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UK Hospitality Work Visas

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If you are a hospitality sector business owner you may be despairing that you will ever fill your job vacancies from the pool of available UK talent. You may be resigned to constant staff turnover or to limited opening hours because you simply do not have the staff to open your business on a full-time basis.

In this blog, our immigration solicitors take a look at the UK hospitality work visa options. You may be surprised to learn that your hospitality business is not limited to recruiting international students on student visas to work part-time in your business. There are longer-term solutions for some skilled hospitality sector job vacancies.

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

For sponsor licence and hospitality sector work visa advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The UK hospitality work visa

The route to recruiting hospitality workers from overseas is the skilled worker visa, part of the UK points-based immigration system. A skilled worker visa applicant needs 70 points to qualify for a visa. The first crucial step is that the visa applicant must have the offer of a suitable job from a UK employer with a sponsor licence.

Sponsor licences to recruit hospitality workers

Unless your hospitality business is part of a chain of pubs, hotels or restaurants you may not have thought about applying for a licence to sponsor overseas workers to work in your hospitality sector business. However, any size business can apply for a sponsor licence; you do not need to have a minimum turnover or already employ a minimum number of staff.

Applying for a sponsor licence does take a bit of organisation as you need to have your HR files and processes in order as well as have the correct paperwork available to send to the Home Office in support of your sponsor licence application.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers acknowledge that in the hospitality sector, with the creative juices flowing, the headache of managing customer expectations or juggling staff absences, it is not always easy to keep on top of documentation. If you recognise that about your business then there are sponsor licence solutions. Business immigration solicitors can carry out a pre-sponsor licence application audit and advise you on the steps you need to take to be ‘sponsor licence application ready’ and can agree to manage your sponsor licence for the business for a fixed monthly retainer. That input can take out a lot of the stress and hassle involved in a sponsor licence application and its management.

The UK hospitality jobs that can be sponsored

Not every UK hospitality job qualifies for a skilled worker visa even if a business has a sponsor licence. The job must be on a government list of approved jobs with a standard occupational classification code. The list of jobs is regularly reviewed by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and jobs will be added or taken off the list depending on the extent of the recruitment difficulties in a particular sector.

The list is not regional – it is national. Some say that works against London where it is harder in the capital city to find hospitality workers than in other areas of the country where it does not cost as much to commute to work or where rental costs are not as expensive.

The current list of jobs in the hospitality sector where your business could sponsor an eligible skilled worker visa applicant includes:

Job Job descriptions
Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors – standard occupational classification code 1221 Caravan park owner

Hotel manager

Landlord of a boarding, guest, or a lodging house

Restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors – standard occupational classification code 1223 Cafe manager

Catering operations manager

Fish and chip shopkeeper

Restaurant manager

Take away shop manager

Publicans and managers of licensed premises – standard occupational classification code 1224 Landlord of a public house


Manager of a wine bar


Chefs – standard occupational classification code 5434 Chef

Chef manager

Head chef

Pastry chef

Catering and bar managers – standard occupational classification code 5436 Bar manager

Catering manager

Floor manager of a restaurant

Kitchen manager

Steward of a club


Hospitality sponsor licence requirements

If you think your hospitality vacancies fall within a job title or a standard occupational classification code the next step is to apply for a sponsor licence from the Home Office. Your business will need to prove that:

  • It is genuine and trading lawfully in the UK
  • It has genuine vacancies for sponsored workers
  • It has HR systems in place to manage the sponsor licence
  • It has appointed key personnel to manage the sponsor licence
  • The sponsored workers will be paid the relevant minimum salary threshold – this will depend on their job
  • There is no threat to immigration control

Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help make sure that you have all the systems in place to meet your sponsor licence reporting and recording duties and guide you through the process of recruiting from overseas, including allocating a certificate of sponsorship to the visa applicant.

Skilled worker visa requirements for hospitality workers

Obtaining a sponsor licence is the first step in the sponsorship process. The second stage is the visa applicant successfully applying for the job vacancy and then using the certificate of sponsorship allocated by the business to apply for their work visa.

The skilled worker visa applicant will need to:

  • Have a job offer that meets the skilled worker visa criteria and the employer must have a valid sponsor licence
  • Use the certificate of sponsorship provided by the sponsoring employer to apply for their work visa (the certificate must be used within 3 months of its date)
  • Have a job offer that will pay the minimum salary threshold for the job – this will be the higher of 3 options -  £26,200 gross per year, £10.75 per hour, or the going rate for the job as specified by the government
  • Meet the English language requirement by either sitting an English language test or being exempt from needing to do so

Employing overseas hospitality workers without a sponsor licence

If your business does not want to apply for a sponsor licence then your options are limited if you want to employ workers from overseas who have the right to work in the UK and in your business. That’s because visas like the skilled worker visa or the senior or specialist worker visa require a UK business to hold a valid sponsor licence. If they do not do so and they employ a worker who does not have the right to work for a business without a sponsor licence, they could face a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.

Alternative non-sponsored visa routes include employing an international student who is in the UK on a student visa. If you employ an international student, you must ensure that you only employ them in accordance with their visa conditions as an international student is only allowed to work on a part-time basis whilst studying.

The other option is to employ a person in the UK on a graduate visa after having studied in the UK as an international student on a student visa.  A graduate visa holder does not need a sponsoring employer and they can be employed in any job in the hospitality sector without any rules on pay other than meeting the national minimum wage. The issue with the graduate visa is that it is short-term in nature so a business may not want to commit the time and money to recruiting a waiter, bar manager or chef who may have to leave the UK within a couple of years unless they can switch into the skilled worker visa.

Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help your hospitality business weigh up if a sponsor licence is the best option for you to meet your recruitment needs.

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

For sponsor licence and hospitality sector work visa advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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