15 June 2015 #Immigration
It has been reported that the cap on the number of Tier 2 visas permitted each month has been reached for the first time since its introduction in 2011.
There is a limit on the number of individuals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) earning less than £155,30 a year who can apply for a Tier 2 visa from outside the UK i.e. those who are sponsored by a licenced UK employer to carry out skilled work. Employers who want to sponsor such individuals must firstly apply for a restricted certificate of sponsorship (COS), with applications being considered by UKVI each month. The Home Office has confirmed that, for the first time, the number of valid applications has exceeded the monthly cap so some applicants who meet the minimum criteria but score the lowest will not be granted a COS and so cannot apply for a visa.
Historically, the number of applications for restricted COSs has been much lower and, as any unused COSs are rolled over into the next month’s allocation, the cap has not been reached. As the UKVI statistics for May 2015 show, only 8 were carried over into June 2015 and so, for the first time, some applications from businesses to fill skilled vacancies from overseas have been rejected, leading to accusations that Britain is now closed to the “brightest and best” from around the world.
This news coincides with an announcement by David Cameron of a new drive to significantly reduce the flow of skilled workers recruited from outside the EEA. He has proposed raising the qualifying salary thresholds, introducing a time limit on declared skill shortage areas and introducing a skills levy on visas to boost funding for apprenticeships. This has been criticised by some, who have voiced concerns that these measures could worsen already acute skills shortages and damage the UK economy.
What does this mean for employers?
If you want to sponsor a non-EEA national from outside the UK under a Tier 2 visa then there is now a risk that your restricted COS application will not be granted. Where the cap is reached, those in the most skilled roles (either where the role is on the shortage occupation list or at PhD level) will score the most points and have their applications approved. After that, points are awarded on a sliding scale based on the migrant’s salary, so those who will be paid the minimum annual salary of £20,800 will score the lowest and are most at risk of having their applications rejected. Employers recruiting skilled migrants from outside the UK will therefore need to give some thought as to what they plan on paying the employee to have the best chance of being able to secure a restricted COS and recruit them.
If you need any assistance with recruiting staff from overseas please contact our immigration team who can help navigate this ever-changing area of law.