Statement of changes - Tier 2 skilled workers - chefs

30 September 2019

Tier 2 skilled worker visas - or "work permits" as they used to be known under the older nomenclature - are potentially available for those from outside the EEA with high qualification levels and/or experience at high levels who have been sponsored by a British employer.

The Tier 2 scheme has become in many ways a lot stricter over the last few years. The definition of "skilled job" has changed considerably: a lot of jobs that were previously deemed to be skilled are no longer deemed to be sufficiently skilled to qualify for Tier 2. The Home Office publishes a list of suitable jobs, which in recent times has somewhat shrunk.

A look at the jobs listed shows that a lot of them are what you might call "white-collar" jobs, but there are various intermediate types such as health professionals and engineers. And here and there (see below) there are a few that have more of a "blue-collar" character.

The overarching idea behind the scheme is that British employers will only employ foreign skilled workers if they cannot find anybody suitable in the indigenous workforce in the UK. Thus in many cases the employer is required to advertise the position before employing a Tier 2 migrant to fill it.

And there is another list of jobs: the list of "shortage occupations". This is a list of jobs which could qualify for Tier 2 visas with which the Home Office believes there are significant recruitment problems, ie employers are experiencing real difficulties in finding the right people. It is easier to sponsor a Tier 2 migrant in a shortage occupation job: the position does not need to be advertised, and the rules about minimum salary levels , if and when the migrant applies for settlement, are less strict.

This list contains a mixed bag of jobs, including a few interesting ones such as specialist welders, overhead lines workers, dancers, and chefs. Chefs are an interesting case. Eating is quite a popular hobby and of course there are many different types of cuisine, which all require experienced specialist chefs. Not surprisingly perhaps, chef has been a shortage occupation for years.

But what is a chef? How does someone who cooks hamburgers all day in a takeaway compare with someone who cooks a variety of foods in an expensive French restaurant? Clearly, there are differences. Well, the relevant Home Office rules tell us that the job must "require" at least five years’ experience. This, we suppose, is a clue. Although generally practice makes perfect it probably does not require five years’ experience to learn how to cook hamburgers.

The rules delve a bit more deeply into this area: the food establishment must not be "either a fast food outlet, a standard fare outlet, or an establishment which provides a take-away service". The Home Office has kindly provided a detailed definition of "standard fare":

"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."

So now we know, and probably fair enough. If you have ever eaten a meal in, for example, a pub which is part of a large chain you will know exactly what this means.

But anyone who has worked in the restaurant trade may be aware that things are not always so clear-cut. Some Chinese restaurants, for example, are "proper" restaurant establishments with large seating areas, and provide high-quality freshly-prepared food from a large menu. A chef in such an establishment would no doubt require at least five years’ experience. But as soon as such an establishment provides a takeaway service (which might be a good commercial option) it is doomed as far as Tier 2 is concerned. This does not seem fair or logical.

But the good news is that, in its latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, the Home Office has removed the words about takeaway service from the chef rules, and this requirement will no longer exist from 6 October. This is going to make life a bit easier for restaurants of the above-mentioned type, which will now be able to incorporate a takeaway service and still be potentially able to employ Tier 2 migrant chefs.

The rules and requirements about skilled jobs and shortage occupations are quite complex. If you are or if you aspire to be Tier 2 licence holder you might want to instruct a good lawyer for advice about this.

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