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UK Extends Seasonal Work Visa Program: Here’s What It Entails

UK Extends Seasonal Work Visa Program: Here's What It Entails

The United Kingdom (UK) government has decided to extend the Seasonal Worker Visa Program, despite ongoing concerns about immigration levels. This program, which allows entry for 45,000 migrants annually to work in Britain’s farming sector, has been extended until 2029, even as authorities aim to reduce overall immigration.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay confirmed the extension of the program, following Premier Rishi Sunak’s commitment to tightening work visas. This decision comes in response to mounting worries about labor shortages in agriculture, especially during critical harvest periods.

Barclay announced plans to issue 45,000 seasonal worker visas for the upcoming year, maintaining the same quota as in the previous announcement for 2023-24. Extending the visa scheme for an additional five years, Barclay emphasized that it allows farmers adequate time to decrease their reliance on foreign labor. Interestingly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged in 2021 to phase out the program gradually, with visa numbers expected to decrease starting from 2023.

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The government has also stressed the importance of the farming sector improving wages and working conditions to attract domestic workers. Looking ahead, Barclay highlighted the significance of effective business planning, hence the decision to extend the seasonal worker visa route until 2029, providing farmers with essential certainty for future growth.

Further details regarding visa figures for 2026-2029 will be disclosed later this year. Originally launched in 2019 with an initial allocation of 2,500 visas for non-EU workers, the program significantly expanded post-Brexit, with 30,000 places available in 2022. While previously dominated by workers from Russia, the current influx comes from ex-Soviet states like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

The seasonal worker route permits foreign laborers to work in Britain’s horticulture sector for up to six months, primarily during the summer months. Despite its advantages, concerns persist regarding visa overstays and illicit employment among visa holders.