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UK Chef Visa Sponsorship Requirements for Restaurants

The UK Chef visa enables skilled overseas chefs to come to the UK to work either on a long-term or on a short-term basis in a hospitality business in the UK. As a hospitality business based in the UK (e.g. a restaurant or hotel), you may be able to recruit skilled chefs from other countries to work in the UK on a long-term Skilled Worker visa. This will depend on the type of chef you need to hire and whether your business meets the eligibility requirements for a sponsor licence. In addition to the long-term Skilled Worker visa route, overseas chefs can also work in the UK on a temporary worker visa or a Paid Permitted Engagement visa where they will be working in a short-term job (e.g. to work at a ‘pop-up’ restaurant or for a short residency at a Michelin restaurant).

Chef sponsorship visa requirements for UK business

Before bringing overseas workers to the UK to work in your hospitality business, you will need to apply for and be granted a UK sponsorship licence from the Home Office. Without a sponsor licence, you will not have the permission you need to hire overseas workers. To secure a sponsor licence, you will need to fulfil a number of eligibility requirements; specifically, you will need to demonstrate to the Home Office (UK Visas and Immigration – UKVI) that:

  • Your business is lawfully trading and based in the UK
  • Your business has the necessary systems and processes in place to manage and monitor your sponsored workers and prevent illegal working in the UK
  • Your business has genuine vacancies for eligible roles
  • You do not have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration-related offences or other crimes (e.g. fraud or money laundering)
  • You have not had a sponsor licence revoked (i.e. cancelled by UKVI) in the last 12 months
  • Your business does not pose a threat to immigration control

UK Chef visa requirements for the applicant

Under the Skilled Worker visa, any overseas member of staff you wish to recruit to work in the UK must have a job on the list of eligible occupations1. This provides a list of permitted roles and the ‘standard occupation code’ (SOC code). For chefs specifically, the SOC code is 5434, which covers the permitted roles of:

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

Other hospitality roles are also included within the list of eligible occupations, including catering and bar managers (SOC code 5436).

Once your hospitality business has been granted a sponsor licence by UKVI and you have offered a job to an overseas chef, they will then need to apply for a Skilled Worker visa before they can come to the UK. The eligibility criteria for a chef Skilled Worker visa require that applicant:

  • Have an eligible job (as per the list of eligible roles above)
  • Meet the minimum salary requirements – this is £25,600 per annum, £10.10 per hour, or the ‘going rate’2 for the occupation – whichever is the higher amount. For chefs, the going rate is £18,900 (£9.32 per hour). It may be possible for an overseas chef to be paid less than the normal amount if they qualify as a ‘new entrant’. They may be classed as a new entrant if they are under the age of 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training. If they do qualify as a new entrant, they will require a salary of at least £20,480 per annum based on a 39-hour work week.
  • Meet the English language requirement (pass an approved English language test at level B1 or above, come from an eligible English-speaking country, or have a degree or higher taught in English).
  • Have at least £1,270 in savings to support themselves while in the UK.

How to apply for a UK chef visa

As a hospitality business in the UK with the aim of hiring overseas chefs, there are two main application stages you will need to complete; 1) apply for a sponsor licence and 2) apply for a UK chef visa.

Stage 1: Apply for a sponsor licence

  1. Put in place the necessary HR systems and processes to manage your sponsored workers
  2. Complete and submit a sponsor licence application form3, and
  3. Pay the sponsor licence fee of £536 or £1,476, depending on the size and type of your business

As part of the application process for a sponsor licence, your hospitality premises may be visited by a UKVI compliance officer who will carry out a pre-licence compliance visit. This is to check that your hospitality business is ready to meet its sponsor licence duties (i.e. recording, monitoring, and reporting).

Applications for sponsor licences normally take up to 8 weeks, assuming that UKVI is satisfied that you meet all of their requirements. It is also possible to pay an extra fee of £500 for a fast-tracked priority decision within 10 working days.

Stage 2: Apply for a UK Chef visa (Skilled Worker visa)

Before your new chef can apply for a visa, you will need to issue them with a Certificate of Sponsorship (UK CoS) using the Home Office’s online sponsor management system (SMS). Once they have the CoS, they will need to:

  1. Complete and submit a Skilled Worker visa application quoting the CoS reference number you have provided
  2. Pay the application fee of £625 to £1,423, depending on their circumstances
  3. Pay the immigration health surcharge (provides access to the NHS) of £624 per year
  4. Book and attend an appointment at a visa application centre (VAC) to have their fingerprints scanned and a photo taken (their biometrics), and
  5. Upload any documents requested by UKVI

Skilled Worker / long-term chef visas can take up to 3 weeks if the application is submitted from outside the UK or 8 weeks if submitted from inside the UK.

If your new chef’s visa is granted, they will be permitted to stay in the UK for up 5 years, at which point they can apply for permanent settlement and citizenship 1 year later.

How can Reiss Edwards help?

Reiss Edwards specialises in all aspects of sponsor licences and work visas for hospitality businesses of all types and scales. Our immigration solicitors can:

  • Handle your sponsor licence application and any queries raised by UKVI on your behalf
  • Deal with the refusal, downgrading, suspension, or a revoked sponsor licence
  • Handle all Skilled Worker visa and temporary worker visa applications on behalf of your sponsored hospitality staff
  • Prepare and submit visa applications for the dependant family members of your sponsored workers

For assistance with applying for a sponsor licence and work visas for your sponsored hospitality workers, please speak to our business immigration team for a free telephone consultation at 020 3744 2797 or by email at


1 GOV.UK: Eligible occupations and codes

2 GOV.UK: Going rates for eligible occupations

3 GOV.UK: Online application form

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