UK Border Agency overhauls Interim Limit on granting Certificates of Sponsorship under the Tier 2 (General) scheme

Further to the introduction of an Interim Limit on the number of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) Tier 2 Sponsors can issue, the UK Border Agency has announced important changes to the way in which requests for CoS are handled and decided.

The most significant change is that the UK Border Agency has now confirmed that it will grant all applications for CoS where the Certificate is to be used in an extension application. In order to qualify for consideration as an extension, the CoS must be required for an existing migrant worker who:

  1. Is currently employed by the sponsor requesting the CoS; and
  2. Currently holds a Work Permit or Tier 2 (General) visa.

Requests for holders of Tier 1 (Post Study Work) and Tier 1 (General) visas would not be considered as extensions.

Once all requests for CoS for extension applications have been granted each month, the remaining CoS will be split into two categories, Shortage Occupation roles, and non-Shortage Occupation roles. The UK Border Agency has said that the number of CoS available for each of these two categories will be proportionate to the number of requests received in these two categories (in relation to each other). For example, if, in any given month, the UKBA receives 5000 non-Shortage Occupation requests and 1000 Shortage Occupation requests, they would be likely to award the remaining CoS to the two categories in the ration of 5:1.

It should be noted that previously, Shortage Occupation requests were supposedly granted preference over non-Shortage Occupation requests. This is no longer the case, and seemingly the only advantage gained by a Shortage Occupation request is that its salary will only be ‘competing’ against other Shortage Occupation requests (rather than non-Shortage Occupation requests, which would typically have a higher salary).

Once the requests have been sorted into the two categories specified above, the UK Border Agency will rank them (separately in each of the two categories) according to the following criteria:

  1. Salary is at or above £40,000
  2. Salary is between £36,000 and £39,999.99
  3. Salary is between £32,000 and £35,999.99
  4. Salary is between £28,000 and £31,999.99
  5. Salary is between £24,000 and £27,999.99
  6. Salary is between £20,000 and £23,999.99
  7. Salary is less than £20,000 (shortage occupations only)

The decision of whether or not to grant CoS will be made on the basis of the above criteria. Within salary brackets, it is likely that the ‘explanation’ offered by the sponsor (as to why it is so important to sponsor a migrant worker in the particular role) will offer the UKBA further opportunity for differentiation.

The UK Border Agency has also announced that the total number of CoS available during the interim limit (i.e. 19th July 2010 – 31st March 2011) is 18,700. This is equivalent to approximately 2209 per month although the UK Border Agency has previously denied that it will grant a predetermined number each month.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions concerning the Interim Limit. UK Work Permits is currently requesting answers to these questions, so as to provide greater certainty to our clients. We would advise employers looking to sponsor migrants to get in touch with us so that we can offer advice on the viability of such an application.