The demand for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (‘RCoS’) is still outstripping the government quota, despite a new annual allocation being available. In most cases, unless the job is on the shortage occupation list or a PhD level role, eligibility is based on how much the sponsor will pay the applicant.

In April, although 2,168 certificates were available, the salary cut-off point was £50k. To achieve this, the Home Office had to borrow 25 RCoS from May. This probably reflects the fact that the cut-off for March was a record £55k so there were even more people than usual re-applying. The cap was also hit in May, the cut-off was £55k.

The NHS has complained about the restrictions this is placing on their ability to recruit doctors. However, the Home Office has said around one third of RCoS are already going to the NHS and does not appear sympathetic to calls to add doctors to the shortage occupation list, which is subject to periodic review by the Migration Advisory Committee.

There have been similar complaints from employers recruiting in IT and engineering sectors, who have pointed out that the UK does not seem to be open to the ‘brightest and best’ as had been promised. The Campaign for Science and Engineering has recently published a Freedom of Information Act request, which provides an interesting breakdown of the different types of role still waiting for RCoS.

There have also been calls to exclude shortage and PhD level roles from the cap. The government has pointed out that the whole point of a quota is to limit numbers in order to reduce net migration.

We do seem to be approaching a crunch situation: does the public really believe that net migration should be reduced and that a rigid quota should apply? Or are they willing to turn a blind eye to certain migrants? Whilst the situation is incredibly frustrating for employers and migrants, we can only hope that it will trigger increased discussion about immigration policy and who should be allowed to come to the UK.

Meanwhile employers who are struggling to recruit should re-assess if the migrant has any other route to gain entry clearance. Those who are paying just below the recent cut-off points may wish to keep applying in the hope of a breakthrough, but need to ensure their advertising is still up to date. Others may need to consider whether there is any other solution, for example for the migrant to work remotely from their home country or whether they should renew efforts to find (and potentially train up) a settled worker instead.