“The requirement for the visa is too high, especially the English language part"

Restaurant owners in London Chinatown are struggling to find “top chefs” due to immigration rules.

As reported by the Evening Standard, strict UK immigration rules are resulting in London Chinatown restaurants struggling to find top chefs from China

In 2014, stricter  ‘Tier 2’ immigration rules were enforced by the Home Office to “nurture more home-grown talent”. Consequently, some restaurants in London Chinatown were forced to close or turn into buffets.

Lawrence Lee, spokesman for the London Chinatown Chinese Association, said the government is making the problem worse.“It’s very difficult to find workers,” he said. “The government is not helping too much to ease the problem.

He added that the government does not understand the necessity to hire Chinese chefs for authenticity. “Chinese restaurants are different to other businesses. Chefs have to have a certain knowledge in cooking. And some chefs are not very good in English, so they need Chinese waiters to communicate with them.

“But without these highly skilled chefs, a lot of Chinese restaurants are now closing or changing their food.”

Little Four Seasons and Royal China owner Peter Lam said the visa requirements are making it “impossible” for Chinese workers. “The requirement for the visa is too high, especially the English language part. For many, it’s impossible to pass the exam,” he said.

“We have a shortage of staff in London, as many of the second and third generations don’t tend to go into the restaurant business. And we don’t have experienced chefs coming from China.”

Lam fears this issue puts the future of London Chinatown in jeopardy. “It will be very boring. We want to give our customers the best quality. London Chinatown is one of the best Chinatowns in the world and we want it to be authentic.”

“But if we cannot recruit staff, it will become more and more westernised, with more buffet-style food where the skills needed are much lower.”

Lee suggested that the government could introduce temporary visas for Chinese chefs to address the problem.

“The government can help us,” he said. “I am not saying they should ease immigration requirements. But it could help us by providing two-year contracts, which would be fine on both sides.

“A lot of Chinese people just want to come here, make a living and go back to provide for their families. So those temporary visas would be great.”