It is a well known fact that businesses across the UK are struggling to find the appropriate talent in order to sustain and grow their hospitality businesses.  It is probably not an exaggeration to say that there is a staffing crisis in many sectors of the UK economy and one of the sectors which is facing an acute shortage of the required talent is the hospitality sector. Following Brexit, there has been a lot of media coverage of many European Union (EU) professionals leaving the UK and this has had a massive detrimental impact upon businesses seeking to survive, let alone thrive.

It is however important to be aware that under the Home Office’s current Points Based System (PBS), there is a route to sponsor workers into the UK and this route called the Skilled Worker route is the main route which businesses use to sponsor workers into the UK.

The Background

In December 2020, the Home Office abolished the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and therefore, there is no mandatory requirement for a business to advertise a position before it seeks to sponsor a migrant worker from outside the UK.

The Skilled Worker Visa

With a Skilled Worker visa, a migrant is able to come to the UK in order to undertake a job recognised by the Home Office with an employer who is in possession of a Home Office Sponsor Licence.  The migrant, subject to their sponsorship, can be granted a Skilled Worker visa for up to 5 years after which time they will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain i.e. settlement.  They can also enter the UK along with their spouse / partner along with any dependent children under the age of 18 subject to meeting all of the Immigration Rules.

Undertaking an Eligible Job

In December 2020, the Home Office reduced the Skilled Worker threshold from RQF Level 6 (Graduate level) to RQF Level 3 (A level or equivalent).  What with the lowering of the skills threshold, many more jobs are now eligible for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route than before.

Appropriate Salary

The Skilled Worker migrant will need to be paid a gross salary of at least £26,500.00 per annum, £10.10 per hour or the “going rate” for the job (whichever is higher) and the Home Office have detailed and prescriptive guidance about this.

Roles which can be Sponsored under the Skilled Worker category

There are many eligible occupations but for the hospitality sector in particular, the following roles are particularly relevant:-

  1. Restaurant and Catering Establishment Managers and Proprietors
  2. Hotel and Accommodation Managers and Proprietors
  3. Chefs including Chef Managers, Head Chefs and Pastry Chefs
  4. Catering and Bar Managers including a Restaurant Floor Manager and Kitchen Manager
  5. Hospitality Manager

If the role which you are looking to sponsor is eligible within the Skilled Worker regime, then the next step is to discuss how a business is able to sponsor that migrant to come to the UK and work.

The steps involved include the following:-

  1. Applying for a Home Office Sponsor Licence – the business must be in possession of a Home Office Sponsor Licence and this includes completing an online application, providing documents confirming the business has a trading presence in the UK and also providing responses to mandatory questions set by the Home Office. Prior to making a decision upon the application, the Home Office may wish to conduct a Compliance Visit at the business premises, one of the reasons could be to ensure that the business has robust HR Systems in place in order to be able to effectively operate a Sponsor Licence, if it were to be issued with one.
  2. The fee for a licence depends upon whether the business is classed as a small sponsor or a medium / large sponsor. The fee for former is £536.00 and the fee for the latter is £1,476.00.  In terms of timescales, a standard application can take up to 8 weeks to be determined but there is a limited fast track service available which can lead to a decision within 10 business days upon payment of an additional fee of £500.00.

Certificate of Sponsorship

Once the Sponsor Licence application has been approved, it will be valid for an initial period of 4 years.  The Sponsor Licence will not be specific to a particular migrant but if the business is looking to sponsor a particular migrant, then the next step will be to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the migrant via a secure portal called the Sponsor Management System (SMS).  At this stage, the business can decide how long it would like the initial sponsorship to be for i.e. 1 to 5 years.  The fee to assign a CoS is £199.00 and at the same time, the business is also required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge which is £364.00 per year for a small sponsor and or £1,000.00 for a medium / large sponsor per year.

The Home Office definition of whether a business is a small sponsor is if at least two of the following apply:

  1. The businesses annual turnover is £10.2million or less
  2. Its total assets are worth £5.1million or less
  3. It has 50 employees or fewer

The Visa Application

Once the CoS has been assigned, the process is different for migrants who are already in the UK possibly working for another licensed sponsor and who wish to change employers or whether the migrant is outside the UK.  In either case, the migrant will be required to complete an online visa application.

For migrants outside the UK, in most countries, they are able to pay a priority fee in order to have their visa application dealt with quickly and usually within about 2 – 3 weeks.  If they are already in the UK, then again, upon payment of a priority fee, they can have their immigration application dealt with within about 2 – 4 weeks.  If priority services are to used, then additional payments have to be made but for a standard application made outside the UK for a visa of up to 3 years, the visa fee is £625.00 and for a visa over 3 years the fee is £1,235.00.  For applications made within the UK, the fee for a permit of up to 3 years is £719.00 and the fee for a permit of over 3 years is £1,423.00.  These fees are for standard processing.

Practical Considerations

We come across many businesses which do not have particular migrants they wish to sponsor but do wish to be in possession of a Home Office Sponsor Licence should suitable candidates be found.  Alternatively, we are instructed by many businesses who have already identified a migrant they wish to sponsor and they wish to go through the Sponsor Licence process as quickly as possible.  As noted above however, there is always a lead in time and this needs to be factored into the recruitment process and planning ahead therefore can be key.

For advice on any sponsorship related enquiry, please do not hesitate to contact Sohan Sidhu.


The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only.  You should not act upon the information provided without obtaining specific professional advice and Ellisons Solicitors accepts no responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of acting on information contained in this article.