The Visa Rules Creating Headaches for the Offshore Industry



Stricter regulations make it harder to bring in skilled workers, impacting projects and driving up costs.

In April 2023, the UK government implemented two significant changes to immigration rules that have caused major disruption for the offshore industry. These changes affect visa requirements for offshore workers and make it more difficult for companies to bring in skilled specialists.

Unexpected Expansion of "Offshore Worker" Definition

Previously, seafarers working within 12 nautical miles of the UK coast (territorial waters) were exempt from visa requirements unless their work was primarily performed in those waters. However, the definition of "offshore worker" was broadened to include all seafarers. This means most seafarers now require visas to work in UK waters.

Visa Options Unsuitable for Offshore Work

The only current visa options for offshore workers are sponsored visas, which require a UK-based employer to take full control of the worker. This isn't practical for the offshore industry, where work is often short-term and crews are familiar with specific vessels. Additionally, the visa application process can be lengthy, making it difficult to secure workers quickly for upcoming projects.

Impact on Costs and Safety

The new rules have increased costs for offshore companies due to visa fees and administrative burdens. Furthermore, relying on unfamiliar UK crew through agencies can raise safety risks because they may lack experience with specific vessels and operations.

Reduced Competitiveness and Environmental Impact

As a result of these challenges, many vessel owners are less likely to take on projects in UK waters. This impacts the competitiveness of UK-based companies and hinders the UK's ability to achieve its environmental goals, as offshore wind projects become less commercially viable.

Limited Workaround and Skills Shortage

The most obvious solution would be to hire UK nationals, but the UK currently faces a significant skills shortage in these specialized fields. Even if qualified UK workers were available, the lack of familiarity with specific vessels often makes them a less cost-effective option compared to experienced overseas crews.


The new visa regulations have created a complex situation for the offshore industry. The stricter rules increase costs, reduce efficiency, and pose safety risks. The government needs to find a solution that balances immigration control with the needs of this vital sector.

Please share it