Immigration Special – 15th February 2023

By Steve Williams

The long term challenges of employing international workers into the UK Hospitality industry

HR in Hospitality event Blog: Esther O’Halloran, Chair HR in Hospitality, 15 February 2023

Big thank you to Caterer.com for hosting us today in their amazing space in the Blue Fin building and Chris & Peter from Boyes Turner who provided us with great insight into Immigration visa changes.

General immigration update: Home Office are trying to reset themselves, after a very challenging year which has impacted the sponsorship system and they are facing a high level of demand. In the audience today around 40% already had work route sponsor licences, which have remained in high demand. There is trend in less and less suspensions and licences being revoked due to lack of follow up within the Home Office around Compliance visits. Reform with the way the sponsor management system works is expected along with changes to salary thresholds but not a huge change. Of course there are some exemptions with multi-national organisations so for example if you have a French citizen working for you in Paris and they come to your property in the UK there is an exemption from the Immigration Skills Charge, therefore saving you c£1000.

Upcoming ETA’s (electronic travel authorisations) will be introduced widely across EU so remember this if you are moving staff around the EU.

Wild card?

  • Further concessions on costs? Treasury have opened a Pandora box with cuts to the fees, keep an eye on the .Gov.UK website for changes.
  • Divergence of rhetoric and policy? The government will stress austerity is slightly returning and therefore taxes need to be high but there is an understanding with Ministers that current immigration policy needs to change in terms of access to labour.
  • Youth Mobility Schema expanded to the EU? This is effectively a working holiday visa for under 30’s you can come to the UK and work freely for 2 years there is a suggestion this may be expanded to some EU countries.
  • Operational shocks: The war in Ukraine knocks government processes off course so has a knock on effect in delaying visa applications.

Changes to the immigration system post Brexit: The same rules apply for every country the only exemption is Ireland. No more freedom of movement for EU nationals but you do not need to advertise roles in the way we were required before so sponsorship can be offered on a wider variety of roles. Physical vis are in the process of being phased out with a big move to digital records that tie in with the online work rules. Skilled Worker Category; there are changes around the general salary threshold so if doing a new entrant rate this will last for 4 years before they move to the general threshold. There are minimal changes to the Global Business Mobility Category  rules. Categories that don’t require sponsorship; Graduate visa category is the most common that does not require sponsorship. UK Ancestry route means that they only need to have one grandparent that was born in the UK. A niche visa is the Hong Kong due to past connections with no salary or visa restrictions. Youth Mobility Scheme also is a great route for people to come and work without the need for sponsorship and great for Canada, Australia etc if you have connections with these countries can be a great way to flow labour in.

What roles can you sponsor in the hospitality industry?

  • Chefs = Yes (all positions in the kitchen above Commis Chef), Cooks = No!
  • Manager/AM across business = Yes, Waiting/Bar staff = No
  • Greenkeepers Yes, but Housekeepers = No
  • Massage Spa therapists = Yes but Beauty Therapists (nail technicians) = No
  • Marketing/ Accounts/HR = Yes, but weirdly Sommeliers = No

The visa fees structure: Out of country and in country application costs are roughly the same. There are a number of different ways you can manage the fees which can range from £199 for a certificate of sponsorship to £1000 for the Immigrations Skills Charge. Fees will vary depending on your classification and size as a business. There are different ways you can manage the fees the key things as an employer you have to take on the cost of ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ and the ‘Immigration Skills Charge’ you cannot pass these costs on to candidates. Costs you might pass are the ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’, ‘Visa Application Fee’ and any legal fees you might want to pass on. Candidates are generally happy to pay for these costs ad they get the option after 5 years to remain. It is also possible to claw back or recover some of the costs if they leave early.

Hospitality internships: This initiative is looking to apply for sponsorship under the UK Exchange Scheme to allow UKHospitality to obtain a licence to sponsor student in the UK (there is currently no visa facility to bring interns to the UK who are studying at key catering school in the EU).  UKH will then be in a place to issue sponsorship to UK hospitality businesses for intern roles. This will enable businesses to spot future talent after their year placement. This is expected to go through government soon (late Spring), it will initially be limited to 1000 interns in the first year and build on the numbers gradually.