A new Australian-style points system for foreign workers comes into force today, meaning employers must prove they cannot fill a post with someone from within the European Economic Area before recruiting someone from outside it.
Restaurants, hotels and pubs wanting to employ staff from outside the EEA will have to register with the UK Border Agency first and obtain a sponsor licence, with hefty fines threatened for those that don`t.
Skilled chefs are exempt from the system, having been identified on the Migration Advisory Committee`s shortage occupation list, but employers will still need to apply for a sponsor licence.
Although the government is keen to boost training opportunities to ensure there are enough skilled workers from within the UK for the hospitality industry, it recognises that some businesses rely heavily on foreign workers.
Jeremy Oppenheim of the UK Border Agency said: "The catering and hospitality industries are a very important part of our economy. If there are shortages we should be concentrating on helping people who are in this country to train for the industry. However, not all the immediate needs of our economy can be met by developing our skills base. Migration can play a role here."
The government also this week issued the first identity cards to foreign nationals. The ID cards will be made compulsory for all foreign workers and will include a person`s photograph and fingerprints. They will replace paper documents and aim to make it easier for an employer to check someone`s right to work in the UK.
Find out more about ID cards and the Points Based System
Industry welcomes chef inclusion on migration committee list