A temporary visa scheme that will allow firms to recruit fuel tanker drivers from overseas has been extended until 31 March 2022.
The scheme, launched in response to reports of a tanker driver shortage which had caused fuel supply issues at forecourts, was originally set to end on 24 December 2021.
But problems still remain in many parts of the south of England, and the military have today been deployed to help deliver fuel from refineries to forecourts.
Home Office guidance published over the weekend confirmed that HGV drivers who are qualified to drive fuel tankers and arrive in the UK between 1 October and 15 October 2021 will be able to work until 31 March 2022.
To be eligible for the scheme, drivers must not already have a UK visa; must hold an EU, EEA or Swiss licence to drive an HGV carrying dangerous goods; and must have been issued with an HGV fuel driver’s endorsement letter by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Border Force officials must be satisfied drivers have entered the UK to find employment as a fuel tanker driver and must also find their own accommodation and fund their own living costs.
Temporary visas are also being offered to 4,700 more HGV drivers to help deliver food from late October to 28 February 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to rule out any further relaxation to the immigration rules in order to keep critical industries moving.
He said on Saturday that the situation would be kept “under review” and that the UK would “open up our markets if we need to”.
“What we don’t want to do is go back to a situation in which we basically allowed the road haulage industry to be sustained with a lot of low-wage immigration that meant that wages didn’t go up and the quality of the job didn’t go up,” he said.
“The weird thing is now that people don’t want to go into the road haulage industry, don’t want to be lorry drivers, precisely because you have that mass immigration approach.”
Ministers are planning new skills “bootcamps” to train up to 4,000 people to become HGV drivers.