Changes to work permit policy for non-EU nationals looking to work in the UK could lead to chronic staff shortages for the hospitality industry, experts have warned.
Under existing rules, work permits for foreign nationals are granted to workers who have three years' relevant experience at NVQ level three, or an equivalent formal qualification.
However, 2008 will see the introduction of a points-based system granting foreign nationals work permits in highly skilled occupations. Hospitality roles such as chefs and waiters do not currently qualify as "highly skilled".
Jonathan Dale, partner and head of Work UK, the business immigration advice unit at Andrew M Jackson solicitors, said he has already started to see the effect this new policy on recruitment of these roles.
"We have seen chef and head waiter applications being rejected on the basis that these types of positions do not carry the requisite level of skill to be eligible under the forthcoming points-based permit scheme," he said.
Dale called on the Government to clarify its policy ahead of next year's change and to make sure chef and head waiter positions qualify as highly skilled occupations.
• The British Hospitality Association and sector skills council People 1st are currently seeking feedback from the industry to make the case to have non EU-chefs included on the Home Office's skill shortage list for the new points based system that comes into force during 2008. You can find the survey at www.people1stsurveys.co.uk/workpermits
By Christopher Walton