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Many hospitality jobs that require a significant level of expertise—such as jobs in the culinary arts, hotel management, or event planning—are in high demand across the UK today. In fact, demand for hospitality workers in the United Kingdom has gone up by 46% compared to pre-pandemic levels, with many employers struggling to fill roles. Odds are that if you’re reading this, you already know this and are planning to get your Sponsor Licence and welcome new team members with the Skilled Worker Visa.
The landscape of skilled migration is still a world away from where it should be—it's taking some business leaders months to muddle through the bureaucracy and burden of relocating new employees. To make this somewhat complex process a bit more manageable for you, here’s our guide to the Skilled Worker Visa and how applying for it works for you as an employer in the hospitality industry.
The Skilled Worker Visa: What it is and who it’s for
The Skilled Worker Visa, which has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa, allows foreign nationals with specific skills and experience to work in the United Kingdom for up to five years. The term “skilled worker” is extremely broad and ambiguous, so anyone could be forgiven for not intuitively knowing which roles fit under it.
Which hospitality positions qualify for the UK Skilled Worker Visa?
Some hospitality-related job titles that qualify for the UK Skilled Worker Visa include:
- Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors (including titles like caravan park owner, hotel manager, landlady);
- Restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors (café owner, fish & chip shopkeeper, catering operations manager, restaurant manager, take-away food shop manager);
- Publicans and managers of licensed premises (landlady, licensee, wine bar manager, publican);
- Leisure and sports managers (amusement arcade owner, leisure centre manager, social club manager, theatre manager);
- Travel agency managers and proprietors (tourist information manager, travel agency owner, travel manager);
- Conference and exhibition managers and organisers (conference coordinator, event organiser, events manager, exhibition organiser, hospitality manager).
So if you’re looking to fill any of these roles, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do it via the Skilled Worker Visa route.
Your Sponsor Licence: What it is and how to get one
As the sponsoring employer, you’ll need a valid Sponsor License to be able to hire workers on the basis of the Skilled Worker Visa. To get your Sponsor License, you have to prove you are a legitimate business, nominate an individual to be your key contact with the Home Office, and provide some details of your HR systems and processes. The application process itself happens online and shouldn’t take more than half an hour.
- Check if your business is eligible for a Sponsor Licence. To pass this section, you can’t have criminal convictions for immigration offences or other crimes like fraud or money laundering. You also can’t apply if you’ve had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months. You’ll need to show that you have systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and people to manage sponsorship in your business.
- Check if your job is suitable for sponsorship. Each role has a four-digit Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code. To determine if the job you’re offering is eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa, identify the right SOC code for the role with the ONS occupation coding tool. The job description on the list should match the position being filled. Once you know the code, cross-reference it with the list of jobs to make sure it’s eligible for the Skilled Worker route. The Home Office can refuse any visa application filed with the wrong SOC code, so make sure you have the right code, to minimise delays and problems in the visa process.
- Choose the type of licence you want to apply for.
- Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business.
- Apply online and pay the fee.
After applying for your Sponsor Licence
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may visit you once you’ve applied, to make sure everything is in order. If your application is successful, you’ll get a licence rating and will be able to issue certificates of sponsorship. The licence will be valid for 4 years, but you may lose it if at any point you do not meet your responsibilities as a sponsor. With a Sponsor Licence, you'll have access to a wider talent pool and more opportunities for growth—you’re ready to sponsor a skilled worker, assuming that they already have a job offer from you and meet the eligibility criteria for the Skilled Worker Visa. The job offer needs to be at or above the minimum skill level of RQF Level 3 (equivalent to A-Level).
You must also pay the skilled worker the minimum salary for the job role. The minimum salary for the Skilled Worker Visa is currently set at £26,200 per year, although some exemptions apply for certain roles and sectors.
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. It’s your responsibility as the sponsor to keep records of their employment and report any changes to the Home Office.
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