Employers need to be aware of changes to the restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) system that take effect from 6 September 2011. As part of an overhaul of its online Sponsor Management System (SMS), the UK Border Agency is introducing restricted CoS applications via the SMS from 1 October 2011. Any restricted CoS allocated before 30 September 2011 must be used by that date or will be lost.

As a transtional measure, there will be no facility for requesting restricted CoS via the online form from 6 September 2011 until 30 September 2011. Any requests for CoS from the October allocation must be made online from 1 October 2011 to 9 October 2011 inclusive. Any restricted CoS requests for assignment before 11 October 2011 must be made via the exceptional request route and, if unsuccessful, the employer will need to repeat the request via the SMS from 1 October 2011. Sponsors that need to assign a CoS to an employee between 1 October and 11 October 2011 must do so also via the exceptional request route.

Any employers intending to sponsor a new hire under Tier 2 (General) within the next month where the salary package is under £150,000 per annum should check the changes to the procedures carefully. Please consult your Kingsley Napley LLP advisor for further details.

Renewal of CoS allocations from January 2012

The UKBA has clarified that Tier 2 registered sponsors will be able to apply to renew their annual allocation of Tier 2 unrestricted CoS from early January 2012. This is three months before the end of the annual limits period, which runs from 6 April 2011 to 5 April 2012. All registered sponsors' annual allocation periods will run from a common start date of 6 April 2012.

Online payments only from 1 October 2011  

From 1 October 2011 the UKBA will no longer accept payment of CoS or Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) fees by cheque. Tier 2 or Tier 4 registered sponsors will need to pay the applicable fee online before they are able to assign the CoS or CAS to their employee or student.

Visa application forms only valid for 30 days  

The UKBA confirmed recently that its online visa application forms are only valid for submission for 30 days after they are first used. If a visa applicant starts his UK visa application online but does not complete it he may save his part-completed form online but must ensure it is submitted within 30 days. Application forms that are more than 30 days old cannot be submitted and applicants will have to start their application again.