It has been far more difficult in recent months for UK businesses to recruit non-EEA nationals.
This is because, for the 7th consecutive month, the quota on the number of people who can be sponsored by their employers for skilled roles requiring a restricted certificate of sponsorship was reached in June 2018. It is likely that the fall in EEA migrants coming to the UK as a result of Brexit and the higher number of EEA migrants leaving the UK increased the pressure on the Tier 2 quota.
There is hope on the horizon however following the Government’s recent announcement that doctors and nurses will be excluded from this cap on skilled workers with effect from early July 2018. We understand that a significant percentage of the monthly quota was allocated to doctors and nurses.
Tier 2 (General) quota
The Tier 2 (General) sponsorship route is the main immigration category for UK employers to employ skilled non-EEA migrants in the UK.
Under the Tier 2 (General) route, there are a maximum of 20,700 Certificates of Sponsorship available each financial year for employers to sponsor non-EU skilled workers. The cap of 20,700 only applies to ‘restricted’ Certificates of Sponsorship (‘CoS’) which are generally only for Tier 2 (General) workers applying from overseas who will earn less than the higher earner threshold (currently set at £159,600 per year).
The annual cap of 20,700 restricted CoS is split into monthly unequal allocations. The allocation year runs from April to April. At the start of the allocation year in April there are more available – starting at 2,200 per month. By October this falls to 1,500 per month.
Immigration cap reached
Until December 2017, the cap had only been reached once in the summer of 2015. This meant that, apart from a couple of months in 2015, employers who applied for a restricted CoS would generally obtain one. It was usually possible to obtain a restricted CoS even for roles that offered lower salaries of around £21,000 to £30,000 per year.
However, in the latest monthly allocation of June 2018 the cap was yet again reached, making this the 7th consecutive month of the quota being exceeded. There were 2049 restricted CoS available in June 2018. However, we understand that many applications for restricted CoS were refused. In particular, in circumstances where the role was neither a shortage occupation role nor a PhD role, only roles with annual salaries of £60,000 or above were granted a restricted CoS.
With the increasing pressure on the annual cap impacting both private and public sector employers in the UK, in mid-June the Government announced their plan to exclude doctors and nurses from the quota.
As this change will come into effect in early July, the hope is that this will free up hundreds of CoS each month which can then be allocated to other highly skilled professionals. This should increase the chance of employers being able to obtain a restricted CoS for roles with salaries in the middling range. However, we will have to wait to see whether roles with lower salaries will be allocated a CoS from July onwards.
In view of the decision to exclude doctors and nurses from the annual cap, employers who were not granted a restricted CoS in the June allocation should certainly consider re-applying in the following months but should check when the adverts used as part of the Resident Labour Market Test were first posted. This is because any restricted CoS granted must then be assigned to the sponsored worker within 6 months of the adverts being posted.
If the restricted CoS application still is not successful going forward, it may be worth considering if any other immigration options are available. For example, if the individual is coming with a family member who is obtaining a UK visa in their own right they may be able to come to the UK as their family member’s dependant.
It is also worth employers asking whether the individual has any existing family member or relationship with someone who is a UK, EEA national or someone with UK immigration status as there may be other options on that basis.
Rather than relying on the Tier 2 (General) category, there may be some cases where the individual is already an existing employee of an overseas group company and, as such, may have the option to come to the UK under the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) route, for which a restricted CoS is not required. In some cases, it may be also appropriate to consider a Tier 5 visa for temporary work of up to 2 years as an intern.