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Hospitality visas ineligibility skyrockets under new immigration laws

Published:  05 December, 2023

The UK government has announced it will increase the earning threshold for overseas workers by nearly 50%, from £26,200 to £38,700, in a move that could 'further shrink' the talent pool for UK hospitality.

In a statement yesterday (4 December), home secretary James Cleverly claimed the package would deliver the biggest-ever reduction in net migration – around 300,000 people according to internal Home Office calculations.

Cleverly added there would be a review to the shortage occupation list, a scheme designed to make it easier for foreign workers to apply for jobs for which there is a domestic shortage. In October, the shortage occupation list was updated to include sommeliers

The government intends to end the 20% going rate salary discount for shortage occupations and replace the shortage occupation list with a new immigration salary list, which will retain a general threshold discount.

According to UKHospitality, the government’s changes to the immigration system will contribute to even greater staff shortages in the UK on-trade.

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said: “The government seems to be running out of answers to fix the UK’s long-running labour market shortages.

“These changes will further shrink the talent pool that the entire economy will be recruiting from, and only worsen the shortages hospitality businesses are facing.”

Nicholls continued: “There were 8,500 hospitality visas issued last year, which helped bring in talented chefs and managers of the future. Around 95% of those would no longer be eligible under these plans, despite being offered competitive salaries.

“We urgently need to see an immigration system that is fit for purpose and reflects both the needs of business and the labour market. The system at the moment does none of that.”

The British Beer and Pub Association shared the concerns of UKHospitality.

“This will compound the existing shortage of chefs and kitchen staff in hospitality and hold back sector growth, as the salary increase will make it untenable for many businesses to recruit from overseas alongside the associated costs and complexities that apply alongside this,” Emma McClarkin, CEO of the association, said.

Meanwhile, the former leader of the Liberal Democrat party and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron said: “These proposals will be met with absolute horror in the Lake District tourism and hospitality industry. Twenty million people visit our communities every year and it's a £3.5bn industry.

“Because of the failure of this government to provide sufficient affordable homes for local people and to have stupid visa rules, we now have a massive workforce crisis.

“Two-thirds of our businesses are unable to meet the demand that they have because of inadequate numbers of workers. Has the home secretary spoken to anybody working in the Lake District hospitality industry or does he not care what they think?”