Chefs Now Lead UK Skilled Worker Visa Rankings Over Software Developers

United Kingdom
#workvisa #skilledworkers

According to a recent Financial Times analysis, chefs have surpassed software developers to become the most popular vocation for foreigners arriving in the UK on skilled worker visas. This transformation in the skilled worker visa environment reflects significant shifts in labour demand and immigration patterns.

The Home Office data showed a significant increase in skilled worker visas given to cooks in the fiscal year ending March 2024, with 6,203 visas issued—a 54% increase over the previous year.

At the same time, work permits for programmers and software developers fell sharply, from 8,752 to 4,280, indicating a shift in demand in the skilled worker visa category.

Labour Shortages and Sector Dynamics

The differential developments highlight persisting labour shortages in lower-wage sectors despite reduced hiring rates in IT and other white-collar professions.

The Office for National Statistics recorded a near-record level of immigration in 2023, totalling nearly 1.22 million arrivals. Work surpassing study is the top reason people visit the UK. This surge in immigration was mainly driven by a significant increase in visas awarded to caregivers.

However, despite overall high immigration levels, skilled worker visas have declined. The Home Office issued 67,703 visas in the fiscal year ending March 2024, a 2% fall from the previous year.

The reduction in skilled worker visas goes beyond the technology sector, hitting professions like management consultants, where visa awards were 42% lower in the first quarter of 2024 than the previous year. 

Given the trade's low pay, chefs' climb in the skilled worker visa ranks is significant. As of April 2023, chefs earn an average yearly income of £22,877. However, they may face visa issues due to increasing minimum wage standards, which are now £38,700 or £30,800 for younger workers. This change may affect the availability of skilled worker visas for cooks in the future.

Despite these hurdles, chefs are among the few occupations in the hotel industry that require a visa, especially since 6% of jobs in this sector are now empty. The growth in skilled worker visas for chefs has primarily come from South Asian arrivals, with significant percentages going to Indians, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis.

Due to continuous labour shortages, skilled worker visas are now being used in various sectors within the food and hospitality industry, such as butchers and restaurant managers.

The hotel and food service sectors accounted for 17% of all skilled worker visas granted in the first quarter of 2024, a significant rise over prior years.

The dynamics of skilled worker visa patterns highlight the changing picture of immigration and labour demands in the UK. Lower-paid sectors witness increased demand for skilled workers, while highly-paid regions see a halt in recruitment. These adjustments are indicative of broader changes in the UK's immigration policies and economic priorities.


Which nationalities have obtained the most skilled worker visas for chefs?

The bulk of skilled worker visas for cooks have been granted to people from South Asia, with 25% going to Indians, 22% to Bangladeshis, and 21% to Pakistanis.

Have any substantial policy changes been affecting skilled worker visas?

Yes, substantial legislative changes have occurred, including increasing minimum wage requirements and limitations targeted at decreasing immigration, such as prohibiting students and care workers from bringing family members to the UK.


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