Skilled Tier 2 chefs

When is a job “skilled” and when is it not? And more specifically when is a chef “skilled” and when are they not?


These interesting questions may come to mind for restaurant or hotel owners who cannot easily find sufficiently skilled chefs to cook their food. In some cases they would like to take advantage of the Tier 2 sponsorship scheme to sponsor chefs so that they can come to the UK and work for them. Chefs from outside the EEA who have sufficient skills may be eligible for sponsorship and can thus apply for Tier 2 skilled worker visas.


The Home Office recognises the fact that restaurants are in many cases struggling to recruit the chefs they need. They have thus designated skilled chef as a shortage occupation under Tier 2 rules, which makes the recruitment process easier.


The Home Office are admirably non-discriminatory about this: chefs who specialise in any national cuisine may be eligible for Tier 2 visas if they meet the relevant requirements.


Well, in theory at any rate, but does this include English cuisine? This subject provides scope for a lot of jokes. As far as we can work out there are hardly any English restaurants. Probably what a lot of people call “English food” might more accurately be described as “standard fare”. This is a rather derogatory expression which can easily be illustrated.


You might go to a pub in London which is a part of large chain and have a meal, which may be nice enough. And then subsequently you go to a pub in Bolton, Birmingham or Brighton which belongs to the same chain and you find exactly the same meal on exactly the same menu. This of course is something quite different from the “gastropub” phenomenon, which is an entirely different kettle of fish (no pun intended).


The Home Office rules state that a standard fare restaurant (or for that matter a fast food outlet) cannot qualify for Tier 2 chefs. They deem – and in all fairness, appropriately – that chefs who specialise in this kind of cooking are not intrinsically sufficiently skilled for qualify for Tier 2 skilled worker visas. Another rule which the Home Office has is that the chef job must require at least five years’ experience, and this tells us a lot: if a job requires five years of experience to do it well then it must be a difficult one.


So far fair enough but the Home Office has – or at any rate had – another rule which was not so obviously fair. If a restaurant is an establishment which provides a take-away service” then it does not qualify either.


This is not quite a straightforward area. Think of Chinese restaurants. They cook delicious food – well, a lot of them do  – from a wide range of fresh ingredients. It is a well-known fact that Chinese cuisines are some of the most extensive in the world. A good Chinese chef would undoubtedly require five years’ experience to get good. If a Chinese restaurant provides a takeaway service (as many of them do) does it really mean that the food is basic or unsophisticated?


Well, not obviously so, and the Home Office has now seen the error of its ways. In the latest statement of changes to the immigration rules the words about takeaway services have been removed. So this means that restaurants (Chinese or otherwise) which provide a takeaway service will now be potentially eligible for Tier 2 chefs; this change took effect on 6 October 2019.


If you are a restaurant or hotel owner and you are interested in employing skilled chefs we at RSL-LAW can advise you about the requirements for Tier 2 workers.