Have the Immigration Rules around bringing skilled chefs to the UK really relaxed?

We look at what the recent changes to the Shortage Occupation List (“SOL”) will mean in practice for restaurants looking to employ non-EEA national skilled chefs.


From 6 October 2019, restaurants that provide a takeaway service will no longer be prevented from employing non-EEA national skilled chefs under the SOL. Over the years, the hospitality and catering industry has been consistently viewed by the Home Office as a high risk sector for immigration. As a result, the Immigration Rules provided very limited options for sponsoring non-EEA migrants in this sector under the Tier 2 visa route. Under the current rules, any restaurant deemed to be a “fast food outlet”, a “standard fare outlet” or providing a takeaway service is not eligible to employ skilled chefs under the SOL. However, as of 6 October 2019, the restriction on providing a take away service will be removed, which could pave the way for previously ineligible restaurants to sponsor skilled non-EEA national chefs.

We are aware of a number of restaurants that have had issues in the past due to offering a takeaway service. Given the rapid growth of the food delivery market and increasing pressure on restaurants to join food delivery platforms, this change is likely to be welcomed by the industry. Despite high end chefs’ long standing wariness towards offering a food delivery service, there appears to be demand for this, evidenced by several high end restaurants in London expanding their delivery offering. This change to the SOL appears to reflect a shift in the market and public perception – that high quality food and food delivery service are not mutually exclusive.

Nevertheless, there are still question marks regarding the scope of application in real terms. Notably, the restrictions on restaurants considered a “standard fare outlet” or “fast food outlet” will continue. Under the current rules, the former includes establishments where the menu is designed centrally for outlets in a chain or franchise, as well as those where dishes and/or cooking sauces are bought in ready-made. The latter is defined as one where food is prepared in bulk rather than to individual order. Despite the fact sponsors providing a takeaway service will soon be permitted to employ chefs under the SOL, some high end restaurants with more than one branch could continue to be caught out by the restriction on standard fare outlets, particularly given the Home Office’s historically tough stance on the sector. It also remains to be seen if the relaxation of these rules will allow for sponsorship of skilled chefs in delivery-only establishments offering high quality food in collaboration with established high end restaurants. Only time will tell the real impact of this change, so watch this space.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Chetal Patel, a Partner in the Immigration Department.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of October 3, 2019.