What is a seasonal worker visa and who can apply for it?

In October, the Home Office released its latest statement on changes to immigration rules, setting out several changes to the rules for foreign nationals seeking to work in the UK.

One of the main changes highlighted in the document concerned the route for seasonal workers. A seasonal worker visa is designed to allow foreign nationals to come to the UK to undertake temporary work in specific sectors.

The course for seasonal workers now extends to trades in the poultry sector for the period from October 18 to December 31 of each year. The change was made to help support the sector during a period of peak seasonal demand in the run up to Christmas. The expansion also sets specific wage requirements for poultry workers to ensure they receive wages in line with the requirements of the skilled worker route.

Below we provide a brief recap of the seasonal worker route, including eligibility requirements for 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:

  • Horticulture up to 6 months – for example picking fruit and vegetables or flowers.
  • Poultry from October 18 to December 31 of the same year.

To apply, you must have a job offer from an approved sponsor in the UK and meet the eligibility criteria for the route.

A seasonal worker visa will allow you to perform the job described in your sponsorship certificate. You can also study in the UK while 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 sponsorship certificate. You also cannot bring family members to the UK with you or obtain public funds while you are there.

Applicant Eligibility Requirements

To be able to apply for a seasonal worker visa, you must:

  • Be 18 or older at the time of application
  • Have a sponsorship reference number certificate from your UK sponsor
  • Have enough money to support yourself in the UK – you will usually need at least £1,270 available (unless you are exempt).

How to register

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

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

The application fee is £259.

Once you have applied online, proven your identity and provided your documents, you will usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.

Sponsorship requirements for employers

To sponsor a seasonal worker, you must be a licensed operator and hold a valid temporary worker sponsorship license for the seasonal worker route.

There are already general organizations (program operators) that have been approved for a sponsor license for this pathway to sponsor workers in poultry production and/or horticulture. No other system operator will receive a sponsor license on this route without prior authorization to be a system operator.

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

Employers who have already obtained a license must comply with all sponsor obligations (including additional responsibilities as a licensed system operator). Failure to comply could result in license downgrading, suspension or revocation.

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

Recruit temporary workers

If your company intends to sponsor foreign nationals under one of the worker or temporary worker routes, Smith Stone Walters can help. To find out more about the bespoke service we can offer, please contact us today.

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