UK Farmworker Visa

UK Seasonal Agriculture Workers Scheme 2019.

Operators chosen for SAWS scheme

Pro-Force and Concordia will run government’s pilot project to grant 2,500 visas for non-EU seasonal agricultural workers.

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Two companies will bring 2,500 migrant workers to British farms after the UK leaves the EU, says the government.

The pilot seasonal workers scheme will be operated by Concordia (UK) and Pro-Force – pending their successful application for a sponsor license.

It means fruit and vegetable growers will be able to employ non-EU migrant workers for seasonal work for up to six months at a time.

Up to 2,500 workers from outside the EU will be able to come to the UK each year, supporting the sector during peak production periods.

The pilot will start in the spring of 2019 and will run until the end of December 2020.

Details about how UK farmers can participate will be published in the new year.

Labor recruiters Pro-Force and Concordia have been chosen by the government to operate its pilot Seasonal Agriculture Workers Scheme (SAWS).

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a pilot SAWS scheme in September, revealing plans to permit 2,500 non-EU workers seasonal entry into the UK to help combat labor shortages across horticulture.

Growers have struggled to recruit enough workers to pick fruit and veg from the field in recent years, with the weakening pound and Brexit making matters worse.

The National Farmers Union has calculated that between 70,000 and 80,000 seasonal workers are needed each year to harvest British crops, but 13 per cent went unfilled last year.

Chief executive of Pro-Force, Matt Jarrett, said its selection as one of two operators running the two-year pilot is testament to its efforts within the recruitment industry to work on improvements that protect workers from the dangers of modern day slavery and other labor abuses.

“Rising incomes within the EU, unfavorable exchange rates and recent uncertainty over the future have combined to make the UK a far less attractive destination for unskilled workers,” he said.

“This has had a direct impact on our fresh produce growers, impairing their ability pick produce and remain competitive in the international market.

“This pilot is aimed at addressing such shortfalls, attracting and managing workers from outside of the EU during the period before Brexit, while labor is still available from Europe.”

NFU chief Minette Batters hailed the government’s pilot scheme as a “major victory” for the industry following two years of lobbying efforts, but others warned that it will have “little effect”, with greater numbers needed.

Mr Jarrett added: “Whilst the pilot only allows a limited number of visas – 2,500 in total – it will reach across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“The ultimate aim of the scheme is to provide Government with the representative data and foundations for making informed decisions on how to potentially design a larger scheme beyond the two-year pilot.”

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