UK Visas and Immigration (“UKVI“) have confirmed that in the month of June, the number of applications for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (“RCoS“) exceeded the available monthly quota for the first time since the scheme was introduced in 2010.
The annual quota for restricted Tier 2 (General) Certificates of Sponsorship is set at 20,700. These RCoS are made available over the course of the year on a monthly basis. In each calendar month one twelfth of the total annual quota can be approved by the UKVI panel. When the monthly quota is not reached the unallocated RCoS roll-over to the next month’s allocation thereby increasing the pool of available certificates.
Priority is first given to roles which fall within the shortage occupation list followed by PhD level positions. Priority is then given to RCoS applicants based on salary, with the roles attracting the highest salaries being approved first. In the month of June the quota was reached for roles that attract salaries of £46k per annum or more (this figure is unconfirmed and based on anecdotal evidence from UKVI). Consequently, RCoS have been refused for any roles that attract a salary of less than this amount.
We understand that UKVI received twice as many RCoS applications in June as they received in any previous months. The reasons for this spike in demand are not yet clear.
Setting the approval threshold at £46k poses huge problems for the many employers who have found it difficult to identify suitable applicants for key roles from within the UK and European resident labour market. Many jobs are deemed suitably skilled to merit sponsorship under the Codes of Practice for Skilled Workers but will not attract salaries approaching this threshold. The negative impact on employers who rely on skilled foreign workers to ensure business continuity and productivity will be significant.
Employers who have received RCoS refusals this month should consider the following options:
1) Apply again under the July panel. It is of course impossible to know how many applications will be received by the 5th July deadline and if applications are received for all those who were refused in June, it is very likely that the same problem will occur as demand will outreach supply.
2) Apply again in July with a higher salary offer. It is impossible to know however where the refusal threshold will sit in July. Employers must also be aware that the salary must be within any range that was stipulated in external advertising otherwise the role must be advertised again.
3) Consider withdrawing the employment offer or applying later in the year when demand may have reduced.
The inconvenience and anxiety that will be generated by the number of refusals incurred in June will feed into the wider debate about the suitability of imposing this quota regime on skilled migration from outside the European Union. The rhetoric coming from the new government does not give rise to optimism for an early resolution of these constraints upon employers and it is highly likely that the Tier 2 scheme will become more and more difficult for employers to navigate over the course of the coming months.
Please contact your Magrath representative for advice on strategy.