Tier 2 General migrants applying for a visa from outside the UK require a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (RCoS). In an effort to reduce net migration, the government has implemented an annual quota of 20,700 RCoS. These are allocated to sponsors on a monthly basis.

Sponsors must apply for their RCoS by the 5th of the month and a monthly allocation meeting is held on around the 11th.

We previously reported that we expected the monthly allocation to be exceeded in December. This was, indeed, the case and many sponsors found their requests for RCoS were refused. The same thing has happened in January.

When the number of RCoS requests exceeds the monthly allocation, the Home Office gives priority to shortage occupations and then PhD level roles. It then comes down to salary. In December any other requests where the salary was below £55k were refused. For January the salary cut off point was £50k. It is no surprise that the RCoS quota was exceeded again in January, because there was more competition than usual, for fewer RCoS. This is for several reasons:

  1. The allocation of RCoS is not spread evenly through the year. 2,200 are available in April, 2,000 in May, June, July, August and September, 1,500 in October, November, December, January and February and only 1,000 in March. Unallocated RCoS roll over into the next month. This helps to delay the impact of the quota, but we inevitably start to feel the pinch as the year goes on.
  2. To allow for RCoS over £55k to be granted in December, the Home Office ‘borrowed’ 91 RCoS from January’s allocation, further reducing the number available.
  3. Most sponsors who were rejected in December will simply have applied again in January.

We can expect the situation to be similar in February and March. The Home Office has already ‘borrowed’ 115 RCoS from the February pot and most sponsors will keep re-applying each month until their request is approved.

A new annual allocation in April will help after that, but given the backlog which will have built up, it still may not mean all requests are approved. This puts sponsors who need to recruit urgently in a very difficult position and it will be important to manage the expectations of managers and potential recruits.

Meanwhile sponsors need to be careful that their resident labour market test (RLMT) does not expire. RCoS must be assigned to the sponsored migrant within 6 months of the role first being advertised. Those who advertised at the beginning of October (or before) will find that their advertising expires before they can allocate an April RCoS and so may need to repeat their RLMT.

Those tempted to increase salary levels to improve their chances of getting an RCoS also need to be careful. The salary on the RCoS application must be within the range advertised as part of the RLMT. So if you feel you can justify paying more, and wish to do so, you may need to repeat the RLMT before you re-apply for an RCoS.