- First, to ensure the availability of workers in the UK coming within the ambit of the seasonal agricultural worker’s scheme.
- Lastly, provide access under the seasonal worker scheme to new individuals in the UK exercising the capacity of 2022 and residing until 2023.
Mr. Jenrick apologised to significant employers for the inconvenience caused due to the freezing of the certificates by the Home Office. He guaranteed businesses make utilisation of the lingering certificates before the year’s end.
Subsequently, he is open to proposed expansion by designing a scheme of multi-year worker visas enabling farmers to plan over the long term to provide certainty to the industry. This would also not result in wastage of the produce.
Considering all the imminent concerns raised by different authorities in the House of Commons on Seasonal Worker Visas, it is now more critically significant that Home Office commits to resolving problems rooted in the ineffective functioning of the scheme and improving the delivery.
Global Law’s dedicated team would provide end-to-end support if you want to seek professional assistance related to the challenging application forms and documents associated with the seasonal worker visa scheme.
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