Although it’s true the UK Skilled Worker Visa can only be used for certain types of jobs that require high levels of training, it’s not as limited as some people think. In fact, hospitality managers, chefs, and other service industry jobs currently qualify for the visa. In this guide, we’ll explore the UK labor market and the opportunities and challenges it presents especially for hospitality workers. We’ll also delve into the details of the UK Skilled Worker Visa and its requirements.
Understanding the Dynamics of the UK Labor Market
Hospitality plays a key role in the UK’s diverse labor market and is responsible for employing millions of people and contributing significantly to the economy.
Unfortunately, the hospitality industry is currently having a hard time finding and retaining qualified workers. There are two main factors to blame for this. The first is the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed. With social distancing guidelines in place and people forced to stay home, restaurants — in the UK and beyond — had no choice but to close to keep both their employees and customers safe.
In fact, according to national Statistics, restaurant and pub sales dropped 80% in April 2020 compared to the same month the year prior. The industry has not fully bounced back, with many restaurants unable to recover and having to close their doors for good.
The restaurant sector wasn't the only area of hospitality and tourism to feel the lasting effects of the pandemic. With border closures in full effect, travel also experienced a slowdown, as government statistics show the UK hotel industry experienced a 90% drop in revenue in April 2020 compared to the year before. What's more, there was a staggering 98% drop in air travel, with monthly air passenger arrivals to the UK falling from 6,804,900 in February 2020 to 112,300 in April 2020.
The pandemic wasn't the only curveball the industry has had to deal with in recent years. Brexit has led to labor shortages in the UK hospitality industry, as many businesses relied on workers from other EU countries. In fact, figures from 2019 show that around 700,000 UK hospitality workers were from other EU countries — or, about 15% of the workforce.
The end of freedom of movement and the new immigration system has made it more difficult and expensive for EU citizens to work in the UK. EU workers must now meet certain requirements to obtain a visa to work in the UK.
To offer additional support to the industry in the wake of these challenges, the government includes hospitality workers in the Skilled Worker Visa category — and even offers tax breaks for employers that offer these jobs to immigrants. This talent relocation can help you expand your pool of candidates.
What Is the UK Skilled Worker Visa?
The UK Skilled Worker Visa allows foreign nationals with specific skills and experience to work in the United Kingdom for up to five years. The visa is intended to attract highly skilled workers to fill shortages in certain sectors of the UK labor market, including hospitality.
While some hospitality and blue-collar jobs may not traditionally be viewed as highly skilled, they can require a significant level of expertise, such as in culinary arts, hotel management, and event planning. Additionally, many hospitality and blue-collar jobs are considered to be in-demand in the UK, which means that they may be on the shortage occupation list, making it easier for applicants to meet the visa requirements.
Ultimately, the Skilled Worker Visa system is intended to be flexible and adaptable, allowing for a wide range of workers to come to the UK to fill critical roles and contribute to the country's economy.
Who Qualifies for the UK Skilled Worker Visa?
To be eligible for a UK Skilled Worker Visa, foreign nationals must attain 70 points by meeting specific requirements, including:
- Mandatory: Job offer from a UK employer (20 points): The job offer must meet the relevant skill level and salary requirements, including a minimum salary threshold of £25,600 per year, £10.10 per hour, or the “going rate” for that occupation, whichever is higher. The salary levels have different point values.
- Tradeable: Higher salary (10 points:) Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)
- Mandatory: English language requirements (10 points): Pass an approved English language test or have a degree from a program taught in English. Applicants from Anglophone countries, including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, are exempt from the English language requirement.
- Tradeable: Job in an occupation experiencing a shortage (20 points): As designated by the Migration Advisory Committee.
- Tradeable: Education qualification (10 points): Ph.D. in a subject relevant to the job.
- Mandatory: Maintenance funds (10 points): Prove they have the means to support themselves while living in the UK.
Applicants must show proof that they are capable of financially supporting themselves during their stay in the UK because they will not have access to public funds or benefits.
What Jobs Qualify for the UK Skilled Worker Visa?
While job titles such as engineer, doctor, or IT engineer may come to mind when you think of a skilled worker visa, this visa can be used for a variety of professions. Some lesser-known job titles that qualify for the UK Skilled Worker Visa include:
- Production managers and directors in construction
- Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture
- Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors, including caravan park owners, hotel managers, and landladies (boarding, guest, lodging house)
- Restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors, including café owners, fish & chip shopkeepers, operations managers (catering), restaurant managers, and shop managers (takeaway food shop)
- Publicans and managers of licensed premises
- Leisure and sports managers, including amusement arcade owners, leisure center managers, social club managers, and theater managers
- Travel agency managers and proprietors
- Hairdressing and beauty salon managers and proprietors
- Conference and exhibition managers and organizers, including conference coordinators, event organizers, events managers, exhibition organizers, and hospitality managers
- Dance choreographers
- Landscape architect
- Garden designer
If you don't see an exact match for the role you are trying to fill on the list, consider tweaking job titles so they are eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa. For example, change “cook” to “chef," "lawn mower" to "landscape architect," and "gardener" to "garden designer."
What Steps Should Employers Take to Sponsor a UK Skilled Worker Visa?
- Obtain a Sponsor License: The first step is to apply for and obtain a Sponsor License from the Home Office. This license allows you to legally employ foreign workers and sponsor their visa applications.
- Confirm your job is eligible: Next, you must ensure your job meets the requirements for a Skilled Worker Visa.
- Apply online and pay the fee: The fee varies based on the type of license that you need to obtain.
- Stay up to three years: £610
- Stay more than three years: £1,200
- Job on the Shortage Occupation List (up to three years): £464
- Job on the Shortage Occupation List (more than three years): £928
Issue a certificate of sponsorship: You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ. Once the certificate is assigned, the worker has to apply for a visa within three months.
Sponsorship duties: Once the worker applies for a visa, they’ll be required to provide documentation to support their application, including proof of their qualifications, work experience, and finances. As a sponsor, you must keep records of their employment and report any changes in circumstances to the Home Office.
The Home Office uses the job’s Standard Occupational Code (SOC) to assess whether a job is eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa route. That’s why it’s critically important that you choose the correct code when submitting the visa application. If you choose the wrong classification code on your certificate of sponsorship, the visa application will be denied.
Localyze Can Help
As the UK labor market experiences labor shortages, particularly in the hospitality and service industry, UK Skilled Worker Visas are emerging as an essential tool to help businesses overcome these shortages. But obtaining these visas is not always a walk in the park. Localyze offers a one-stop shop for international employee mobility, staying up-to-date with the most recent rules, form updates, and other nuances of visas and immigration processes, so you don’t have to. To learn more about how Localyze can help with your Skilled Worker Visa and other immigration needs, book a demo today.