HGV Driver Visas
It will have been hard for anyone to have missed the ‘Fuel Furore’ of the last week or so and for those who already have one eye on Christmas, there may also be an underlying nervousness about whether it will be possible to get all of the usual culinary fare. There is a recognised supply chain issue which is, for the most part, being blamed on a lack of HGV drivers.
There are many contributing factors to the current driver shortage including: large numbers of drivers reaching retirement age; repatriation of foreign drivers due to Covid-19; recruitment issues due to Brexit and delays in driver testing and medical assessments. Either way, it is without doubt that this is an issue which is not going to be solved long-term by any quick fix measures. That being the case, in order to generate some short-term relief the government has confirmed a slight easing of applicable immigration rules to allow up to 5,000 HGV drivers to come to the UK for a 3-month period whilst measures are put in place to hopefully deliver some sustained improvements to the problem.
The relaxation of the immigration rules forms part of a wider package of announcements which it is hoped will ease the pressures on the sector but during a televised interview this week on BBC Breakfast, the Prime Minister confirmed that there had only been 127 applications received from drivers for the temporary visa. Again, there will be many contributing factors to this (the government had expected to have received double this amount by now) however a big factor may be the fact that any temporary visa will require employer sponsorship. The temporary work visas for HGV drivers remain constrained by this obligation and will mean that only licensed employers will be able to benefit from the recruitment of temporary driving staff.
Typically a sponsor licence application takes between 8-12 weeks to process however, an employer can pay for a fast-track application which speeds things up. Employers who consider that there is a need for them to be able to make use of the new visa scheme will need to hold a sponsor licence and given that the visas are only going to be valid until the end of the year, applications should now be made in a timely manner. The application process is completed online and the application fee, which is payable upfront will depend on the size of the organisation. Once a licence is granted an employer can then issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to each foreign driver that it wishes to employ and they can then in turn apply for their temporary visa.
Although becoming a sponsor licence holder will be necessary for the purposes of the HGV driver visas, it is also currently a necessity for employers who want to employ any workers from abroad. As things stand there are no proposals to change this requirement which the government sees as one of fundamental tenants of the new immigration system.
Author: Charlotte Geesin, Head of Employment Law & Business Immigration at Howarths