The current situation in the hospitality sector is such that staff shortages are causing major problems for many businesses, and therefore, hiring overseas labor has become essential. While some are calling for a specialized visa scheme for the hospitality industry to alleviate this pressure, the fact that net migration is at an all-time high means that this proposal is unlikely to be implemented soon.
What can be done under the current immigration system?
Although it may not be widely known, the current immigration system does allow for hospitality businesses to secure work visas for individuals seeking to come to the UK. However, the process involves obtaining a Skilled Worker sponsor license from UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI), which requires submitting a range of specific documents from a list approved by UKVI, as well as providing detailed information about the business and the intended sponsored individual. It’s also worth noting that there can be significant costs associated with obtaining the license.
Can all jobs be sponsored?
It’s worth noting that not all job roles are eligible for sponsorship under the current immigration system. While certain positions like bar managers and chefs may be eligible, roles like waiters and kitchen porters typically cannot be sponsored. This is due to specific skill level requirements, with only roles that meet a minimum skill level being eligible for sponsorship. Additionally, a minimum salary requirement must be met for eligible roles.
What has been UKVI’s stance on the hospitality sector?
Historically, the hospitality sector has faced challenges in obtaining sponsor li-censes from UKVI. However, there has been a noticeable shift in approach by UKVI towards being more accommodating to hospitality businesses seeking sponsor licenses. In the past, indicating “hospitality” as the sector on a sponsor license application would often lead to a thorough examination of the application, possibly involving a compliance visit. However, this type of scrutiny now appears to be less frequent. If a hospitality company can demonstrate an established presence in the market and meet the evidential requirements, obtaining a sponsor license seems to be more achievable. Recently, there have been successful sponsor license applications for not just high-end London restaurants, but also for smaller venues, such as local pubs and food trucks.
Despite the more welcoming approach towards the hospitality sector, the current immigration system has several significant drawbacks. Firstly, the English language requirement for Skilled Worker visas can be frustrating. Applicants must demonstrate their ability to read, write, listen, and speak English at an intermediate level, regardless of whether these skills are necessary for their proposed role. Meeting this requirement must be done in a specific manner accepted by UKVI. For non-majority English speaking nationals, this usually involves passing a UKVI-approved English language test.
Secondly, even with UKVI’s potentially more accommodating approach, obtaining a sponsor license remains a time-consuming and costly process. The standard service processing time for a sponsor license application is approximately 8 weeks (although a 10-day priority service is available for an additional £500). UKVI’s sponsor license application fee is £536 for small companies and £1,476 for large ones.
Lastly, the additional expenses of sponsoring workers can be a significant burden for many businesses. The list of disbursements for Skilled Worker applications is lengthy and includes an application fee (£625 for a 3-year visa), Immigration Skills Charge (either £364 or £1,000 per year of the visa, depending on whether the sponsor is a large or small sponsor), Immigration Health Surcharge (£624 per year of the visa), and a Certificate of Sponsorship fee (£199). Excluding dependents, the total government fees for a 3-year Skilled Worker visa for small sponsors amount to approximately £3,700.
For many restaurants, pubs, and clubs, the ability to recruit foreign workers has become a critical, make-or-break moment.
Our GroupL Global recruitment experts
We have detailed knowledge of the regional and local business laws
We have decades of experience in international as well as domestic recruitment