To avoid “losing out” on foreign labour, business owners have urged the government to “reassess” the proposed hike in visa fees for migrant workers.
The UK already has “some of the highest costs in the world” for work visas, according to John Dickie, chief executive of BusinessLDN, which represents more than 175 London-based employers, including Compass Group, D&D London, and Edwardian Hotels. Dickie brought up this issue in a letter to the prime minister last week.
Under the new scheme, the cost to bring in one skilled worker could be “nearly £10,000 … even before costs of dependants are accounted for”, he said.
The application for a skilled worker visa for more than three years is set to rise from £1,235 to £1,480 per adult per year, while the increase of the immigration health surcharge is expected to go up from £624 to £1,035 per adult per year.
Overseas nationals looking to work in most hospitality roles in the UK need a skilled worker visa, which requires a minimum salary of £26,200 per year or £10.75 per hour.
Chefs, bar mangaers, bakers, butchers and restaurant managers are eligible for a skilled worker visa, but other roles, such as sommeliers, have been excluded.
Dickie said: “At a time when businesses face a difficult economic outlook and are struggling with significant skills gaps, this measure undermines our competitiveness when it comes to attracting top talent compared to other countries.
“We welcome the government’s efforts to grow domestic skills and talent, but this should be accompanied by a pragmatic approach to skilled immigration to support our world-leading industries.”
He added: “The UK has many strengths that are attractive to overseas workers, but this measure acts as a barrier for those looking to come to work. If the UK does not remain economically viable as a destination for international talent, we will end up losing out to other European countries, such as Germany and France.”
Last year, calls were made for a hospitality worker visa scheme, which gained more than 18,000 signatures.
However, the Home Office said there were no plans to introduce a visa route for recruitment “at or near the minimum wage with relatively short training” and that businesses “should invest in and develop the UK’s domestic labour force”.