The UK economy and socio-economic climate are in a highly volatile position. The impact on the UK workforce in the post-Brexit era and the reforms to the points-based system under the Immigration Rules have led to many sectors and industries suffering from staff shortages. This article aims to assess the practical steps restaurants in London can take to acquire and retain talented staff from abroad.

Can restaurants in London hire workers from abroad?

A restaurant or hospitality business can hire an individual any individual provided they have the legal right to work in the UK. One key document that any individual must be able to provide to work in the UK is a successful right-to-work check. A right-to-work check must be completed by an employer before they commence their employment. Failure to adhere to the right-to-work checks could lead to a penalty and breach of the relevant illegal working legislation.  (Read more about the changes to right-to-work checks from April 2022 here).

Qualifying non-sponsored staff – London restaurant and hospitality hires from abroad.

Considering the post-Brexit era and termination of free movement for EU Nationals, the following non-UK nationals may be employed by a restaurant in London without the requirement of a sponsor licence:

  • EU / EEA Nationals in the UK who hold EUSS status e.g. settled or pre-settled status pursuant to the EU settlement scheme.
  • Holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain immigration status.
  • High potential individual visa holders.
  • International students (Tier 4) provided they adhere to the hours of work are in accordance with the conditions of their visa.
  • Ancestry Visa holders.
  • Some dependant visas where work is permitted.

The legislation concerning who has the right to work is convoluted. Individuals and entities are therefore always advised to consult a duly qualified solicitor to assess whether an individual has the right to work in the UK.

Sponsored staff – London restaurants and hospitality hire from abroad.

If your restaurant in London has identified a chef or hospitality worker who is suitable to fulfil a vacancy, a restaurant may be able to employ them provided:

A restaurant can employ individuals across a variety of roles. The relevant role must be in accordance with the Standardised Occupation Codes (SOC Code). Applications are subject to the employer holding a valid sponsor licence and attributing a certificate of sponsorship to the intended employee.

Key qualifying roles within the hospitality sector include, but are not limited to:

  • Catering managers
  • Bar managers
  • Chefs
  • Hotel managers
  • Restaurant managers
  • Catering managers

Each role has its own relevant SOC Code. At the point of application, it is imperative to ensure that the job description, actual role and remuneration are all in accordance with the SOC Code. In the event of a Compliance Audit, the Home Office frequently assess whether a sponsored role matches the SOC code.

For an applicant to qualify for a skilled worker visa, the intended role must meet or exceed the minimum salary threshold or the relevant percentage of the going rate for the role.

Common questions for Immigration Specialists when applying for Sponsorship Licences

Proprietors of restaurants in London and the UK usually surround the eligibility criteria. Restaurant owners are usually concerned they will be able to acquire a licence if they hold the right paperwork and have implemented the correct procedures to retain the licence.

Branch Austin McCormick’s Corporate Immigration Team continue to act for prestigious hotels and restaurants in London that are heavily dependent on their sponsorship licence to enable them to employ individuals who are key to ensuring their businesses are successful.

Our lawyers provide restaurants and hospitality-based businesses in London with a free initial call to assess your eligibility to apply for a sponsorship licence. After our initial call, we will provide a legal strategy, costs overview and timeline to secure your sponsorship licence efficiently.

Our experience and success stories include:

  • Acting for a boutique hotel in the UK in acquiring a sponsorship licence and hiring key staff including Chefs and hospitality staff.
  • Hiring Sushi Chefs from Japan into the UK to assist with a remote restaurant start-up venture.
  • Advising a Michelin Guide Indian restaurant in London with acquiring and managing their sponsor licence.
  • Securing a sponsorship licence within 10 working days and moving three key staff within 72 hours of acquiring the licence to the UK.
  • Advising a small chain of French Patisseries with a sponsorship licence and skilled worker visas following Brexit.
  • Consulting and advising a well-known restaurant on Berkley Square with skilled worker visas for specialist chefs.

For further information on the issues raised, please contact Sofia Marques Anaya at or another member of our immigration team.

Branch Austin McCormick LLP
32 St James’s Street