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Seasonal Workers Pilot extended

The Home Office and DEFRA announced that the Seasonal Worker visa route which allows migrant workers to come to the UK for up to six months to work in the horticulture sector, will be extended until the end of 2024, and for the first time will be extended to workers in the ornamentals horticulture sector.

There will be 30,000 visas available this year, but this will be kept under review with the potential to increase by 10,000 if necessary. The number of visas will begin to taper down from 2023.

Changes to the route, which has run since 2019 include requiring companies to pay those using the route a minimum salary.

Minister for Safe and Legal Migration Kevin Foster said:

The extension to the Seasonal Worker visa route strikes the right balance of supporting the industry while it transitions to employing and prioritising domestic workers.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

We had a seasonal worker scheme for agriculture from the time of the second world war and long before we joined the EU. We recognise that agriculture has unique and seasonal requirements for labour at harvest and have listened to our world leading fresh produce industry to understand their needs.

The changes follow a review of the seasonal workers pilot assessing performance of the scheme in 2019.

The next review will assess the Pilot in both 2020 and 2021 around the themes of monitoring; operations; immigration compliance and migrant welfare.

The Home Office and Defra will also look at the economic impacts of the Pilot; assessing the effectiveness of the Pilot at addressing the sector’s seasonal labour shortages, identifying any unintended impacts of the scheme, and considering how alternative solutions to labour shortages could reduce reliance on migrant workers over time.

As part of this, there will be a key focus on how the sector could increase the use of farm technology and encourage UK domestic workers into these seasonal horticultural roles, including developing sustainable careers for workers in this sector.

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