Government introduces temporary visas to overcome labour crisis

18 Oct 21 by Charlotte Ashton
Temporary visas

The UK is currently experiencing a worker shortage across many sectors, most notably HGV drivers which has been brought into focus during the recent issues affecting petrol stations and supermarkets.

With a series of product shortages causing concern, the government has been under increasing pressure to make changes to visa processes in a bid to try and ease the crisis which has been caused by a number of factors — in particular, Brexit and Covid-19, which meant many EU workers left the UK and have not returned.

The issue has been further amplified by the fact that free movement rules for EU citizens came to an end with the close of 2020 — meaning that anyone from outside the UK, including EU citizens, now has to apply for a visa in order to come to the UK to live and work.

Generally, this would be under a Skilled Worker visa which, amongst other requirements, necessitates an employer who holds a sponsor licence to pay a minimum salary which is often above the rate recruiters are used to offering for roles they are now unable to fill.

Although there are still some temporary workers visas available for individuals to come to the UK to fill certain roles, these visas require an employer who holds a sponsor licence and are limited to those offering specific jobs.

Unfortunately, this makes entering the UK for work far more complicated than under the previous free movement rules.

In response to the crisis, the government has made the following changes and concessions:

  • Adding HGV drivers who transport food to the Temporary Worker visa route
  • Adding butcher and poultry worker roles to the Temporary Workers route
  • Applications must be made by 15 November 2021 for poultry workers and by 1 December for HGV drivers – meaning this is a very short amendment and some have questioned the potential effectiveness of this change
  • It is currently planned for the visas to be short lived – poultry workers can stay until 31 December 2021 and HGV drivers to 28 February 2022.

Although the steps will be deemed positive for some, there is still an application process and fee to be paid — meaning the route will still present a series of hurdles for those wishing to come to work in the UK.

Unfortunately, it isn't clear whether these changes will have sufficient impact to ease the difficulties being experienced across various sectors, and it is expected that there will be more changes in the months to come as other players put pressure on the government.

If you have any queries relating to the rules around visas or immigration, please contact our team using the details below.


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Post by Charlotte Ashton

Senior Solicitor – Head of Immigration, ESP Law Ltd

Charlotte has over 10 years’ experience in all aspects of employment law, having qualified as a solicitor in 2009. She trained in-house with a large UK company, covering 45,000 employees, and moved to private practice on qualification. Charlotte enjoys helping growing companies understand their legal obligations and has given training and presentations to start up entrepreneurs, and business students, at a local University. Charlotte also specialises in business immigration law for the UK and has helped employers obtain sponsor licences in order to recruit from outside the UK.