The national shortage of HGV drivers is having a very local impact at Harrogate-based law firm Truth Legal.
Truth Legal, which also has offices in central Leeds, has a small but thriving immigration practice, headed by solicitor and director Louis MacWilliam.
Louis and his team are receiving a high number of enquiries from international drivers hoping to apply for the temporary visa scheme announced by the Government earlier this week. Enquiries have landed in Harrogate and Leeds from drivers in Europe, but also from drivers based further afield in India, South Africa and Venezuela.
The temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers has been widely touted by the Government as a key part of its response to supply chain pressures expected to bite in the run-up to Christmas. But the scheme has also been widely criticised by some industry experts, who view it as a drop-in-the-ocean approach to a much larger problem.
And from an immigration law perspective, there remains a lack of clarity about how the scheme will work in practice. Migrant workers generally need a UK employer to sponsor them before they can come to the UK, even temporarily. And UK employers need a Home Office licence before they can sponsor a migrant worker.
“If an employer doesn’t have a sponsor licence already, the process of getting one can take weeks or even months”, said Louis MacWilliam, Head of Immigration at Truth Legal.
“It’s not yet clear how this will mesh with the Government’s plans to open the scheme in October, and close it on Christmas Eve.”
And that’s not the only potential headache for immigration lawyers.
“The Home Office won’t normally grant a sponsor licence unless the migrant worker is directly employed by their sponsor”, added Louis.
“There’s some indication the Government wants agencies to be responsible for recruitment of HGV drivers, but again there’s no clarity about how this will work alongside existing sponsorship structures.”
The answers to these questions, and many others, remain to be seen.