Fishing roles added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)

7th August 2023

New opportunities for the UK fishing industry

The Home Office has recognised the challenges faced by employers within the fishing and seafood industry in relation to recruiting workers from overseas, and is now encouraging businesses to apply for a Sponsor Licence.

Most foreign nationals require permission to work in the UK, including UK waters, and this permission can be gained through sponsorship. Current practices see foreign nationals working in the fishing industry in UK waters on transit visas. This is classed as illegal working and has recently brought to light other issues, such as labour abuse.

Fishing companies are now being encouraged by the government to obtain a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence, enabling them to recruit and legally employ skilled foreign nationals.

This is being supported by updates to the Shortage Occupation List

Employers can currently sponsor workers within certain fishing and fish processing roles, under the Skilled Worker route. However, as a sponsor, you must ensure that you meet specific salary requirements, which for the Skilled Worker route is a minimum of:

  • £10.75/hour; and
  • £26,200/year; or 
  • The ‘going rate’ for the role if it is higher than the minimum figures above.

The Home Office has now added certain roles within the fishing industry to the Shortage Occupation List. This means that employers will benefit from lower salary thresholds (£10.75/hour and £20,960/year; or 80% of the ‘going rate’) and candidates will benefit from lower visa application fees.

Roles that fall within this category:

  • Share Fisherman
  • Trawler Skipper
  • Deckhands on large fishing vessels (only deckhands on large fishing vessels – 9 metres and above. The job must require 3 or more years’ full-time experience).

In an official communication from the Home Office released in April 2023, the Home Secretary is highlighting the ways in which they will be supporting the industry to sponsor foreign workers.

The standard processing time for a Sponsor Licence application is 8 weeks. For an additional £500, businesses can opt for the priority service which guarantees a decision within 10 working days. For new applications from fishing businesses, this fee will be levied, and priority service will be automatically added to applications.

Additionally, there is a promise for expedited visa decisions, at no extra cost. Currently, Skilled Worker visa applications from outside of the UK are decided within 15 working days. Applications from candidates within the fishing industry should therefore be considered within 8 and 10 working days.

The above should help to provide a quicker sponsorship process which in normal cases can take months to progress through.

Sponsor Licence Application  -What you need to know

In order to successfully apply for a sponsor licence, a business must be prepared to submit a number of supporting documents.

In addition to the general documents required, fishing companies must be aware that their vessels must be registered by law with the UK Ship Register, unless the vessels:

  • Are salmon cobles.
  • Have an overall length of 10 metres and under and are not propelled by an engine.
  • Have an overall length of 10 metres and under and will only be used to fish for common eels.

Vessels must also hold a licence which was issued by the appropriate Fisheries Department. This licence can be obtained by contacting the Local Fisheries Office. 

With the applicable supporting documents and regulatory requirements in place, the grant of a UKVI Sponsor Licence can open up new opportunities for fishing in UK waters. 

Sign up to stay up to date, with news and advice