The Seasonal Worker visa is for those looking to undertake seasonal work in the UK within the horticulture or poultry production sectors with an approved scheme operator.
The following guide for workers and sponsors alike looks at the requirements and process to apply for a ‘Seasonal Worker visa UK’, with the rules around sponsoring seasonal workers.
What is the Seasonal Worker visa?
The Seasonal Worker vis allows qualifying workers to come to the UK to undertake seasonal jobs only.
The route replaced the Temporary Worker – Seasonal Worker visa (T5) under the UK’s Immigration Rules, where the specific requirements for this route can be found under ‘Appendix Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker’ of those Rules.
Seasonal work essentially refers to employment that fluctuates or is restricted according to the season or time of year.
The following sectors are eligible for Seasonal Workers to come to the UK to:
- Work in edible horticulture for up to six months. This includes picking fruit and vegetables.
- Work in poultry production to work in the UK between 18 October – 31 December each year.
Note that the temporary visas for HGV food drivers expired on 28 February 2022.
Are you eligible for the Seasonal Worker visa?
Any overseas national aged 18 or over can apply for a Seasonal Worker visa to come to the UK for the purposes of work in either the horticulture or poultry production sector with an approved scheme operator. However, for those looking to apply for entry clearance as a poultry seasonal worker, they can only apply between 2 October to 31 December in the same year and would need to have made their application by 15 November each year.
In contrast, horticultural seasonal workers can apply to come to the UK for the purposes of, for example, picking flowers or fruit and vegetables, for a period of up to 6 months. They can also come any time of the year, where there is no set timeframe within which to apply.
Work in the UK’s horticulture sector includes work around protected vegetables grown in glasshouse systems; field vegetables grown outdoors; soft fruit grown both outdoors or under cover; orchard fruit; vine and bines or hops; different types of mushroom species normally grown indoors; bulbs and cut flowers grown both outdoors and indoors; seasonal bedding plants and pot plants; hardy ornamental nursery stock, such as Christmas trees, ornamental trees, shrubs and perennials; as well as other types of trees and forest nurseries.
Work in the poultry production sector includes work in any one of a number of different roles including as a poultry catcher/handler; a poultry vaccinator; a killer and plucker; a poultry dresser; a poultry processor; a poultry meat packer; or otherwise involved in the preparation of meat from different types of domestic fowl for human consumption.
Edible horticulture sector workers
The Seasonal Worker visa applies to roles involving growing:
- Protected vegetables, such as those grown in glasshouses
- Field vegetables, such as those grown outdoors, and includes herbs, leafy salads, potatoes and other vegetables
- Soft fruit, either grown outdoors or under cover in glasshouses or polytunnels. Including strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, blueberries and all rubus and ribes species
- Orchard fruit (also referred to as “top fruit”), such as trees bearing apples, plums, cherries, or apricots
- Vine and bines, this includes both climbing or twining flexible stems of particular plants, e.g., hops (bine), and grapes (vine)
- Mushrooms (normally grown indoors) cover the “agaricus bisporus” species but also include more exotic species.
Those who work in edible horticulture can apply at any time, providing they have a sponsor and meet the relevant eligibility requirements.
Poultry production workers
All roles in the poultry production sector are now permitted as seasonal workers to enter the UK to work from 18 October – 31 December each year. Under the Immigration Rules, the Certificate of Sponsorship must confirm that the role is in the poultry production sector
Poultry production workers must apply by 15 November of the relevant year.
Seasonal Worker visa requirements
While the Seasonal Worker visa is for individuals who are looking to only temporarily come to the UK to do seasonal horticulture work or poultry production work, there are still strict eligibility requirements that must be met under the Immigration Rules.
The applicant must initially meet the entry clearance requirements which includes application fees, providing biometric data, having a valid passport or other accepted identity document.
In addition, to be eligible to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa, the applicant must:
- be 18 or over on the date of application
- have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship to Work in the UK from an approved scheme operator confirming the applicant’s name, that they are being sponsored as a Seasonal Worker, details of the job they will be doing in the UK, with its start/end dates and salary, and
- have enough money to support themselves on arrival in the UK, where the applicant must be able to show funds of at least £1,270.
Certificate of sponsorship
The applicant must have been issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from their employer, otherwise referred to as the “sponsor.” The sponsor must be listed as “A-rated” on the Home Office’s published register of licensed sponsors, and they remain approved as a sponsor on the date the application is determined.
The CoS must not have been used in a previous application which had previously been decided, and the offer of the job must not have been withdrawn since the CoS was issued.
In relation to the salary for a Seasonal Worker visa, the CoS must confirm that:
- the applicant will be paid at least £10.42 for each hour worked
- they will receive at least 32 hours paid employment each week if working in the horticulture sector, or as either a food operative, poultry catcher/handler , poultry vaccinator or poultry meat packer in the poultry production sector
- any workers sponsored as either a butcher or a poultry dresser in the poultry production sector will be paid at least £26,200 per year, pro rata.
The CoS must also confirm that the job role meets all relevant legislation, such as the relevant Agricultural Wages Order rate, where applicable, and the Working Time Regulations, including but not limited to the maximum weekly working hours requirement.
Seasonal worker minimum salary requirements
Pay rates for Seasonal Workers have been brought in line with the National Living Wage (NLW) level. From 1 April 2023, the UK NLW is £10.42 per hour.
Applicants have to meet a financial requirement, by evidencing that they have held at least £1,270 for 28 consecutive days, with day 28 falling within 31 days of applying for the visa. Proof must be sent when the applicant applies, unless the sponsor will cover the worker’s costs during their first month in the UK up to £1,270. If the sponsor agrees to support the applicant, then this must be confirmed on the CoS by completing the “sponsor certifies maintenance” section on the certificate. This can be found under “Additional data.”
Minimum working hours requirement
In early 2023, the Government announced a minimum work hour guarantee of at least 32 hours paid work a week to Seasonal Visa workers, bringing these in line with seasonal poultry workers.
Seasonal Worker visa sponsor requirements
If an organisation wishes to sponsor a seasonal worker, it must hold a valid Temporary Worker sponsor licence for the Seasonal Worker route. If they do not hold this licence, they must apply for one by completing the online application form at the gov.uk website, pay the relevant application fee, and submit supporting documentation.
Licence holders must comply with all their sponsor duties, including additional responsibilities as an approved scheme operator. Failure to comply may cause:
- Downgrading of the licence rating
- Suspension of the licence
- Revocation of the licence
- Being reported to the police or other relevant authorities
In addition, the sponsor must be an approved scheme operator within the horticultural and poultry production sectors, which:
- has been endorsed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to be an approved scheme operator, and
- has been licensed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.
Importantly, an approved scheme operator will be an overarching body, where individual employers and organisations in the UK are not eligible for a sponsor licence on the Seasonal Worker route, even if they are licensed as a sponsor on other work routes.
Additionally, this route is subject to a quota for each year where, for 2023, 45,000 visas have been allocated to the horticulture sector and 2,000 reserved for the poultry production sector. UKVI are responsible for setting this quota and apportioning it to scheme operators, where a scheme operator will not be permitted to exceed their allocated part of the quota.
When can you apply for a seasonal worker visa?
Applications can be made three months before the start date of the work.
Home Office guidance issued in March 2023 introduced a temporary concession in relation to the ‘cooling-off’ period for seasonal workers. The guidance states that the Home Office will “exceptionally permit workers to re-enter the UK five months after their 2022 leave expired, rather than having to wait for the full six months cooling off period to elapse”.
This is a ‘one-off re-set’ to enable workers to return at the beginning of the 2023 harvesting season, and the normal rules will apply to any leave granted for 2024 onwards.
How to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa
To apply for a Seasonal Worker visa, the applicant must apply online using the specified form at GOV.UK. As part of the application process, the prospective seasonal worker will be required to verify their identity using either the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app or by scheduling an appointment at an overseas visa application centre. The applicant will be told if they need to make an appointment when they start their application.
For applicants required to attend a visa application centre, they will be asked to enrol their biometric information at this appointment, including a scan of their fingerprints and a facial photograph. They will also need to take with them their passport or travel document, and any other documents needed in support of their application. Importantly, the centre may need to keep the applicant’s passport and documentation while processing their application.
If the application for a Seasonal Worker visa is successful, the visa-holder will be able to work in the job described in their sponsorship certificate, although they will not be able to take a permanent job or to work in a second job while in the UK. The dependants of a seasonal worker also cannot apply to accompany or join the visa-holder on this route.
Seasonal Worker visa supporting documents
To apply for a Seasonal Worker visa, the applicant will need a valid certificate of sponsorship, although this is a virtual document containing a unique reference number assigned by the UK sponsor. The reference number for the certificate should be provided in the application. The applicant will also need a valid passport or other travel document to establish their identity and nationality. The applicant must have a blank page in their passport for their visa. If they have another type of travel document, such as a stateless person’s travel document, this must again have space for the Seasonal Worker visa.
Additional documentary requirements include proof of funds in the amount of at least £1,270, where these funds must have been held for a period of 28 days in a row, where day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for the Seasonal Worker visa. These funds must also be held in accordance with the requirements as specified in Appendix Finance of the Rules.
Alternatively, the applicant’s UK sponsor can agree to support them instead, where the certificate of sponsorship must confirm this. The sponsor will need to complete the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section on the applicant’s certificate under ‘Additional data’.
When deciding an application for a Seasonal Worker visa, the UKVI caseworker may also ask the applicant to provide additional documentation after they apply.
How much does a Seasonal Worker visa cost?
The fee to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa is £259. This is in addition to meeting the financial requirement under the Rules, where the visa applicant will be responsible for both of these costs, unless their sponsor agrees to certify maintenance on their behalf.
However, there is no requirement to pay the Immigration Health Charge. This is a surcharge for applicants on other Temporary Worker routes of £624 per year of stay to be able to access the UK’s National Health Service in the same way as a permanent resident.
There is also a fee of £21 to assign an CoS, but this is the sponsor’s responsibility.
How long does a Seasonal Worker visa take to process?
An overseas national can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day they are due to start work in the UK. This will be the date listed on their sponsorship certificate. If the CoS confirms that the proposed job role is in the poultry production sector, the date of application must be on or before 15 November in each year.
Having applied online, proved their identity and provided their documentation, the applicant will usually get a decision within 3 weeks. However, if they are asked to schedule an appointment at an overseas visa application centre, they will need to allow extra time to do this. The estimated 3-week processing time will run from the date of this appointment.
If applying through a visa application centre, the applicant can find out if they can pay to get a faster decision, where this will depend on where they are applying from.
For those applicants who are able to apply using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, they will receive an eVisa as evidence of their permission. This is a digital record of their immigration status. Other applicants, who are not eligible or cannot use the app, will be issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP). If the entry clearance application is successful and the seasonal worker is issued with a BRP, they must be given a 90-day visa to allow them to enter the UK and collect their BRP after they have arrived in the UK.
How long can a seasonal worker stay in the UK?
The visa validity is determined by the type of work being undertaken. For edible horticulture workers, the visa will be valid for up to six months. Poultry workers can work in the UK until 31 December of that specific year.
Applicants can enter the UK as soon as their visa is valid, which can be up to 14 days before the start of their job.
If a Seasonal Worker has a child whilst they are working in the UK, the child does not automatically become a British citizen.
Can a Seasonal Worker visa be extended?
The length of a Seasonal Worker visa will depend on whether the applicant is applying to come to the UK to work in either the horticulture or poultry production sector.
A person in the UK on a Seasonal Worker visa can stay for a maximum period of 6 months in any 12-month period if they are working in a job role within the horticulture sector, and from 2 October to 31 December inclusive each year as a poultry production worker. They can enter the UK as soon as their visa is valid, up to 14 days before their start date.
Upon expiry of a Seasonal Worker visa, a cooling-off period of 6 months usually applies, where the visa-holder is required to leave the UK and for 6 months to elapse before being eligible to re-apply under this route. However, a time-limited concession is currently in place which allows workers in the horticulture sector to re-enter the UK after just 5 months of leaving. This is because many seasonal workers were late arriving in 2022 to commence roles in horticulture because of the war in Ukraine. As such, UKVI are exceptionally permitting workers to re-enter the UK 5 months after their 2022 leave expired, rather than having to wait for the full 6 months cooling-off period to elapse. Still, this is to be treated as a one off re-set to enable workers to return at the beginning of the 2023 harvesting season, where the normal rules will apply once again to leave granted for 2024 onwards.
Skilled worker visa as an alternative
Employers looking to recruit skilled workers on a longer term basis may be able to sponsor a worker via the skilled worker route as an alternative.
Eligibility or the Skilled Worker route include the requirement for the role to feature on the Home Office list of eligible occupations, which currently include farm managers or owners, agricultural technicians or contractors, herd managers, crofters, bee farmers, arboricultural consultants, gamekeepers and butchers.
If the job is eligible for the skilled worker route, the salary must be at least £26,200 per year, which equates to £10.75 per hour, or the “going rate” for a particular role – whichever is the highest figure. There are some circumstances where sponsors can offer a lower salary, but this must meet specific criteria. In any event, the sum paid cannot be lower than £20,960. Workers must also be able to speak and understand English to at least the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Skilled workers must have a job offer from a farm willing to employ them before they can apply for a visa.
The licence application fee medium to large organisations must pay is £1,476, which is reduced to £536 for small sponsors. Once the licence is approved, which can take around eight weeks, it will be valid for four years with options for renewal. The application fee is payable each time the licence is renewed.
Seasonal Worker visa FAQs
How can I get seasonal work visa UK?
To apply for a visa under the Seasonal Worker route, the applicant must be aged 18 or over, have a valid certificate of sponsorship and be able to support themselves on arrival in the UK, unless their sponsor certifies maintenance.
How much is UK seasonal work visa?
The fee to apply for a Seasonal Worker visa UK is £259. The applicant may also need to show funds of at least £1,270, unless their sponsor is prepared to certify maintenance on the certificate of sponsorship.
Is UK seasonal visa still available 2023?
The Seasonal Worker visa is still available to come to the UK to work within either the horticulture or poultry production sectors in 2023, with a cooling-off period of just 5 months from 2022 under a temporary concession.
What is the seasonal worker visa for UK sponsorship 2023?
The Seasonal Worker visa is for those looking to come to the UK to do seasonal horticulture work or poultry production work on a temporary basis although, as a sponsored work route, they will first need a certificate of sponsorship.
What is the UK Seasonal Worker visa?
The Seasonal Worker visa is the permission needed from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to come to the UK to work for a licensed sponsor in the UK’s horticulture and poultry production sectors during busy and peak periods.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.