The process for EU citizens to apply for settled status has been declared a "shambles" after chefs Richard Bertinet and Damian Wawrzyniak were denied permanent residency in the UK, despite having lived and worked in the country for 31 and 15 years respectively.
Bertinet, who has lived in the UK continuously since 1988 and runs the Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath, was granted pre-settled status following Brexit, 24 hours after applying for permanent residency. Pre-settled status is usually given to individuals who have lived in the UK for less than five years. He was told he would have to apply again for the right to stay permanently in the UK in five years' time.
However, following extensive publicity and support for Bertinet on social media, the Home Office told him that "the wrong button" had been pressed in the application process and suggested that an appeal or re-application would be successful.
Bertinet, who was supported in making the application by his wife Jo, a former commercial lawyer, said that he had carried out the correct procedure in making the application and will now reapply.
"The whole system appears to be a shambles," Bertinet told The Caterer. "As soon as I announced what had happened on social media, I was contacted by many people in exactly the same position. There are also many people who are worried about applying for permanent settlement because they are scared of the result."
On arriving in the UK, Bertinet worked for Chewton Glen in Hampshire and went on to become head chef at nearby Rhinefield House hotel and then the Silver Plough in Salisbury. Bertinet spent time in London as operations director of the Novelli Group of restaurants before moving to Bath to set up his cookery school in 2005. His wife and three children all hold British passports.
"I never thought when I arrived in England at the age of 22 that I would have to apply to stay here. I have always paid full taxes and employed hundreds of people over the years."
Bertinet has been overwhelmed by the widespread support he has received in recent days, including a message posted on Twitter by Robin Hutson, chairman and chief executive of Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels, who employed Bertinet at Chewton Glen when he first arrived in England.
Hutson wrote: "I will swear on my life for you that you have definitely been here since then. Your contribution is immense, you don't deserve this."
The experience of Bertinet, who is the author of five cookery books, has highlighted the difficulty many people working in the hospitality industry are experiencing in applying for residency in the UK, despite meeting all the criteria.
Wawrzyniak (pictured), chef-proprietor of House of Feast restaurant in Peterborough, has also been denied permanent settlement, despite having lived and worked in the UK for 15 years.
Originally from Poland, Wawrzyniak described it as "great sadness that after so many years of hard work, paying taxes and employing staff" that he was denied permanent residency.
"After so many years and not being even one day without working or using some sort of benefit system I was treated like I was unwanted."
He has launched an appeal and is confident of being awarded settled status, but fears for the many others he believes will be affected.
The chef added: "There's more people like me who have been here more than five years and some of them will ignore the letter and in five years they will become illegal. Even now if I went abroad for more than six months, let's say I went to France cooking and did a pop up, when I came back I would become illegal and would need to apply again.
"This will have a massive impact on hospitality. We're going to be hit big time. I've got a restaurant full tonight, full tomorrow, I have no chefs and this is before anything has started."
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, declined to comment on individual applications for settled status, but said that overall the scheme seems to be "working well".
Shed added: "The Home Office needs to make it clear to people that if they have been resident for more than five years then the assumption is that they will be granted Settled Status. Where there has been an error, then the appeals process needs to be highlighted.
"There is no doubt that we are suffering a chef shortage and the UK's future immigration system needs to reflect that."
The Home Office has said its caseworkers are working with both Wawrzyniak and Bertinet.
It added: "Automatic checks against government data are making it simple for many people to apply successfully and in 79% of concluded cases during testing, applicants did not need to provide any further evidence of residence.
"One million EU citizens and their families have been granted status so far and they have until at least December 2020 to make an application."
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