New UK Skilled Worker Visa Rules Favor Chefs Over Tech Workers

| June 18, 2024
New UK Skilled Worker Visa Rules Favor Chefs Over Tech Workers

The changes in the UK’s legal immigration policies led to an increase in the number of chefs entering the country compared to IT professionals.

This is according to a Financial Times analysis of the official data of the Skilled Worker visa route.

The Home Office issued 67,703 Skilled Worker visas in the year ending March 2024, down two percent from the previous year.

Of that number, some 6,203 chefs were granted Skilled Worker visas, a 54 percent increase from the previous year.

However, the number of programmers and software developers receiving UK Skilled Worker visas dropped from 8,752 to only 4,280.

Aside from the tech workers, the decline also affected the recruitment of information technology analysts.

Additionally, visas granted to management consultants in the first quarter of 2024 were 42 percent lower than a year earlier.

Issued skilled worker visas in the finance and insurance sectors were also 35 percent lower than last year.

Skilled worker visas granted for professional, scientific, and technical activities also fell by 36 percent.

Impacts of changes to Skilled Worker visa rules

This contrasting trend indicates that hiring has slowed in the UK’s technology sector and many office job industries.

At the same time, labor shortages keep growing in lower-wage fields like restaurants and hospitality.

This shift is mainly due to the UK government’s recent changes to its Skilled Worker Visa route.

The British government has raised the minimum salary requirement for skilled workers from £26,200 to £38,700 annually.

It also abolished the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and replaced it with the Immigration Salary List (ISL).

This ensures employers can no longer pay migrant workers less than UK workers in shortage occupations.

Immigration experts warned that rule changes will make it harder for middle-skilled retail, hospitality, and construction workers to obtain UK work visas.

While the chef visas may have surged, overall immigration levels are expected to decline across most job sectors due to the stricter policies.

Rushing to beat the hike in salary threshold

Chefs, who typically earn lower wages, may be unable to meet the new Skilled Worker visa requirements.

According to Office of National Statistics (ONS) data, a chef’s annual salary was £22,877 in April 2023. This is below the new salary threshold for skilled workers.

The higher salary requirements led many restaurants and food service employers to sponsor chefs and other hospitality staff quickly.

Applications submitted before the new rules took effect on 4 April 2024 will be assessed according to the previous policy.

Chief executive of UKHospitality Kate Nicholls said that chefs are among the few skilled jobs that qualify for visas in a sector with unfilled roles.

She noted the vacancy rate had dropped “dramatically” since the unfilled roles peaked at 15 percent after the pandemic.

Ongoing labor shortages have increased the number of Skilled Worker visas issued for jobs in food and hospitality.

In the first quarter of 2024, 17 percent of Skilled Worker visas were for accommodation and food services.

This represents more than double the percentage from two years ago.

Bringing down UK’s net migration

As part of cutting the UK’s net migration, the British government has implemented other significant policy changes.

This includes banning some students and all health and care workers from bringing family members with them to the UK.

Care firms planning to sponsor migrant workers must now register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Student visa holders must also finish their course before being allowed to switch to work visas.

The Home Office also recently announced tighter rules for Student visa recruitment agents and companies.

It also plans to introduce stricter compliance standards for Student visa applicants.

The UK government’s reformed immigration system focuses only on the highest-skilled, highest-paying job fields for economic and political reasons.

Whether this recalibration helps or harms particular UK industries remains to be seen.

According to ONS data, net immigration dropped 10 percent since December 2022’s highest recorded net migration number of 764,000.

The ONS noted that it was too early to tell if the decline in net migration was the start of a downward trend.

However, Skilled Workers, Health and Care Workers, and Student visa grants have dropped 30 percent in the first five months of 2024 compared to 2023.

The UK issued only 85,200 visas across the three reformed visa routes in the first five months of 2024, compared to 121,000 in the same period last year.

The Telegraph reported that experts predicted last month that the government’s immigration policy reforms may reduce net migration to as low as 150,000 a year.