BBC Radio 4’s ‘Crisis in the Curry Kitchen’ Features Our Immigration Lawyer

This morning, BBC Radio 4 aired a programme in which Scottish broadcaster and writer, Hardeep Singh Kohli investigated how a critical shortage of chefs is threatening the future of the British curry industry. The segment featured our expert immigration lawyer, Bimal Kotecha, who was interviewed by Hardeep on how the change to the UK’s visa rules in 2008 have made it expensive and difficult to recruit chefs from South Asia. 

The Guardian reports that every week, 2.5 million customers eat in one of 10,000 restaurants employing 80,000 staff, making the curry industry worth £3.6bn. However, due to the tight immigration clamp down, there are a lack of skilled chefs and it has been argued that this has plunged the industry into crisis.

Shortage of Chefs May Result in Curry House Closures

The radio show which was researched by journalist Rahul Verma won rave reviews in the Observer and Radio Times and highlighted concerns that the UK government’s complex visa rules were preventing UK curry houses from recruiting chefs from the South Asian region.

The Guardian commented that Hardeep “presented a lovely example about a genuine problem” the fact that the UK was running out of qualified chefs to work at curry houses because the government in its “mad anti-immigration panic” made it near impossible for any chefs from the South Asian region to qualify for a visa.

Complex & Lengthy Process to Obtain Sponsor Licence

Our immigration solicitor, Bimal Kotecha, who specialises in assisting clients with obtaining Tier 2 Sponsor Licences, was interviewed by Hardeep on how the current immigration rules are having a negative impact on the British curry industry.

Bimal explained that UK employers wishing to employ non EU migrant workers must first obtain a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office. Business sponsors will need to provide substantial evidence to the Home Office that they are a genuine organisation operating in the UK, that they are honest, dependable and reliable and that they are able to comply with employment and immigration law and good practice.

However, preparing a sponsor licence application can be a lengthy and complicated process, with our experience showing that it usually takes clients between 4 – 6 weeks to gather the documents required by the Home Office. Our clients have told us that they find that the Home Office’s website is not user friendly and it is difficult to navigate around the complicated guidance in place.

The Home Office’s ‘stringent’ guidance for Tier 2 Sponsors’ is lengthy (with one document consisting of 166 pages) and may be off putting for employers such as local curry houses. In addition, it may also get costly for small businesses who will have to pay the Home Office’s sponsor licence fee, which is currently £536 (for small and charitable sponsors) and then a further fee of £199 at the time of assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship to the applicant.

Recruiting Skilled Chefs for British Curry Houses from Abroad

Chefs are listed on the government’s Tier 2 Shortage of Occupation List; a skilled chef is considered to meet the criteria where:

  • the pay is at least £29,570 per year after deductions for accommodation, meals etc; and
  • they have five or more years relevant experience in a role of at least equivalent status to the one they are entering; and
  • the job is not in either a fast food outlet, a standard fare outlet, or an establishment which provides a take-away service; and – the job is in a role such as an executive chef – or sous chef.

Hardeep considers that the average head chef in the UK earns around £25,000 in a ‘decent restaurant’ and that chefs from abroad are now ‘beyond the reach of average high street curry houses.’ Hardeep foresees a time in the not too distant future when only a handful of haute cuisine curry houses will survive. It may be time for the government to reconsider their complicated visa rules.

Contact us for successful Tier 2 UK Sponsorship Licence applications

Our team of experienced and professionally qualified London immigration solicitors and barristers are ready to provide you with effective solutions to your business  immigration needs. To contact one of our Immigration Solicitors or Immigration Barristers please complete our legal case assessment form and we will get in touch or call us now on 02071830529 for a free telephone assessment and free case assessment.

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