UK Tier 2 Visas U-turn Infuriates Brexit-backing British Indian Restaurants

British curry houses said that they have been betrayed by the Brexit Leave campaign over UK visas and tier 2 visas, days before UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, went to India for her first significant trade mission as Prime Minister. Mrs May visited India on Sunday, 6 November for a two-day visit.

The UK curry industry is an important industry with more than £4bn a year in sales. Many in the industry backed Brexit following promises made by the Leave campaign, which said that controlling immigration from Europe would allow for more Tier 2 visas to be issued to south Asians such as those from Bangladesh and India. It has been widely reported that curry houses across the UK face mass closures as a result of chef shortages.  Not only is it difficult to obtain tier 2 visas it is also difficult for employers to obtain tier 2 sponsorship licences.

Under existing UK immigration rules, curry businesses are expected to pay a minimum of £29,570 per year to recruit a chef from the subcontinent on a Tier 2 visa. President of the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA), Pasha Khandaker, expressed his ‘bitter disappointment’ over the government’s determination to cut immigration without considering a points-based system.

Mr Khandaker said: “The BCA heavily campaigned for a Leave vote and we’re extremely disappointed that consideration of a points-based system has been rejected, particularly as it was promised by Vote Leave in the build up to the referendum in June.”

Sanwar Ali, Editor of workpermit.com News reviews the current situation for UK visas for Chefs

It remains difficult for chefs to obtain tier 2 visas for entry to the UK.  Unfortunately many if not most curry restaurants cannot afford to pay the salary rates required to gain enough points under the tier 2 visa points based system.  In reality about ninety percent of “Indian restaurants” in the UK are actually owned and run by Bangladeshis.   It seems that Britons, those born in the UK and most Indians do not want to work in Indian restaurants! 

There needs to be reforms to bring in chefs under the current tier 2 visa system.  The UK curry industry should know that Politicians cannot be believed!  Both sides in the Brexit campaign lied to get votes.

It is also misleading to say that the UK needs a points based system.  The UK has had a points based system since 2008.   In fact the Tier 2 visa and Tier 2 sponsorship licence system is part of the UK Visa points based system.

Because of the current hostile anti UK visa attitude in the UK amongst many people it will be difficult to persuade the Government to increase immigration of Bangladeshis and perhaps Indians to fill vacant positions at UK Indian restaurants.  It seems that Bangladeshi/Indian restaurants will continue to close due to a lack of staff.

Australian-style UK Visa points based system

As reported by workpermit.com in October, Theresa May categorically refused to introduce an Australian-style points-based system. The idea was promoted by leading Leave campaigners, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel. However, after the Brexit vote May quashed speculation that such a system would be introduced, saying that she’d promise a ‘better way of imposing some control over arrivals to Britain.’

Mr Khandaker said: “I am very disappointed, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel, prominent figures from the governing party, were clearly saying that they would introduce a points-based system of immigration, Australia style.”

“My organisation supported Brexit for several reasons, but the main reason was to bring people from abroad to help our industry to survive. People born in Britain are less likely to work the late hours required in a curry house,” he added.

Official Brexit Leave campaign misled Asian immigrants about UK Visas

As part of the official Leave campaign, leaflets were distributed to Muslim communities claiming that Brexit would lead to the displacement of eastern European migrants. As a result, Britain could welcome more people from Commonwealth countries to ‘take their place.’

At the time of the Leave campaign, avid Brexit-backer and now international development secretary, Priti Patel, said that it was a ‘travesty’ that UK curry houses were subjected to a ‘second-class UK immigration system’ in comparison to EU chefs.

Theresa May says she wants to reduce net migration numbers to below 100,000 per year. She also doesn’t think a points-based system is the answer. Mrs May claims that such a system ‘doesn’t give Britain back complete control of its borders.’  

In order to get net UK immigration levels down, May needs to see a substantial decrease in numbers not only from Europe, but outside of the EU too. This has caused fears among the UK’s business community over access to foreign talent.

Meanwhile, board member for Vote Leave, Saqib Bhatti, moved to quash claims that the campaign had ‘misled Asian voters.’ He said: “My concern was always to have a more level playing field and having a fairer system.”

Indian tech companies angered over tier 2 visa difficulties

Aside from UK curry houses, Indian tech companies with operations based in Britain have also expressed their outrage over the decision to dismiss the option of a UK Visa points-based system. A report published in the Financial Times states that a recent gathering of tech companies at Downing Street became ‘aggressive’, according to a Whitehall source.

Apparently, tempers flared as executives pushed for reassurances from government officials that UK immigration would not be ‘overly restricted.’ However, no reassurances were forthcoming.

Chief executive at Yes Bank in Mumbai, Shubhada Rao, said that following Brexit, ‘India had a general expectation that Indian immigration to the UK might increase.’ He said: “There will be a lot of readjustment now, but the UK will still need India’s software experts in particular. If there is some form of free trade agreement to be signed, easing the visa rules is likely to be a matter for discussion.”

However, while the relaxing of UK visa rules was discussed during Theresa May’s visit, south Asians are concerned that anti-immigration rhetoric in the aftermath of Brexit has been cranked up by members of the British government.

Companies should disclose number of foreign workers

During a large economic conference held in Delhi in October, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan prime minister, objected to UK Home Secretary, Amanda Rudd’s suggestion that businesses should be made to disclose the number of foreign workers they employ. Wickremesinghe said: “What will happen to India if they do that?”

Meanwhile, shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner poured scorn on the Vote Leave campaign, saying that the Out contingent had told the UK’s Indian community a ‘pack of lies.’ He said: “There’s real anger in India about the government’s U-turn given how much was promised before the referendum.”

Claims that Chefs from Indian sub-continent on UK Visas ‘not always needed’

In the House of Commons, Tory immigration minister Robert Goodwill said that government should actively encourage Brits to train as curry chefs as opposed to easing visa restrictions. Mr Goodwill was responding to comments made by Labour’s Rupa Huq over the future of curry houses because of visa restrictions.

Goodwill said: “I lay down a challenge to the restaurateurs in our country to train our own people, because we have tremendously talented people in the UK who would love to train and work in that environment. We do not always need to bring people across from the sub-continent.”

However, leading figures in Britain’s curry industry responded to Goodwill’s comments, mentioning the failure of a £1.75 million ‘curry college’ to train British chefs, which collapsed in 2012 because of a lack of applicants. Industry experts said: “You can understand why we’re sceptical about training Brits.”

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If you need help with a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence and Tier 2 visas or would like help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence obligations workpermit.com can help. Call 0344 991 9222 for further details.