When is a migrant chef not a chef?

Ankur Sabharwal is the owner of Visa Matters immigration consultancy. He is a licensed immigration consultant and handles complex immigration matters.

Of the hundreds of possible professions, 'chef' is the only one that requires a specific qualification when applying for an accredited employer work visa., says Ankur Sabharwal is the owner of immigration consultancy Visa Matters.
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Of the hundreds of possible professions, ‘chef’ is the only one that requires a specific qualification when applying for an accredited employer work visa., says Ankur Sabharwal is the owner of immigration consultancy Visa Matters.

OPINION: When is a migrant chef not a chef? When this chef tells Immigration New Zealand that he is a cook.

In the government’s war on migrant chefs, immigration advisers are fighting back by telling chefs to apply for work visas as cooks.

For many migrant chefs, this is the quickest way to be cleared to work in a New Zealand restaurant.

Why is it even necessary for a migrant chef to downgrade to cook?

You may have read stories saying that Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay wouldn’t qualify for work visas to come to New Zealand as chefs – simply because they don’t hold a New Zealand certificate in kitchen (level 4) or equivalent.

These stories are true.

Of the hundreds of possible occupations, ‘chef’ is the only one that requires a specific qualification when applying for an accredited employer work visa.

People working in other professions can meet immigration requirements through qualifications, work experience or professional registration in New Zealand.

Not cooks. They must have a Level 4 cookery certificate. If their qualification is a foreign qualification that is not ‘recognised’, they will have to pay $445 to have it assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

This ridiculous bureaucracy led immigration advisers to tell restaurateurs who had trouble finding staff: what you’re looking for isn’t a chef, it’s a cook!

Cooks, chefs, tom-ay-toes, tom-ah-toes

What is the difference between a cook and a chef, then?

When deciding which profession a candidate will work in, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) refers to a database called ANZSCO.

According to ANZSCO, a cook and a chef prepare and cook food, but so do chefs:

  • estimate food and labor costs and order supplies
  • discuss food preparation issues with managers, dietitians, and kitchen and service staff

So if your migrant chef won’t make these additions, they don’t have a level 4 cooking certificate, but they have years of relevant work experience, they must be…a cook!

The restaurant owner advertises in Trade Me or Seek for an experienced cook, finds none, and finally INZ approves an accredited employer work visa to a foreign chef, sorry, cook.

The Really Stupid Things About It

There are a few really dumb things about this workaround of chefs applying as cooks.

INZ used to turn down Work to Residence applications from people claiming to be chefs because INZ decided they were actually cooks.

“Chef” was a position on the list of long-term skills shortages, leading to residency, but “cook” was not (that pathway to residency was closed in October 2021).

Now, immigration consultants are frantically running in the opposite direction, claiming their clients won’t do fancy stuff, they’ll actually cook.

Foolishly, one of the reasons the government only required a cook’s certificate for chefs was that “there was also a concern that migrant chefs might displace New Zealanders into less skilled positions”, m said INZ this week.

Does it make sense to you that the government only cares about “migrant chefs” but not “migrant cooks”? Because he approves of migrant cooks with no cooking qualifications…and government rules allow it.

Oh, and, by the way, chefs are considered more skilled than cooks, according to the ANZSCO Occupational Database. It’s just that the government’s new ‘qualifications required’ rule tries to keep some chefs out, but makes it easier for less qualified cooks to get approved.

The last word

This is a big problem for restaurants that are struggling to find suitable staff. The Prime Minister is aware of this and has asked the Minister of Immigration to look into the matter.

I leave the final word to Andrew Craig, Head of Immigration Policy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE):

“The Minister for Immigration has asked the MBIE to provide advice on whether the current policy settings are appropriate in the circumstances.”

Ankur Sabharwal is the owner of immigration consultancy Visa matters. He is a licensed immigration consultant specializing in complex immigration matters. His previous article was on: The dirty little secret of Immigration New Zealand.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute immigration advice. Individuals should seek personal advice from an immigration consultant or licensed attorney to assess their particular situation.

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