From December 2020, major changes to the immigration system have made it much easier to sponsor chefs. This article is now out of date. For the latest, head over to our brand new guide for How To Sponsor a Chef.

In a welcome development, restaurants can now hire skilled chefs from overseas under a Tier 2 sponsor licence.  This important change could alleviate the chronic shortage in chefs causing many restaurants to close down.

The shortage is particularly acute for curry houses, hence the recent changes being called a ‘Vindaloo Visa’.  ‘Vindaloo Visa’ is somewhat misleading as it suggests the introduction of a new visa.  In fact, and as I explain below, the Home Office simply removed what is known as the ‘take-away clause’; a tweaking of the rules but one which will have a dramatic effect on how many restaurants recruit going forwards.

This blog is written for restaurant owners and managers and covers the key things you need to know, if you are now considering whether to sponsor a chef from outside the EU.


What has changed?

Leaving aside restaurants and skilled chefs for a second, if you want to employ any skilled worker who is not an EU national, then you would need to sponsor them and hold a Tier 2 sponsor licence.  Normally, only jobs recognised at degree level can be sponsored under Tier 2.  However, jobs recognised at a lower level may be sponsored if the job is on the Shortage Occupation List.

For a while now, ‘skilled chefs’ (see below for what a ‘skilled chef’ is) have been on the Shortage Occupation List, potentially opening the door to chefs being sponsored.

Until recently, however, it was a case of the Home Office giving with one hand and taking away with the other; as a different rule said that no restaurant could sponsor a chef if it ran a take-away function as part of its business.  With the proliferation of delivery services such as Deliveroo and Just Eat, virtually every restaurant now operates some form of take-away service, meaning that, until recently, sponsoring skilled chefs was not possible for most.

Thankfully, the ‘take-away clause’ was removed in October 2019.  If you are now considering whether to sponsor a chef under Tier 2, here are some key considerations.

What type of restaurant must you be?

Despite the removal of the ‘take-away clause’, your restaurant must still not be either:

  1. A fast food outlet or
  2. A ‘standard fare outlet’.

The Home Office definition of a fast food outlet was a place where ‘food is prepared in bulk for speed of service, rather than to individual order’, which was clear.

Its definition of a ‘standard fare outlet’ was a bit less straightforward:

‘A standard fare outlet is one where the menu is designed centrally for outlets in a chain / franchise, rather than by a chef or chefs in the individual restaurant. Standard fare outlets also include those where dishes and / or cooking sauces are bought in ready-made, rather than prepared from fresh / raw ingredients.’

Both definitions were, for reasons unknown, recently deleted from the Immigration Rules.  Without a replacement, it is probably wise to use these old definitions for guidance.

Which types of chefs can be sponsored?

Only ‘skilled chefs’ can be sponsored, which begs the question ‘What is a skilled chef?’  First, a skilled chef must be one of the following:

  • An executive chef;
  • Head chef;
  • Sous chef; or
  • A specialist chef

You can only have one sponsored chef in each position above, per establishment.

Second, it is also important to note that the skilled chef role is for experienced chefs – the role you are looking to fill must require five or more years’ relevant experience in a role of at least the same level to the role you are looking to fill in your restaurant.

How much do I need to pay if I sponsor a chef?

The Home Office state you must pay at least £29,570 after deductions for accommodation, meals etc.  However, there is a separate requirement that any experienced worker be paid at least £30,000 if being sponsored under Tier 2.  So, £30,000 is likely to be the minimum you will need to pay your skilled chef.

Do I need to run a resident labour market test?

The short answer is ‘no’, you do not.

Normally, before you can sponsor someone under a Tier 2 licence, you must first show that no ‘settled worker’ can do the job, and you do this by running something called a resident labour market test.  This is a hassle as it involves advertising the job for at least 28 days and going through a full recruitment exercise in respect of the position you want to sponsor.

However, as skilled chefs are on the Shortage Occupation List you do not need to run this test.

What else do I need to know?

Well for starters, you need a Tier 2 sponsor licence in place, if you do not already have one.

To apply for your licence, you will need to provide the necessary supporting documents and information to the Home Office and complete the online form.  In addition, you will need to be able to show to the Home Office that you have adequate human resources systems in place to show that you can effectively discharge your duties as sponsor licence holder.

I would advise that you prepare for the possibility that you will be inspected by the Home Office before they give you the licence.  The restaurant industry has for a long time been a priority of the Home Office, in terms of immigration enforcement.  If you are lucky enough not to be inspected before they issue you with your licence, then you are likely to be inspected at some point in the future.  Time taken at the outset to ensure you have compliant systems in place is seldom wasted.

If you sponsor a chef, the migrant has the advantage of cheaper visa fees, compared to the standard Tier 2 visa fee.

Also, there is a monthly cap of available ‘certificates of sponsorship’ each month, and if the ‘cap’ is exceeded then a point-scoring system applies, to see who should receive a certificate.  However, as skilled chefs are on the Shortage Occupation List they are virtually guaranteed to be allocated a certificate.

Need further help?

At Truth Legal, our Immigration Team are experts in all matters to do with Tier 2 sponsorship and sponsor licences.  We can guide you through the whole process. We can also help you to sponsor a chef, or other skilled worker. We can help you to:

  • Apply for your sponsor licence
  • Apply for a certificate of sponsorship
  • Assign a certificate of sponsorship
  • Ensure your systems comply with Home Office requirements
  • Help you to prepare for an inspection
  • Deal with any potential enforcement action by the Home Office
  • Help the sponsored migrant with their Tier 2 visa application

We have the niche expertise in this area and are considerably more affordable than many other more corporate immigration advisors.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Catherine Reynolds
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