Employers who hold a Tier 2 sponsor licence can sponsor employees who are from outside of the European Economic Area by assigning a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to them. Sponsors have an annual allocation of unrestricted Tier 2 (General) CoS’s (and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) CoS’s, if they hold a ICT licence) which can be used during the period 6 April to 5 April each year. Therefore if you hold a sponsor licence you need to consider whether you need to renew your CoS allocation, as your current CoS allocation will expire on 5 April 2016. You will need a Tier 2 (General) CoS if you have any sponsored employees on Tier 2 (General) visas which are due to expire in the next 12 months, or if you think you will need to hire anyone on a Tier 2 (General) who is already working or studying inside the UK. If you have a Tier 2 (ICT) licence you will want to have an allocation of ICT CoS’s if you think you will want to transfer staff from an overseas company to the UK in this period.
Some sponsors will automatically be granted an annual allocation of CoS’s, based on the number of CoS’s which they assigned in the previous year. The sponsor can check the number they have been assigned on 6 April. These sponsors can apply for further CoS’s throughout the year if required via the sponsor management system (“SMS”).
If the CoS’s are not automatically renewed, sponsors will need to apply for a CoS allocation via the SMS by 5 April otherwise.
The above procedure concerns Tier 2 (ICT) CoS’s, which can be assigned to employees who work for an overseas group company, as well as unrestricted Tier 2 (General) CoS’s which can be assigned to employees who are already in the UK when they apply for their visa or who earn £155,300 or more per annum. A restricted CoS is required for workers applying from outside the EEA earning less than £155,300 per year. Sponsors cannot have an annual allocation of restricted CoS’s, these must be applied for as needed using the monthly application procedure, to enable UKVI to abide by the Government’s cap on the number of restricted CoS’s issued each year.
Even if sponsors cannot foresee an immediate need for a CoS for the next year, it may be sensible to apply for one or two now, in case you need to hire someone on short notice at a later date. This will avoid the likely delay involved in having to request a CoS via the SMS before sponsoring someone on a Tier 2 visa.