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Sponsoring an Overseas Chef to Work in a UK Restaurant

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Many restaurant owners are despairing about recruitment, especially of key staff like chefs. If a restaurant can't recruit it has a knock-on effect on opening hours, general staff morale, and of course on profitability.

Many smaller restaurants don’t realise that one option is to recruit your chef from overseas. Some assume that with the end of free movement for EU nationals, you can no longer recruit chefs from the EU or non-EEA countries. That assumption isn’t surprising given all the adverse press about the points-based immigration system but immigration solicitors say that with a sponsor licence restaurant owners can solve some of their recruitment issues.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence application advice call the immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Chef visas

There is no specific chef visa but your hospitality business can sponsor an overseas chef to work in the UK if your business obtains a sponsor licence from the Home Office and your recruited chef successfully applies for a skilled worker visa.

Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can assist you with understanding whether the type of chef you want to recruit meets the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa and advise you on the steps from applying to the Home Office for your first sponsor licence to sponsoring a chef or other overseas restaurant workers.

Sponsor licences to sponsor chefs

The first step on the journey to applying for a sponsor licence is to check your business meets the eligibility criteria to apply for a sponsor licence. The bar isn’t set high so most firms will meet the following criteria:

  • Your business is based in the UK and is lawfully trading
  • Your business hasn’t recently had a sponsor licence revoked by the Home Office
  • Your business isn’t thought to be a threat to immigration control. An example, of what might be perceived to be a threat is where your company has been prosecuted or received a civil sanction for employing illegal workers who don’t have the right to work in the UK and where the business did not conduct right-to-work checks
  • You have genuine job vacancies for chefs or jobs that meet the skilled worker visa eligibility criteria
  • Your business has systems in place to manage your sponsor licence

If you have previously had a licence application refused or if your previous sponsor licence was revoked then you may still be able to secure a sponsor licence. For example, after the cooling-off period, you submit a new application with detailed evidence of how you can now manage your sponsor licence through the right processes or the employment of a sponsor licence management service.

Chef job roles

Not all roles within a commercial kitchen qualify for a skilled worker visa. To qualify for a skilled worker visa a chef applicant must have an offer of employment from a sponsor licence holder. In addition, the job must have a standard occupational classification code and pay at least the minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa.

Every job that qualifies for the skilled worker visa has its own standard occupational classification grouped by type of job. The chef standard occupational classification code is 5434 and that covers chefs and chef managers as well as head chefs and pastry chefs.

In addition to the chef standard occupational classification code, the 5456 code is of relevance to restaurant owners as it allows for sponsorship of other hospitality staff, such as catering and bar managers.

Skilled worker visas for chefs

A key point for most restaurant owners is the salary they will need to pay an overseas chef in an eligible job to allow the recruit to apply for a skilled worker visa.

The minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa is £25,600 gross per year or £10.10 per hour or the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher figure. The annual salary figure will rise to £26,200 gross per year or £10.75 per hour from 12 April 2023.

The current published going rate for a chef is £18,900 gross per year. This rate applies whether the vacancy is in London or the North West of England as there are no regional variations or allowances.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that it gets complicated when the skilled worker visa applicant’s circumstances are such that a sponsor licence holder can pay less than the salaries stated above.

For example, if a chef is classed as a ‘new entrant’ because they are under the age of 26 or studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training, then the minimum salary threshold may reduce to £20,480 gross per year. The figure will increase to £20,960 with effect from 12 April 2023.

Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can advise you on minimum salary threshold criteria for your hospitality sector vacancies.

Applying for a sponsor licence to sponsor a chef

Before getting your business immigration solicitor to prepare your sponsor licence application it is best to check:

  • That you have suitable people to appoint as key personnel to manage the sponsor licence and
  • Your business has robust HR policies in place to manage the sponsor licence

Sponsorship Licence lawyers can conduct an audit of files to highlight any areas that need addressing. It is quicker and cheaper for experts to assess and advise your business before you submit a sponsor licence application rather than help you address the issues after an initial sponsor licence application has been refused by the Home Office because they don’t think your HR policies or systems will enable you to manage the sponsor licence.

Once you have down the groundwork, you can then submit your sponsor licence application. The documents you need to supply in support of your application depend on the nature of your business. Once the sponsor licence is granted you can proceed to recruit from overseas by finding the right chef and allocating them a certificate of sponsorship. This certificate gives the recruit all the information they need about the job to be able to apply for their skilled worker visa.

Our immigration solicitors can also help with the skilled worker visa application process as well as dependant visa applications for the family members of the new chef or any overseas hospitality workers joining your business on a skilled worker visa.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence application advice call the immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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