What is a Restaurant Sponsor Licence?
A restaurant sponsor licence refers to the permission granted to a restaurant or hospitality business to recruit and hire foreign chefs, staff, and other hospitality workers to meet their workforce needs. Currently, overseas workers (including EEA nationals who were not in the country before 1st January 2021) can’t be employed in the hospitality business without a Home Office sponsor licence.
Therefore, to comply with the latest UK immigration rules, restaurant owners need to apply for and obtain a sponsorship licence if they want to hire anyone on a Skilled Worker visa (which has now replaced the Tier 2 General visa). A licence is not required for workers holding settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme.
Below is a step-by-step guide to applying for a sponsor licence for your restaurant. We have outlined the key requirements for obtaining one, all the documents you need, typical costs and common mistakes to avoid when filling out a restaurant sponsor licence application.
Sponsorship Licence Requirements in the UK
To be eligible, your restaurant must be a genuine, registered business operating in the UK and show a legitimate need for hiring overseas workers. You should also demonstrate the ability to meet the financial obligations associated with sponsoring employees, have appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and appoint specific people to manage the sponsorship process. You cannot have unspent criminal convictions (fraud or money laundering are amongst them) or have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.
In the past, restaurant owners had to demonstrate that no settled worker met the job requirements through a resident labour market test, which involved advertising and a recruitment exercise. While this is not required anymore, and hiring chefs or hospitality workers from outside the UK is now easier, the Home Office may still expect you to have advertised the position or provide a valid reason for why you didn’t do so.
How to Apply for a Sponsor Licence for Your Restaurant
- Register on the Gov.uk website. Complete the sponsor licence application form, providing all requested information.
- Pay the application fee. The amount will vary depending on the working licence you need (standard or temporary worker licence) and the size and nature of your restaurant. For example, a standard worker licence in small companies is £536, whilst for large companies it is £1,476. The size of the company is determined by your annual turnover, the number of your employees and your total asset value.
- Submit the application. You will then be required to send in the submission sheet at the end of the application together with your supporting documents. In most cases, at least four documents are required. Note that as a restaurant, you must be registered with your local authority; alternatively, your rating must be published on the Scores on the Doors website. Typically, limited companies will need to submit a VAT certificate, corporate bank statement, franchise agreement, employer’s liability insurance certificate, or a signed lease agreement. You have five working days to upload all the required documentation.
If your application was successful, you will receive a licence rating and your business will be included in the Register of Licensed Sponsors (previously known as the Tier 2 sponsor licence list). You will then be able to issue certificates of sponsorship and employ individuals from overseas (each certificate is priced at £199). In addition, to maintain your licence, you must pay the Immigration Skills Charge, which varies according to the size of the business (£364 per year per skilled employee for small companies, £1,000 per year for larger ones).
Keep also in mind that becoming a sponsor licence holder comes with its own responsibilities, so UKVI may visit your business to ensure that you are adhering to your duties and that you meet eligibility criteria.
Common Mistakes to Avoid During the Application Process
Have you applied for a sponsor licence and had your application rejected? As frustrating as it may sound, this can happen. To avoid losing your money on application fees and wasting valuable time, pay attention to these common mistakes during the process:
- Not providing enough evidence for the need for your sponsor licence. In this case, the Home Office does not consider that the business is able to offer genuine employment.
- Not supplying the mandatory documents to support your application within the required five-working-day timeframe.
- Not showing the Home Office that your business can comply with your obligations ((e.g. having the appropriate systems in place to monitor your staff and prevent illegal immigration), and therefore failing an audit.
All these circumstances may lead to an application refusal from the Home Office. In this case, you can request a review if you believe that there was an error made by the caseworker or your supporting documents were not fully considered. However, a review cannot be requested solely based on a disagreement with the decision itself.
The Benefits of Hiring Sponsorship Licence Lawyers for Your Restaurant
While applying for sponsor licences for the hospitality industry may appear relatively straightforward at first, it’s important to be mindful of the above-mentioned potential mistakes that can occur, which could result in the refusal of your application. For additional sponsor licence guidance and extra peace of mind, it may be beneficial for some hospitality businesses to hire knowledgeable immigration lawyers.
At IAS, our team will assist you with applying for a sponsor licence for your restaurant and obtaining a certificate of sponsorship. Our immigration lawyers are also available to provide guidance and support with any questions you might have about the skilled worker sponsor licence, any other visa applications and related issues. Contact us online or via phone at 0333 305 9375 for comprehensive support in navigating these areas.
Restaurant owners can hire skilled workers for different roles, as long as these are in accordance with the Standardised Occupation Codes (SOC). Key qualifying roles within the hospitality may include some of the following:
- Chefs (head chef, chef-manager, pastry chef)
- Both catering and bar managers (including floor managers for restaurants or stewards for clubs)
- Hotel managers
- Restaurant managers
Each position corresponds to a specific SOC Code, so make sure that the job description, actual responsibilities, and salary align with that. To be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, the role must meet or surpass the minimum salary threshold for that position.
UK Chef Visa Requirements for the Applicants
Once you have obtained a sponsor licence, you can offer a job to overseas workers. However, keep in mind that only applicants that meet specific criteria can be employed in your restaurant under the Skilled Worker route. The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- They must have an eligible job. Check the above list for general reference but keep in mind that not all jobs are eligible even if similar, e.g. cook vs chef. Here is the full list.
- They must meet the minimum salary requirements for the specific job they will be undertaking. This is determined by the highest amount among the following options:
- £26,200 per year
- £10.75 per hour
- The prevailing going rate for the particular type of work you will be engaged in. Here is the complete list. The annual going rate based on 37.5 hours per week for chefs (Occupation Code 5434) is £17,100 or £8.77 per hour. Note that in some cases they can be paid 70% less of the job’s usual going rate (if their job is on the shortage occupation list, if they are under 26, if they are in the country on a Student visa or a Graduate Entrepreneur visa and other circumstances).
- They must prove their knowledge of the English language either by passing a Secure English Language Test or having a qualification from a UK school or a degree that was taught in English. This is not required if they are nationals of English-speaking countries.
- They must prove that they have at least £1,270 available to support themselves on arrival.
If you are an owner or manager of a restaurant and require assistance with sponsoring any roles for your business, or if you are seeking guidance on the UK visa sponsorship system and immigration-related concerns, our team of immigration lawyers can help.
Talk to one of our specialists today for some assistance with your sponsor licence application. If you only want to make sure that all your supporting documents are in order, you can also select our document check package. Reach out to us on 0333 305 9375 or fill out the form. We offer both online and in-person consultations to help with your case.
Last modified on October 3rd, 2023 at 8:56 am
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The majority of applications are typically processed in under eight weeks but keep in mind that the processing time can still be affected by factors such as the application’s quality and the current workload of the Home Office. If you’re looking for a faster decision, you have the option to pay an additional £500 to get a decision within 10 days. This expedited service has limited availability each working day and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Restaurant sponsor licences are valid for 4 years. You must fulfil your responsibilities as a sponsor to maintain your licence, as failure may result in it being revoked.