UK Tier 2 Interim Limit: Clarification of Certificate of Sponsorship Requests

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has published refined criteria applicable to Tier 2 (General) sponsors' requests for additional certificates of sponsorship. 

Until now there has been very little clarification of the criteria against which the UKBA considers sponsorship requests. The guidance has now been refined to give sponsors greater certainty and the UKBA claim the newly-refined criteria will also help to meet the ongoing recruitment needs of sponsors while maintaining the overall interim UK Visa cap introduced in July 2010.

What do the refined criteria mean? 

New  Employer Sponsorship Licence applicants must now submit a completed Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Request form together with their initial licence application. The UKBA have recently published a new form to replace the previous version.

Due to the introduction of the refined criteria - and the additional information the UKBA now needs to obtain for shortage occupation sponsorship requests already submitted - the November panel will be delayed until 12 November. Where further information is needed, sponsors will receive a letter detailing the information that they should supply.

The UKBA panel of managers will continue to meet on a monthly basis, normally on the first working day of the month. All requests received by the 25th of the month onwards will not be considered at the panel but will be rolled over to the following month. For example, if the request is received by the UKBA on or before 24th November, it will be considered in the December panel meeting; all requests received on or after the 25th of November will be considered by the panel in January.

Each month, the total number of CoS available will be split between extension applications and applications for new hires. The UKBA will grant all requests for applications for extensions where an extension application meets the relevant criteria (see below). After all extension applications have been granted, the remaining CoS will be split into two categories: one category for applications for new hires into shortage occupations and another category for applications for new hires into non-shortage occupations.

Please note that with regard to shortage occupations the UKBA will assess requests based on whether the job is in a shortage occupation on the day of the panel meeting.

In what order will sponsorship requests be considered? 

While the Interim Limit is in place until 31 March 2011, sponsorship requests will each be considered on a monthly basis and ranked against the following criteria, starting with the highest ranking:

  1.  Requests for applications for extensions - where the extension is required for an existing migrant worker who is (a) currently employed by the sponsor requesting extension, (b) who currently has valid leave as a Work Permit holder or under Tier 2 (General) and (c) where the migrant worker’s leave is due to expire within the next 60 days – all requests in this category will be approved;
  2. Requests for applications for new hires in shortage occupations – the occupation must be listed on the shortage occupation list on the day of the panel meeting and these requests will then be considered in the following order of priority:
    a. Salary is at or above £40,000;
    b. Salary is between £36,000 and £39,999.99;
    c. Salary is between £32,000 and £35,999.99;
    d. Salary is between £28,000 and £31,999.99;
    e. Salary is between £24,000 and £27,999.99;
    f. Salary is between £20,000 and £23,999.99;
    g. Salary is under £20,000 (shortage occupations only, non-shortage occupations with a salary under £20,000 do not score enough points to qualify under Tier 2 General).
  3. Requests for applications for new hires in non-shortage occupations – a suitable Resident Labour Market Test must have been completed before submitting the COS request and these requests will then be considered in order of priority of salary, as outlined in the point above.

When will sponsors be notified about the result of their request?

The UKBA have again iterated that only a limited number of CoS’ are available and they cannot guarantee that any application will be successful. Sponsors will be notified of the result of their request within five working days of the panel meeting. Where the request for a CoS has been successful the licence-holder’s Sponsor Management System Account will be updated.

There is a procedure in place for urgent CoS requests where there is a compelling reason to request urgent treatment, such as where a newly licensed sponsor needs a CoS for a migrant worker whose leave is due to expire before the next panel meeting. Previously refused requests are not considered to be grounds for exceptional consideration. Where an urgent decision is required before a panel a decision will be made by the Deputy Director for Sponsorship or a nominated deputy.

It goes without saying that any CoS’ allocated to sponsors following a request must be used for the role for which it was requested. Failure to do so may result in future requests being refused and compliance action being undertaken by the UKBA as appropriate.

- Marek Starke is a member of the UK Visa Bureau.