With UK hospitality businesses continuing to face acute shortages of suitable labour, many businesses are increasingly looking to recruit chefs and other workers from outside of the UK, through a sponsor licence.

In this latest blog from our immigration specialists at Truth Legal, we will cover the essential information you need to know before going down the sponsorship route. We will take an honest look at the pros and cons of sponsorship, before looking at the key issues to be aware of, including the salary increases in 2023 and those upcoming in 2024.

Pros and Cons of sponsorship

If you want to apply for a licence and sponsor chefs or other workers, you need to go into this with your eyes fully open and understand the pros and cons.


There is only one real benefit with sponsorship, but, it’s a biggie! The big benefit is around the calibre and long-term retention of an individual you might sponsor. Sponsorship allows you to tap into a deeper well of talent than is available in the UK.

Importantly, any individual you sponsor can generally only work for you, the sponsor licence holder. The individual being sponsored will be keen to get five years under his belt as a sponsored ‘Skilled Worker’ – as after this he or she can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Therefore, there’s a reasonable chance of securing that individual’s services for a considerable period of time – potentially five years or longer. That individual could in theory switch employers, but they would need to find a new employer with a sponsor licence. That employer would need to issue the individual with a certificate of sponsorship and the individual would then need to make a new visa application. In short, a sponsored worker is much more likely to stay with you.

Sponsorship is attractive to the chef/worker for various reasons. As noted above, the Skilled Worker visa route offers a route to indefinite leave to remain, meaning the right to live here permanently. Furthermore, the individual can bring their partner/spouse and child under 18 to the UK. The family member is free to work for whoever they want (or not work), and can study.


One of the main disadvantages of sponsorship is cost. We deal with costs in more detail below, but you will need to pay a fee for your licence and then pay an Immigration Skills Charge, for each year you sponsor the individual. The individual will pay significant visa and health charge fees, although this is not your liability as an employer.

Another potential disadvantage is the time you might have to spend ensuring your HR systems are up to speed, and generally showing that you can comply with your sponsor licence duties.

Which jobs can I sponsor?

The rules changed a few years ago to allow chefs to be sponsored. You can now sponsor any kind of chef, whether a head chef, chef de partie, sous chef, or commis chef. Whilst chef roles are in particularly high demand, don’t forget that there are other roles capable of sponsorship, including:

  • Restaurant manager/assistant manager
  • Floor manager/bar manager
  • Sales/business development/

How much do I have to pay the worker?

Beware that you will need to pay your sponsored employee a minimum salary. This can be quite a complicated area, covered in more detail here. For chefs, you will normally have to guarantee at least £26,200 per year, but can never pay any sponsored worker less than £10.75 per hour. You can pay £20,960, but still no less than £10.75, if the individual is under 26 or otherwise a ‘new entrant’.

Its worth noting that the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers is set to surge by a third, soaring from £26,200 to an eye-watering £38,700. This will be implemented on 4 April 2024.

What are the costs of sponsorship?

In short, the key costs are:

  • Sponsor licence fee – £536 or £1,476

The lower fee applies to small businesses, the higher fee applies to medium/large businesses.  You’ll pay this when you apply for the licence.

  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) fee – £199

You’ll pay this when you assign the CoS.

  • Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) – £364 or £1,000 for each year of sponsorship, payable as an upfront fee

Again, we have a detailed blog and a video on this area of costs, here.

The individual will need to pay the costs of their visa and Immigration Health Surcharge fees. These fees will vary according to the duration of sponsorship.

HR requirements and sponsor licence compliance

The Home Office regard having a sponsor licence and sponsoring workers to be a ‘privilege not a right’. There are certain sponsor licence duties and responsibilities that you are expected to comply with. These essentially revolve around having adequate HR systems in place and ensuring you are adequately monitoring your sponsored staff and reporting to the Home Office as necessary.

The Home Office can inspect you or run a ‘compliance check’ at any time – whether before granting or after they issue you with a licence. If you are found to be in breach of your sponsor duties then you could lose your licence, which would mean any sponsored workers’ employment would immediately have their employment terminated and their visas cut short.

Hospitality businesses are a target of the Home Office when it comes to compliance checks, seemingly due to a perception that hospitality businesses rely heavily on migrant labour generally and illegal workers. If you have a look at the list of employers found to be employing illegal workers and receiving hefty fines, most are in the hospitality sector.

We have a detailed guide on sponsor licence compliance, here. For now, it’s just worth highlighting that there is an administrative cost associated with sponsorship – the extent of which depends on what shape your current HR is in.

What are the visa requirements for the individual?

The main battle for the individual is getting sponsorship from a licenced employer. Aside from this, the key requirements are:

  • English – the individual must satisfy the English language requirement. There are different ways of meeting this, including: by being from a recognised majority English-speaking country; passing the same level of English in a previous successful visa application; having a degree from a UK university; having a degree taught in English; or by passing an English language test at a minimum of Level B1 of the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR). The test must be at a Home Office-approved test centre.
  • TB Certificate – Individuals applying from outside the UK may need a TB certificate.

How Truth Legal can help you?

Truth Legal specialise in helping hospitality businesses apply for a sponsor licence and then sponsor individuals as chefs and in other roles.

If you are a business considering sponsorship, please contact us for a free consultation today.

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Catherine Reynolds
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