The UK is offering thousands of visas to ease its truck driver shortage – with South Africans in demand

 ·2 Oct 2021

In response to the escalating crisis around fuel shortages and empty supermarket shelves, the UK government is looking to make thousands of visas available to foreign workers, says Nicola Digby, a senior consultant at specialist immigration firm Sable International.

Applications are due to open in October 2021 and the visas will be available to truck drivers to come to the UK to work between October and December 2021.

“Workers of all nationalities are invited to apply, with the majority expected to come from the EU. Although exact criteria for the scheme have not yet been released, it is anticipated that the visas will form part of the T5 Temporary Worker category,” she said.

“The government is also expected to make an additional 5,500 visas available for seasonal workers within the poultry industry.”

Digby said that the Seasonal Worker visa (T5) is valid for six months and usually allows a person to come to the UK to work in the farming industry.

To apply for this visa, you’ll need a certificate of sponsorship from a UK sponsor and enough money to support yourself in the UK, she said.

“A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is an electronic document that contains a reference number which holds information about the job and your personal details. The company that has offered you the job will first need to obtain and issue you with your CoS before you can apply for your T5 visa. You must add your CoS reference number to your visa application.

“Your certificate is valid for three months from the date it is issued to you, so you will need to apply within this period.”

South African truck drivers in demand internationally

Arnoux Mare, chief executive of Innovative Solutions Group, told RSG that this is not a new trend, with South Africans in demand for many years.

Mare’s company specialises in outsourcing work functions including hiring logistics and drivers for companies and he has also employed local drivers to work for international companies.

He said that local workers from South Africa are sought-after in countries including the US, all over Europe, and England.

While Mare could not give an exact figure on how many truck drivers are in employment abroad, he said that there is a clear shortage and demand.

He stressed that these drivers would still be required to take their licences and learn the various road rules, so potential drivers should not expect to start working immediately.

Anda Malescu, the managing partner at Miami-based Malescu Law, told the Financial Times that UK and US companies are growing increasingly desperate due to a lack of workers.

Malescu said her firm is helping trucking companies to source drivers from markets such as Mexico, Canada and South Africa – despite strict travel restrictions and quotas on visas.

In addition, companies such as Walmart are offering an $8,000 (R117,00) signing bonus for some drivers, while British retailer John Lewis announced plans to raise driver salaries by up to £5,000 (R100,000) a year as the UK faces shortages.

Read: United Airlines expands into South Africa through Airlink

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