December has seen a large number of requests for Tier 2 restricted certificates of sponsorship (CoS) being refused.

Since the introduction of a cap on Tier 2 (General) in 2010, I believe this is only the second time the Home Office’s allocation of restricted CoS has been exceeded by the number of applications.

Since April 2011, the cap has applied to Tier 2 CoS, which are assigned to all new hires in the Tier 2 (General) category, except for;

– those assigned to workers already in the UK

– those who will be paid a salary in excess of a high earner threshold (currently £159,600)

– those who are being sponsored in connection with the relocation of a high value business to the UK or a significant new inward investment project

The annual cap for Tier 2 (General) CoS is set at 20,700.  A proportion of this annual allocation is released each month in order to spread demand and any unused CoS are carried over to the following month.  The annual limit works out as an average of 1,725 CoS per month. However, as the demand is often higher at the beginning of the yearly allocation (which runs from April), more CoS are made available then. This has a knock-on effect, which results in less CoS being available to cover the end of the yearly cycle (October to March).

CoS are allocated on the basis of a points-scoring matrix with more points awarded according to the following ranking order:

–       jobs on the Shortage Occupation List

–       jobs in occupation codes which are at PhD level

–       jobs which meet the provisions in the Immigration Rules for ‘new graduate jobs or internships

–       jobs which are key “public service occupations”

–       and finally, on the basis of the salary paid


This means that for the vast majority of jobs, which do not qualify for additional points (i.e. Shortage Occupation, PhD level, etc.), the availability of CoS in months where demand exceeds supply depends on the salary offered.

When the cap was reached earlier this month, the minimum salary required to meet the points threshold was £55,000. It is now presumed that unsuccessful sponsors will resubmit their restricted CoS applications for the January allocation.  However, they should be mindful of the fact that only 1409 restricted CoS are currently available for the January allocation. Unless demand falls dramatically, it is very likely that a large number of applications will be refused again next month.  Before filing again, sponsors should check that the residence labour market test relied on is still valid. If not, the resident market test will need to be repeated and the role will have to be re-advertised in line with the PBS guidelines before another request for a restricted CoS can be filed again.

Based on current trends, the unpredictability of the Tier 2 restricted CoS scheme combined with the current difficulty of retaining key European staff, is likely to make recruitment and resource planning even more challenging to UK employers in the future.

With a large number of highly skilled EU nationals choosing to leave the UK, this situation might be exacerbated by large employers, such as the NHS, having to replace their staff with non-EU nationals, thus drawing heavily on the yearly allocation.


If you need Immigration legal assistance with your Tier 2 sponsorship licence application or your Tier 2 Allocation, please contact us.