UK Chef Visa Requirements

The hospitality industry requires talented and skilled chefs, and many UK employers seek to hire candidates from all over the world. For foreign nationals (including EU nationals who were not already in the UK by 31 December 2020, thanks to Brexit) looking to work in the UK, their first, if not greatest, challenge is to be sponsored for a work visa.

Our expert immigration solicitors can help chefs meet the requirements for sponsorship to work in the UK food industry. To speak to a member of the Latitude Law team, contact us today by calling 0044 161 234 680 or 0044 207 046 7185. Alternatively, fill in our contact form to request a call back at your convenience.

Welcome changes to the eligibility requirements

As the UK Government previously considered chefs (and other associated food service roles) a ‘low skilled role’, high thresholds were imposed on applicants. The potential high cost for the sponsor and restrictions on fast food chains and take-away establishments largely discouraged potential UK employers from even considering applying for a sponsor licence to recruit for this role.

Requirements changed from 1st December 2020. The minimum skill level required for a skilled worker decreased from RQF Level 6 to RQF Level 3, meaning most chefs are now eligible to be sponsored – this change was the most important among others, including:

The restrictions on fast food outlets and standard fare outlets were lifted
There is no longer the need for a ‘resident labour market test’ – however, the UK employer still needs to show a genuine need to recruit overseas

What are the current eligibility requirements?

To accommodate the skill level reduction, a new occupation code has been provided in accordance with Appendix Skilled Occupations to include all the eligible chef jobs:

  • Chef
  • Chef-manager
  • Head chef
  • Pastry chef

Although most chefs will be eligible for a skilled worker visa, not all jobs in the kitchen are suitable. For example, cooks and kitchen and catering assistants are not eligible under the skilled worker route.

Under Appendix Skilled Worker, in addition to satisfying validity and suitability requirements, applicants (including chefs) must score 50 mandatory points for sponsorship, have a job at an appropriate skill level, and English language skills at level B1 or above. They must also score 20 tradeable points, primarily in relation to their salary level.

50 mandatory points

To score the 50 mandatory points, a chef must first obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an eligible Home Office licensed sponsor who holds a relevant sponsor licence.

Secondly, a chef must be sponsored for a job at an appropriate skill level – so they must not be a kitchen assistant but be sponsored as a chef. An important change is that the ‘resident labour market test’ has been abolished. This previously involved a UK employer advertising a job on different platforms for 28 days, and providing evidence from the screening and interview process which showed no ‘settled worker’ was suitable for the advertised role.

However, the sponsor is still required to show ‘a genuine need for the job’ and that ‘the applicant has the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described’. Home Office guidance further explains that if a sponsor ‘did not advertise the role, you must be able to explain how you recruited the worker’. Therefore, employers are advised to retain evidence from their recruitment processes.

To gain the final 10 points, chefs must show English language ability through the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all four components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) of at least level B1 (intermediate).

20 tradeable points

While points can be scored for age, switching from UK study, or for holding a PhD, the most common route for chefs is to claim points based on salary.

To be able to secure these 20 points, a chef must be paid at least £26,200 per year (or £10.75 per hour) based on a working week of up to 48 hours. If an applicant is under the age of 26, or has within the last two years graduated from a UK university, they can benefit from the ‘new entrant’ rate – only £20,960 per year or £10.75 per hour.

In addition to scoring the above mentioned 70 points, chefs who are applying for entry clearance from overseas, or applying for permission to stay but have not been in the UK for 12 months, will need to have sufficient funds to meet a maintenance requirement. Their sponsor, however, can certify that they will, if necessary, maintain and accommodate their sponsored worker up to the end of the first month of their employment (to at least £1,270).

Sponsoring a chef – for UK employers

There’s a lot to consider before an employer decides to go down the road of becoming a skilled worker sponsor. They need to demonstrate the ability to comply with sponsor licence duties, including keeping and maintaining records of their sponsored workers. The Home Office has traditionally scrutinised sponsor licence applications for restaurants quite closely, so it is important to be well-prepared when applying for a licence.

The expenses associated with a sponsor licence are individually reasonable, but do build up in the course of an application. A sponsor licence is £536 for a small company or £1,476 for a medium/large business; a CoS costs £239 and an Immigration Skills Charge is usually payable for each overseas worker.

Our sponsor licence guidance is dedicated to guide sponsors through every step from applying for a sponsor licence to maintaining and renewing their sponsor licence. We also help sponsors prepare for Home Office compliance visits.

How we can help

Ready to work your magic? Whether you are looking to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant in the UK, or want to start your career at a burger restaurant, you could be contributing to the UK’s economy. With a skilled worker visa, you could also look forward to settling in the UK and being joined by your partner and children under 18.

If you would like to learn more about how Latitude Law can help you then call our team on 0044 161 234 680 or 0044 207 046 7185.

Why choose Latitude Law?  

Our experienced solicitors have assisted clients with some of the most complex issues that can arise from work visa applications, extensions and switching into other categories. 

We have one of the largest immigration teams outside London and work tirelessly to ensure all of the necessary steps are completed to the highest standard. We are recognised as leaders in our field by Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500.

FAQs about UK chef visa application requirements

How long does it take to secure skilled worker visa?

Applicants are able to apply for a skilled worker visa at least three months before the day they are allowed to start work in the UK. The date of application will be referenced in the Certificate of Sponsorship. The application will need to be supported by relevant documents, such as proof of identity.

Responses to visa applications usually take three weeks if they are made outside of the UK and eight weeks if you are present in the UK at the time of the application. Your supporting documents must be in order to ensure your application is kept on time.

How long does a skilled worker visa last?

Applicants seeking an eligible job in the UK as a chef under a skilled worker visa are allowed to stay in the country for a maximum of five years. If you wish to extend the duration of your visa, you must apply to extend or update your work permit after its expiry or if there is a change in job or employer.

After five years in the UK, applicants are able to apply to settle permanently in the country after fulfilling eligibility criteria. Permanent residency in the UK or indefinite leave to remain gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, as well as provides access to benefits.

What documents are required for a skilled worker visa?

The following documents are required at the time for applying for a UK skilled worker visa:

  • A valid passport or other document that proves your nationality and identity
  • A Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
  • Proof of knowledge of the English language
  • Your job offer and the occupation code
  • Your annual salary
  • Name of the approved employer
  • The sponsor licence number of the approved employer

Can you bring dependants on the skilled worker visa?

Yes, you have the right to bring dependants with you to the UK. This can include your spouse or long-term partner and children aged below 18.

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All content on this page was reviewed by Latitude Law and is accurate as of 11/10/2022