Hiring an Immigrant Chef or Cook

I receive a lot of phone calls from individuals wanting to hire an immigrant to be a cook or chef in their restaurant. While it’s certainly possible to obtain a green card for a cook or chef, keep in mind that it’s a complex process. Here’s some of what Idaho immigration attorney Tim Jones does to assist employers:

  1. Like for any green card, the cook or chef needs to have a fairly clean record, both with the police and with immigration. Their record doesn’t necessarily need to be spotless; if there’s a history of any charges or arrests (regardless of where they occurred) or any trouble with immigration (including overstaying visas) the attorney will need to review the incidents in order to recommend whether to move forward with the green card or not.
  2. The cook or chef will need to have some applicable experience; the attorney will review the future employee’s resume.
  3. The attorney will check with the U.S. government to find out what you’ll need to be paying the employee.
  4. The attorney will create an ad for you to run (typically in your local newspaper). You’ll work with your attorney to determine if anyone who already has the right to work in the U.S. is willing and qualified to take the job. The attorney will assist you with reviewing job applications, etc.
  5. Assuming no qualified individuals were willing and able to fill the job, your attorney will then file paperwork with the U.S. government in order to get permission to proceed.
  6. Once permission is given, your attorney will fill out the green card paperwork and file it.
  7. Once the green card is approved, your new employee will be able to start work.

Obviously, the more exotic cuisine your restaurant serves, the easier it will be to get the employee a green card. If the food’s not exotic (for example, standard American or Mexican food) there are visa options out there that don’t involve a green card–various visas, especially visas aimed at seasonal workers, can be a good option.

Total cost is quite expensive. You’ll pay around $1,500 or more just for the green card filing fees (fees will probably go up within a few months of the date of this post) and probably a few hundred in advertising costs. Attorney fees vary, and you’ll need to contact me for a quote, but they’re typically several thousand dollars. In fact, some immigration attorneys charge around $10,000 for the whole package. I’m not that expensive, but this is not a cheap process. As the employer, you’ll be responsible for paying all or most of the cost–you won’t be able to charge your future employee for it.

If the potential employee has close relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, we may be able to get them a green card more cheaply. There may also be other options that are less expensive. An immigration attorney can discuss these options with you and the future employee.

The process will take a good share of a year. If your potential employee is from India, China, or the Philippines, it could take much, much longer. Mexico has also traditionally been on that “much longer” list, and may be on that list again soon.

If you’re looking to employee multiple chefs or cooks, the attorney fees may be considerably less per person, although the total cost will still be several thousand dollars per employee.

Hiring the right chef can really make or break a restaurant. An immigration attorney can help you get that right individual into your restaurant so that your business can be a success.