Application process sped up for agricultural workers
14 June 2019
The Scottish Affairs Committee welcomes action taken by the Home Office to make applications for the seasonal agricultural workers pilot more efficient, following concern from Scottish farmers that produce will be left to rot, but says more progress is needed.
Long waiting times
A series of correspondence between the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Pete Wishart MP, and Minister for Immigration, Caroline Nokes MP, reveals that the Home Office has accepted and acted on criticisms of its seasonal agricultural workers pilot scheme. In April, the Committee held an evidence session with the operators of the pilot, during which the Committee heard that applicants faced long waiting times of 4-5 weeks for an appointment at the Visa Application Centre in Kiev. In Moldova, the Visa Centre was only open two days a week. The operators told the Committee the delays had already resulted in farms not receiving workers on the dates expected and risked workers missing the harvest season altogether.
Additional support but delays remain
Following pressure from the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, the Home Office is now offering additional support to the operators to make it quicker and easier to get appointments. In Kiev, free appointments can now be scheduled within 5 days of the original appointment request and an on-demand mobile visa service has been rolled out to allow workers to process documents electronically.
“I welcome the fact that the Home Office has listened carefully to the serious concerns my Committee heard about the delay in getting workers to Scotland in time for harvest season. It is promising that the visa application process in Kiev will now be quicker and cheaper, and I hope this makes a difference to Scottish farmers. However, more action needs to be taken – prospective workers in Moldova still face an agonising wait for a visa and hundreds of pounds of fees. The harvest season is upon us, and the UK Government needs to do everything it can to make sure the seasonal workers scheme is a success, or it risks losing the confidence of agricultural workers in Scotland.”
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