Employers wishing to sponsor non-EEA nationals under tier 2 (general) this winter should be aware that there is no guarantee that the application will be successful.

Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship (CoS) prove that the employer has checked that the applicant is qualified to do the work they have been hired for, but there is only a limited number of certificates available each month from the Home Office.

Businesses are being warned that the quota is likely to be filled for the next three months.

Annual cap 

The annual cap of 20,700 CoS is split into equal monthly allocations, running from April to April. At the beginning of the allocation year there are more available, at about 2,200/month. By February or March, however, these dip to about 1,000/month.

The Home Office uses a points-based test to assess applications, with occupations on the shortage occupation list and PhD roles given priority. The rest of the applications are then assessed based on the salary that will be paid for the role.

Until recently, the cap had only ever been reached once, in 2015. December 2017 was the second time this happened.

2018 allocations 

This month, a shortage of CoS is available – currently just above 1,400. This means it is likely to be far more difficult for employers to obtain restricted CoS for roles with lower or middling salaries.

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. 

In terms of future planning, where possible, it may be worth applying for restricted CoS in the April to September allocation cycles when the monthly limit is higher than for the rest of the year.

Employers should also make the prospective employee and managers aware that a restricted CoS may not be awarded immediately, leading to a delay in the person being able to start work.

Other options 

If the restricted CoS application isn't successful, other visa options may be available, depending on whether the individual has a family member in the UK, or who is an EEA national or even someone with UK Immigration status.

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