UK Tier 2 visa sponsors warned of winter delays due to restricted Certificate of Sponsorship CoS shortage

Employers hoping to sponsor non-EU workers under Tier 2 (General) visas during the winter season are being warned to expect delays. A report published by Personnel Today states ‘there is no guarantee that an application for a restricted certificate of sponsorship will be successful. You need a restricted CoS to apply for a tier 2 visa for someone who needs to apply for a visa from abroad.

Sanwar Ali workpermit.com comment:

It seems that at the moment in most cases it is a waste of time applying for a restricted certificate of sponsorship if the salary is lower than about £50,000 a year based on a thirty-nine hour week excluding lunch breaks. Applications for those who are on the shortage occupation list or in PhD level occupations will still most likely gain enough points even at lower salary levels. Maybe it will be easier to obtain restricted Certificates of Sponsorship from April 2018 when the new quota starts.

Tier 2 general certificates of sponsorship (CoS) are evidence that an employer has checked that a job applicant is sufficiently qualified to do the work they are being hired for, and that they’re eligible for a UK visa.

Each month, a restricted number of CoS are made available by the Home Office. The quota was quickly reached in December 2017, while the visa cap is expected to be easily reached again in January, February and March 2018.

Tier 2 annual visa quota

20,700 CoS are made available each year under the Tier 2 (General) visa route. The annual cap is applicable to ‘restricted’ CoS, which are generally issued to Tier 2 (General) workers applying outside of the European Union, who will earn less than the ‘high earner’ income threshold, which is currently set at £159,600 per year.

The annual visa allocation of 20,700 is distributed, unequally, every month with the allocation year running from April to April. There are more CoS available at the beginning of the year, starting at 2,200 per month.

According to Personnel Today, by September this figure drops to 1,500 per month, and by February and March only 1,000 are available. Any CoS that go unused are carried over to the following month.

Applying for a Tier 2 CoS

Employers aiming to assign a restricted CoS to a skilled, non-EU worker are required to lodge an application with the Home Office for a restricted CoS as part of the monthly allocation cycle. An application must be filed by the 5th of the month, in time for the Tier 2 visa allocation meeting, which takes place on the 11th of each month.

The Home Office operates a points-based systems to assess applications, with occupations on the shortage occupation list and PhD roles given priority. Other applications are considered based on the salary paid for the role.

If an application for a restricted CoS is successful, an employer is entitled to assign the CoS to an individual they would like to sponsor. The individual is then permitted to file a Tier 2 entry clearance application from their home country in order to work in Britain.

Tier 2 CoS used to be straightforward to obtain

Up until very recently, the Tier 2 CoS cap had only reached the maximum number available once, back in the summer of 2015. This made obtaining a Tier 2 CoS, except for a couple of months in 2015, fairly straightforward. This is assuming that all the eligibility criteria for a Tier (General) visa were met.

Three years ago it was usually possible to get a Tier 2 CoS even for job roles offering the minimum, £20,800 salary required under the Tier 2 (General) category. However, in December 2017, the monthly maximum threshold was once again reached. 1,575 restricted CoS were set aside in December 2017, however, many applications were rejected.

Personnel Today says that ‘in circumstances where the role was neither a shortage occupation role nor a PhD role, only roles with annual salaries of £55,000 or above were granted the restricted CoS.’

2018 Tier 2 Visa CoS allocations

It’s predicted that CoS monthly allocation numbers will drop below 1,500 between January and March 2018, making it increasingly difficult for employers to obtain CoS for job roles with lower or mid-level salaries. The Personnel Today report states that the chances of obtaining a Tier 2 CoS in the first part of 2018 are slim.

According to the report: ‘There is certainly no guarantee of obtaining a restricted CoS in the first part of 2018 as it is likely that many of those refused in December will re-apply.’

‘Although there is not much that employers can do in practice to ensure they obtain a restricted CoS, they could consider increasing the salary for the role to maximise the chances of a successful application. The salary bands for the awarding of points should be checked, as in some cases a slight salary increase may take the application into the next band,’ the report added.

However, when increasing a salary, employers will need to check that what’s being offered still falls within the range specified in the job adverts posted, or the employer will need to run the resident labour market test (RLMT), which involves checking whether the job is on the shortage application list, again and advertise at the higher salary level.

Employers who were unsuccessful with restricted CoS applications in December are eligible to re-apply in January and February 2018, but it’s recommended that they check that job adverts posted as part of the RLMT were posted in the last six months.

The Personnel Today report recommends that employers should apply for restricted CoS in the April to September monthly cycles, where possible. The monthly allocation is expected to be far higher in these months compared with the rest of the year.

Employers are urged to warn potential employees and managers that a restricted CoS is unlikely to be awarded immediately, which will result in a delay to a non-EU worker being able to start their employment. Ultimately, this will affect Tier 2 employees, who should wait for a CoS to be granted prior to resigning from a current role or making alternative plans.

Other UK visa options

In the event of a CoS application being unsuccessful, it’s possible that other UK visa options could be available. For instance, if an individual plans to enter the UK with a family member who is obtaining a visa in their own right, it’s possible that they could come to Britain as their family member’s dependent.

Employers can also ascertain whether a potential employee already has any existing family member or relationship with someone who is a UK or EEA national or holds UK immigration status, as this could help with a UK visa application.

The Tier 2 intra-company transfer route is also an option if an individual is already an existing employee of an overseas group company because a CoS is not required. In some cases, a Tier 5 visa for temporary work of up to two years, working as an intern, could be a possibility. However, unlike tier 2 general visa holders tier 2 intra-company transfer visa holders do not usually qualify for indefinite leave to remain.

However, if a Tier 2 (General) CoS remains the only option, early planning is the best approach for employers to increase their chances of recruiting key staff from outside of the EU.

Workpermit.com can help Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship Licences and Tier 2 Visas

If you need help with a Tier 2 visa, or aTier 2 Sponsorship Licence, including help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence obligations, workpermit.com can help.

More and more employers are facing sudden unannounced onsite inspections. Contact us for a copy of our free Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence Compliance guide.

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or atlondon@workpermit.com