UK Home Office proposes changes to operation of Tier 2 quota

The Home Office has proposed increasing the number of salary bands in the points table used to assess whether a Tier 2 (General) Visa applicant can qualify under the monthly quota for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS). This proposal comes as a result of the monthly quota for non-EEA nationals being exceeded in June and July due to demand and the wide salary bandings impacting more applicants.

The new bands are expected to be available for applications submitted on or after September 6, 2015, and would be provisional until changes to the Immigration Rules have been approved by Parliament.

There would be no changes to the RCoS application process, and the prioritization given to shortage occupations and PhD-level occupations would not change.

Background

The Tier 2 (General) Visa quota affects foreign nationals applying for a visa from outside the UK who will earn less than a guaranteed amount of GBP 155,300 per year or those who apply from within the UK and are switching from the Tier 4 Partner category. The current annual quota is 20,700 and a fixed number of spaces are available each month.

Tier 2 (General) Visa applications are processed in a priority order based on a points system: shortage occupations are awarded the most points, followed by PhD-level jobs and lastly points are awarded based on salary.

Other Related Changes

Under the existing rules, an RCoS must be assigned by the sponsoring employer within three months of the date of issue or it will expire. A proposed change would allow the Home Office to return unused places to the limit, which would increase the number of RCoS available. More information on this will be available in the Immigration Rules and the related Sponsor Guidance.

Lastly, following the introduction of the new salary bands table, the Home Office will need to make changes to its internal systems, which may cause application processing delays in November (applications can be made for this period on or after October 6, 2015). This will not affect the number of RCoS available in either the October or November allocations.

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

Although initial delays may occur in November, the new salary bands and the ability to utilize unused RCoS are positive developments.  More applicants would be approved each month and a few more places may be available in the monthly quota.

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK