Attracting talent has always been one of the biggest challenges in the hospitality industry. 

When the citizens of the United Kingdom voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, alarm bells started going off throughout the British tourism sector.

A full Brexit finally happened in January 2020 and removed the ability for British hospitality companies to easily recruit talent from mainland Europe. Just weeks later, the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

This combination meant that droves of foreign workers went back to their home countries and it’s uncertain whether most of them can or will ever return.

As covid restrictions have all been lifted, the UK hospitality industry is seeing increased customer demand in the sector. Now, companies are having an incredibly difficult time attracting enough staff to meet the rise in consumer activity.

How can we bring foreign talent back to the UK hospitality industry?

There’s no magic bullet or easy solution to the issue. However, the British government is taking some steps to restart the flow of talent coming into the UK.

The main tool to help with this is the skilled worker visa. 

The government has added certain hospitality jobs to the list of shortage occupations eligible for the visas which shows they recognise the urgent need to fill positions in the industry. This distinction reduces application costs and should make it easier for certain types of foreign hospitality workers to find jobs in Britain. 

Hospitality jobs on the list of shortage occupations include chefs, butchers, bakers, and bar managers. The UK government making it easier to recruit foreign workers for these skilled positions should alleviate some of the staffing stress. Unfortunately, much needed entry level staff such as servers, receptionists, and kitchen assistants have been left off the list for now.

How do you sponsor a foreign worker in the UK?

If your company has jobs that are on the list of shortage occupations, such as head chef, they’re eligible for a skilled worker visa. In order to sponsor a foreign worker, your business must apply for a sponsorship license. 

If you have the license and your open jobs fit the criteria, you and the recruit can start the visa application process.

How much does a skilled worker visa cost?

The cost of the skilled worker visa will vary depending on the application details, such as which type of position they’re applying for and the duration of the visa.

If you’re recruiting for a job on the shortage occupation list, the application fee is 479 pounds if they’re staying up to three years and £943 if it’s more than three.

There is also a healthcare surcharge of £624 pounds per year of the worker’s visa that must be paid upfront.

For example, if you are recruiting a chef and want to give them a two year contract, the total cost would be £1,727.

The government also mandates that applicants must be able to prove that they have at least £1,270 available to support themselves.

That’s nearly £3,000 that must be accounted for if you want to recruit someone to work for two years. (source: The British Government)

Obviously, that is a big price tag on top of normal recruitment costs. Depending on the size of your company, you may be able to cover all of the fees associated with the application process to more easily bring in foreign workers. 

While covering all of these costs will make it easier to attract staff, not every business can afford to do so. In that case, negotiating a compromise to split the costs with the applicant may be a more sustainable way forward for your company. 

Many managers in the hospitality industry are hoping the UK government will take further steps to help solve the staffing crisis. But, until more policies are introduced, the skilled worker visa is the clearest way to bring non-British talent into the country to work.

If you need more information, head over to to get the full and official run down from the British government regarding the skilled worker visa.

Need skilled hospitality workers for your business? Join Hosco today to solve your local and foreign hiring needs!