UK Extends Seasonal Worker Visa Route

UK Extends Seasonal Worker Visa Route

The UK Government will extend the seasonal worker visa route for five years until 2029 in response to the labour shortages in the food supply chain.

The announcement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) comes in response to the findings of an independent review commissioned by John Shropshire, chair of the G’s Fresh group of companies.

43,000 visas will be available to the horticulture sector in 2025, with another 2,000 visas for poultry.

Further details of the number of visas available for 2026 to 2029 will be set out later this year.

The government also pledged to invest as much as £50 million in technology such as automated packing and robotic pickers to reduce reliance on migrant labour in the UK’s food supply chain.

The move comes ahead of the second annual Farm to Fork Summit, which will be hosted by the Prime Minister in Downing Street on May 14, bringing together representatives across the UK food supply chain.

The sector has struggled with workforce shortages in recent years, following the end of free movement for EU workers after Brexit.

Understanding the Seasonal Worker Visa

The work visa was initially launched in 2019 before the UK fully left the EU, and at first offered just 2,500 visas to workers coming from outside the bloc.

When free movement from Europe ended the numbers were significantly ramped up, with 30,000 places made available in 2022.

The Seasonal Worker route falls under the Temporary Worker visa category, allowing individuals to come to the UK for short periods to carry out certain kinds of seasonal work without the right to stay long-term.

A person on the Seasonal Worker route is allowed to undertake specific seasonal work in the UK for short durations without the option of long-term residency. Visa holders are permitted a maximum stay of six months within any 12 months and are primarily engaged in seasonal horticulture or poultry production roles.

Efforts are continually made to address concerns regarding visa misuse and illegal overstays, ensuring that the system remains robust and supportive for both workers and the industry.

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