HGVisas: what do we know so far?

The government has announced that HGV drivers and poultry workers will be eligible for temporary visas from next month. The policy represents a shift from the firm line against “low-skilled” immigration post-Brexit. Here is what we know about it so far.

There are two government press releases outlining the plan. The first was made public on Friday night. It says:

… 5,000 HGV drivers will be able to come to the UK for 3 months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry. A further 5,500 visas for poultry workers will also be made available for the same short period, to avoid any potential further pressures on the food industry during this exceptional period.

Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers and poultry workers will begin in October and these visas will be valid until 24 December 2021.

It does not give any more detail, but does say that these workers will be filed under an “existing visa scheme”. The second announcement on Sunday then refers to the family of visas known as Temporary Worker: 

Up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK ahead of Christmas 2021. This will be delivered through the Temporary Workers route.

Presumably the same is true for HGV drivers, although that is not entirely clear.

Nor is it obvious whether we are getting a new sub-category of Temporary Worker, to sit alongside Seasonal Worker, Charity Worker etc, or if instead this will be an abridged form of Seasonal Worker (which lasts six months rather than three).

We suppose it doesn’t really matter: the main significance of Temporary Worker is that it indicates a full-on visa scheme. People will need a sponsor, and have to apply, with paperwork, and possibly pay visa fees. An alternative was an immigration concession whereby drivers and poultry workers could turn up at the border and ask for a stamp granting temporary permission to work. Such a concession is in place for sheep shearers.

Now, a three-month visa that expires on 24 December but cannot be applied for until October is not in fact a three-month visa. There are three possibilities on what the government means by this.

The first is that these will be very temporary visas indeed. If 24 December is the blanket expiry date, then they will be good only for the period between the date of issue until that date: a matter of weeks, assuming some processing time. Seasonal Worker, if that were the model, does come with a 14-day grace period for the person to leave the UK after their permission to work ends. Even so, sticking to a 24 December end date for a scheme that doesn’t even exist yet would only reinforce concerns that the offer is unattractive to workers who are in high demand right across Europe.

The second possibility is that the first announcement has garbled the policy, or that the policy will morph into something more sensible. The language of the second announcement is subtly different: it does not specifically say that the visas will last for three months, and instead of saying that the visas will expire on Christmas Eve it says “this route will be valid until 24 December 2021″. A more workable version of this policy would be for applications to be possible until 24 December, and the resulting visas to last for three months from the date of issue.

The third possibility is that the government does not really want the scheme to be workable and that these announcements are purely designed to make bad headlines go away.

Enquiries have been sent to the Home Office for details/clarifications but no response has been received so far in this regard.

Posted on Sep 27, 2021.

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