Employers of EU farm workers have been reminded of the deadline for the settled status scheme which will give them the right to remain in the UK indefinitely.
Farmers who employ seasonal and permanent workers from the EU have been told to encourage their staff who wish to work in the UK to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
EU citizens - and their families - living in the UK before 31 December 2020 will need to apply to obtain their new UK immigration status should they wish to continue living and working in the UK after June 2021.
The scheme entitles 'settled status' to EU nationals who have already been in the country for five years or more, and 'pre-settled status' to EU nationals who have been in the country for under five years.
NFU Scotland has reminded farming businesses that the pre-settled status category can be accessed by any seasonal worker in the country this year, who wishes to return in future years.
The union said that for this reason, both status categories were 'vital' for employers of workers from the EU in permanent and seasonal capacities.
Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland president, said: “For decades the Scottish agricultural sector has benefited from the contribution the many workers from other EU countries have made.
"It is therefore important we encourage members to remind any permanent or seasonal workers they employ to apply to the scheme which can secure their future employment opportunities in the UK.
“For EU nationals who’ve been living and working in Scotland/UK continuously for five years, settled status will give them indefinite leave to remain – this is vital for any workers from outside the UK who are working here in a permanent capacity."
Any EU nationals who have taken up employment in the UK by 31 December 2020 can apply for pre-settled status which ensures they can work in the UK for a further five years from the date pre-settled status is achieved.
Importantly, seasonal staff from the EU are entitled to apply for pre-settled status as there is no threshold for time spent living and working in the UK in order to make an application.
Mr McCornick said this was 'vital' for any existing seasonal workers who wished to return to work in Scotland or the UK in the next five years.
It comes as the government is set to introduce a new points based system of immigration for the UK on 1 January 2021 following the end of free movement of citizens from the EU.