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Temporary Work Visas – News About the HGV Visa

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Who would have thought that after a global pandemic with government enforced national lockdowns the UK would grind to a near halt because of supply chain issues affecting all of the UK economy, including petrol supplies to the nation’s forecourts and pumps. What next? Some have tongue in cheek suggested plagues of locusts.

To get the UK out of a hole, the government has announced a new road map out of the current crisis with a relaxation of the immigration rules relating to overseas workers through the introduction of a temporary visa for heavy goods vehicle drivers. This has been referred to as the ‘HGV visa’ by some immigration solicitors. In this blog, our Sponsorship Licence lawyers take a look at what is known so far about the allocation of 10,500 time-limited temporary work visas to HGV drivers and poultry workers.

UK Online and London Based Sponsorship Licence Lawyers and Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on sponsoring overseas workers or for help with any aspect of immigration law or employment law call the expert London Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The roadmap to Christmas

The scheme to get the UK moving again does not involve the recruitment of overseas workers on the skilled worker visa. Instead, the government has announced temporary changes in the immigration rules relating to the temporary work visa.

Critics of current business immigration law and of the new UK points-based immigration system have long argued that the categories of temporary workers permitted UK entry clearance under the Tier 5 temporary visa is too restrictive. For example, a temporary visa can be used to employ seasonal workers but the definition of ‘seasonal’ is restricted to the edible horticultural sector. However, UK business owners say that there are plenty of other sectors where the work is seasonal in nature, for example, some parts of the hospitality sector.

The changes to the temporary visa will allow:

  • The issue of 5,000 temporary work visas for HGV drivers.
  • The issue of 5,500 temporary visas for poultry workers.

For immigration solicitors there is a BUT. That is the fact that the temporary work visas will only be valid for a relatively short period. Initially the government announced that the HGV visas would be valid until the 24 December 2021. Industry bosses said that 10,500 visas were not enough and that the government needed to look beyond Christmas as in January 2022 the public would still want to eat chicken and have their supermarket shelves stocked up and online orders delivered.

In response, the government has amended its HGV visa scheme. Whilst the visas remain temporary the new immigration scheme rules provide for three hundred fuel drivers to arrive shortly on temporary visas valid until the end of March 2022 with around 4,700 HGV visas being allocated for food haulage drivers. Those food haulage HGV visas are expected to be processed with drivers arriving in the UK in late October. Their temporary visas will expire at the end of February 2022.

Alternatives to the temporary visa

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that an alternate to the temporary visa initiative would be to extend the shortage occupation list for the skilled worker visa to include HGV drivers. After all, driving a HGV vehicle, especially a petrol tanker, takes skill and it is said that the UK is unlikely to be able to train nearly 100,000 HGV drivers to meet the current HGV driver shortfall in the three-month period to Christmas and until the temporary visas expire at the end of February 2022 and March 2022.

Who can apply for the HGV visa?

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that the planned 5,000 HGV visas are not limited to EU nationals. Non-EEA nationals are also welcome to apply. Critics of the scheme point out that there is a worldwide shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers and question how big an incentive a short UK temporary work visa will be to international HGV drivers. In addition, those with long memories will recall the scenes of overseas drivers stuck at Dover over Christmas 2020, unable to get back to their own homes and families for Christmas and so many question how attractive the temporary visa scheme is, even if the visa is extended to March 2022.

Sponsoring a HGV driver

UK businesses have questioned how they can recruit HGV drivers and asked Sponsorship Licence lawyers what they should do. The first point that Sponsorship Licence lawyers have made is that the government initial announcement referred to HGV drivers for the food sector so other industries were not be able to recruit and fill their HGV driver vacancies on the proposed very temporary basis. Although the scheme has been revised and extended from the initial announcement, the number of available HGV visas remains the same (5,000) and only 300 of the visas have been allocated to non-food HGV drivers.

The second point made by Sponsorship Licence lawyers is that the HGV visa is being issued under the temporary worker route and therefore the fact that a business has a sponsor licence to recruit overseas workers on skilled worker visas under Tier 2 will not assist the company. Temporary work visas are issued under Tier 5.

Under the temporary worker immigration rules to apply for a licence to sponsor temporary seasonal workers the organisation must be a scheme operator. That means the organisation must be endorsed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to be an approved scheme operator and licensed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

The wider picture

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that it isn’t just the food and haulage industry that are struggling to recruit workers following Brexit and the end of free movement for EU nationals. Some restaurants are not fully open, not because of COVID-19 restrictions, but simply because they can't get the staff to be able to open six or seven days per week. If you are a company who is struggling with recruitment it is worth a discussion with Sponsorship Licence lawyers to see if your job vacancies fall within the shortage occupation list for the skilled worker visa and to understand the sponsor licence application process to enable your company to sponsor overseas workers on the skilled worker visa.

UK Online and London Based Sponsorship Licence Lawyers and Immigration Solicitors   

For  immigration law and employment law advice call the Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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