Following strict enforcement of Home Office policy on immigration control over non-EEA seafarers who are joining vessels engaged in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind projects in UK territorial waters, backlash from the maritime industry has led to the introduction of a concession to the immigration rules by the Home Secretary to allow the employment of such seafarers.
Maritime industries such as the IMCA welcomed the initial short term concession, after the recent change in immigration control enforcement in this area saw a ‘deviation from decades of common practice.’ Initial concessions were granted by the Home Office on 15 June 2017 so as to alleviate the operational difficulties that this deviation was causing. The concession allowed workers leave to enter the UK until 21 October 2017 for the purpose of joining a vessel engaged in the construction and maintenance of a wind farm within UK territorial waters.
During this period, firms involved in the construction or maintenance of wind farms within territorial waters were encouraged to use the time to resolve these operational problems, and to look to regulate the position of their workers. British and EEA nationals do not require leave to enter the UK, and its waters. Those non-EEA workers who require leave to enter the UK should have the appropriate permission to do so under the Immigration Rules.
For the maritime industry, the limited time length of the initial concession was not considered to be enough time to solve these operational difficulties and properly regulate the immigration position of their employees. As a result, the Home Office has now extended the concession by one additional year, and leave to enter under the terms of the concession will no longer be granted after 21 October 2018.
Those in the maritime industry hope that the extension of the concession will allow the necessary time to implement the legal framework within the industry, without damaging key projects that are critical to delivering renewable energy capacity in the UK. Workers who are seeking to leave to enter the UK under this concession should produce at point of a valid passport, an ILO108-compliant or ILO185-compliant seamen’s book, and a letter from their employer stating that the worker is employed in the construction or maintenance of a wind farm project within UK territorial waters.