The annual immigration cap for sponsoring non-EEA skilled migrants under the Tier 2 (General) subcategory has been reached again for the month of July. This has again led to many companies being prevented from hiring talented individuals, who would otherwise have helped plug the skills shortage.

In July 2,040 restricted certificates of sponsorship (CoS) were available, with 394 carried over from last month. As in June, the number of applications submitted by UK sponsors exceeded the amount of CoS available. Although 1,943 CoS were granted, more than 200 requests were rejected. A total of 97 allocations will be carried over to August.

Only applications scoring at least 45 points were successful in July. Those sponsors who had conducted a resident labour market test and offered salaries of less than £32,000 per annum were refused a CoS allocation.

Given that there is only a small rollover, there is a real concern that next month's quota of 1,747 will also be exceeded. From the figures of the past two months, it appears that there have been more than 2,000 CoS requests each month since May. If the number of requests in August is similar, then the cap will be reached for a third month in a row. This will result in sponsors being left with unsuccessful CoS requests.

If the cap continues to be reached, the minimum salary bands could rise and we may end up in a situation where the approved CoS requests are for jobs on the shortage occupation list or where sponsors are paying very high salaries.

What's next?

Employers wishing to sponsor migrants under the Tier 2 (General) category in the next few months should plan ahead and consider issues such as timing and the salaries on offer. More importantly, when job offers are made, sponsors should be prepared for delays in filling vital job roles. Technology companies, non-profit organisations and start-ups are among those businesses likely to be most affected.

The Home Affairs Committee is holding an inquiry into Tier 2 and the skills shortage. In addition, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is conducting a wider review of Tier 2.