In January 2018, demand for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (“RCoS”) again exceeded the number available in the monthly quota. With only 1,651 CoS available, a large number of RCoS applications from licenced sponsors were refused.
In order to be successful in January 2018, RCoS applications needed to score a minimum of 46 points, meaning RCoS requests for salaries below £50,000 per annum were rejected.
What is the Quota?
As part of the drive to reduce net migration and to limit demand for sponsored workers from outside the resident labour market, the Government imposes an annual quota of 20,700 RCoS available to assign under Tier 2 (General) across all sponsor licences. The year for the purposes of RCoS allocations runs for 12 months from 5th April.
The annual allocation of 20,700 is released in batches each month in order to spread availability across the year. This equates to an average of 1,725 RCoS per month. As demand is generally higher earlier on in the sponsorship year, more RCoS are available in the early months. Typically, 2,200 are made available in April and 2000 each month thereafter until October when the number drops to around 1500.
In months where supply exceeds demand, the remaining available RCoS are carried over to the following month, resulting in a higher number being available than the official quota for that month. In addition, RCoS that have been approved but remain unused after 3 months are reclaimed and become available the following month, further increasing the available RCoS. Consequently, the precise number of RCoS available each month will vary according to demand and allocation over the year.
In January 2018, the month started with 1,409 available CoS, 91 CoS having been ‘borrowed’ in December 2017. This was increased as 257 unused CoS were reclaimed. After further deductions for CoS granted to Croatian nationals and those granted by exceptional consideration outside of the monthly allocation process, the total number of available RCoS was 1,651.
Which Tier 2 cases are exempt from the monthly Quota?
The RCoS scheme only applies to sponsored workers entering the UK from overseas on a “new hire” basis. The following categories of workers under Tier 2 are exempt from the RCoS arrangements:-
- Intra Company Transferees;
- Sponsored workers already in the UK under Tier 2 and applying for an extension or change of employer;
- Those who will be paid a salary in excess of a higher earner threshold (currently set at £159,600);
- Individuals currently in the UK in another immigration category who are able to switch into Tier 2 (General) status from within the country (except Tier 4 (General) dependants).
How are RCoS allocated?
If demand exceeds supply, RCoS are allocated on the basis of a points scoring matrix. A higher number of points will be awarded to jobs in the following sub-categories:
- shortage occupation jobs;
- PHD level jobs;
- “new graduate” jobs or internships which meet the relevant provisions in the Immigration Rules;
- jobs which are defined as key “public service occupations”.
Jobs not in any of the above categories will be awarded points based on the salary offered, with the highest salaries achieving the greater number of points, based on salary bands. Each salary band must be approved in its entirety, meaning the number of RCoS available needs to be enough to cover the number of eligible RCoS applications within each salary band. If there are not enough RCoS available to approve the salary band, the entire band is rejected.
This means that in most cases where demand exceeds supply eligibility will be based on how much the sponsor is prepared to pay the worker. When the quota was reached in June 2015, the minimum salary required to meet the point threshold was £46,000. When the quota was next reached, some 2 years later in December 2017, the minimum salary required was £55,000 and in January 2018 at least £50,000 per annum was required.
Reaching the monthly quota is therefore likely to have a greater impact on sponsored workers in lower paid jobs such as some IT roles and teaching.
What happens next?
A new RCoS month opens in February (the deadline for RCoS submission is Monday 5th February 2018) and Home Office decisions will be communicated from 11th February 2018 onwards. In December 2017 and January 2018, decisions were being sent out much later than usual with some decisions not being received until 17th or 18th of the month. This should be considered when individuals have visas expiring or upcoming travel plans as it could result in delays to the submission of the leave to remain application.
For any RCoS applications rejected in December 2017 or January 2018, as a result of the salary offered being below £50,000 per annum, a fresh RCoS application must be made and all of the usual criteria must be met including valid external advertising (which must have started no earlier than 6 months prior to the CoS being assigned). Salary offers must be within the range stated in the advert.
We will know in mid-February whether the available allocation has again been exceeded. Affected employers should consider whether the role is eligible for additional points in the sub-categories outlined above. Alternatively, employers may consider increasing salary offers, within any salary bands set out in external adverts, in order to have a greater chance of success.
For February 2018, there have been 91 RCoS carried over from the January 2018 quota meaning 1,615 are available as a starting point. This figure will increase/decrease as CoS are reclaimed, returned, assigned to Croatians and/or granted exceptionally outside of the monthly allocation period. We hope there will be more than 1,615 available in February 2018 and that the minimum salary needed will be less than £50,000 per annum (the next salary band down is £45,000 – £49,999), but much will depend upon the number of applicants next month – which figures are never released by the Home Office.
How we can help
Please do not hesitate to contact your Magrath Sheldrick representative or write to Immigration@magrath.co.uk for guidance in respect of any aspect of the Tier 2 sponsorship schemes and the UK Immigration Rules generally.