Tier 2 and certificates of sponsorship Q&A


This section answers common questions about the Tier 2 (General) immigration route and the certificate of sponsorship application process. Find out more detail about the Tier 2 policy changes on our Tier 2: Policy reform page.

Acronym glossary:

  • CoS - Certificate of Sponsorship
  • EEA - European Economic Area
  • ILR - Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • ISC- Immigration Skills Charge
  • MAC - Migration Advisory Committee
  • NMC - Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • OSCE - Objective Structured Clinical Exam
  • RCoS - Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship
  • RLMT - Resident Labour Market Test
  • SMS - Sponsor Management System
  • UKVI - UK Visas and Immigration

General Tier 2 and Certificate of Sponsorship questions

Tier 2 policy change questions

General Tier 2 and Certificate of Sponsorship

When applying for a CoS what does the salary threshold include?
The salary thresholds are based on guaranteed pay, so can include: 

  • basic gross salary including tax;
  • high cost area and recruitment and retention premia pay supplements; plus
  • any contracted enhancements for shift patterns.
Pay or allowances that are not guaranteed (such as overtime or performance pay) or would not be offered to resident workers in similar circumstances, should not be included. Earnings from supplementary employment should also not be included.

It is important that the guaranteed salary package stated on the CoS matches (or is within the range) stated on the original advertisement for the role, otherwise the CoS application will not be granted.  

Are there any plans to hold more RCoS panels?
No, the Home Office believes the monthly allocations strike the right balance between keeping waiting times short and avoiding a “first-come, first served” approach dependent on how many sponsors apply in a particular week or fortnight. The Home Office have said that more frequent allocations would make the points table (which prioritises shortage occupations such as nurses) less effective in allocating places for workers with the skills most in need.

UKVI have an urgent request system which works well for those cases which genuinely cannot wait until the next allocation date. Please see our 'What if we have an urgent need for additional sponsored workers?' question.

Following the changes to Tier 2 in November 2016, can we still make bulk applications for RCoS?
Employers are still able to  apply for the number of RCoS required from the monthly allocation through the SMS. However it is important that employers must only apply for certificates when needed and are certain they will be used.  If the limit is oversubscribed in a particular month, unnecessary RCoS requests could increase the points score required and result in more employers being denied RCoS which they need.

What is the UKVI process for allocating RCoS?

Applications must be received by the 5th of each month to be considered on time. If applications are not received by this date, they will be reviewed at the following month's panel meeting. For example, if an application is received by UKVI on 7 May, it will be reviewed by the panel on 11 June. The panel's decision making process is based upon points gained against one of the three following categories and salary awarded for the job: 

  • the job is identified on the shortage occupation list;
  • the job is at PhD level; or
  • the RLMT has been conducted or the job is exempt.
The salary rates work on a sliding scale and higher paid jobs are awarded more points. A minimum of 21 points is required. Employers with queries relating to specific applications are encouraged to contact UKVI directly through their employer helpline 0300 123 4699.

If our application for a RCoS is successful, how long do we have to assign the CoS to an individual before it expires?

The RCoS must be assigned to an individual within three months, or it will expire and the employer will need to reapply. Once the RCoS has been assigned, the individual will have a further three months to apply for Tier 2 entry clearance before the CoS expires. The employer will only be charged for the certificate at the point of assigning it to an individual.

We have made an offer of employment to a new overseas recruit, must we now wait for the allocation panel meeting next month to apply for a RCoS?
It is possible to request urgent applications before the next official panel date with a supporting business case, but the role must meet the minimum points scored in the last Tier 2 RCoS allocation meeting.  Employers wishing to use this route should use their SMS account to make the application and then email Tier2Limits@ukba.gsi.gov.uk explaining why the application is urgent.

If an application for a RCoS is unsuccessful, will the application be automatically submitted for consideration in next month's panel? Will we get charged each time we apply?
No, if your application is unsuccessful then this does not automatically roll over to the next month. If you still wish to employ the individual, you will need to re-apply the following month. Payment is only made when you assign the CoS to an individual.

If my application is unsuccessful, can I continue to re-apply for a restricted certificate of sponsorship job for a specific post?
Yes, but employers should be mindful of the six-month RLMT advertising rule. As time elapses between the post first being advertised and the CoS being assigned to the individual, it may compromise the applicant’s ability to make their visa application within the deadline. For example, if the date that a post is first advertised is 1 January and the CoS isn’t allocated to the trust until 11 June, this only gives the applicant until the 30 June to submit their application.

If we have to wait for the panel to meet, presumably this means we may have a delay in recruitment processes while we wait to find out if we have got a RCoS?
The UKVI panel meet on the 11th of each month (or next working day) to consider all applications. Employers will need to submit any applications before the 5th of the month to ensure consideration by the panel. Employers will need to consider these dates within their recruitment processes.

What if we have an urgent need for additional sponsored workers?
Employers may request additional CoS using the SMS but you will need to show that you have used all your CoS and have an urgent need to issue further CoS. UKVI will only approve urgent requests for RCoS in exceptional circumstances and the employer will need to show that the CoS is only for genuine, urgent reasons. For example: where there have been delays caused by UKVI resulting in a newly licensed sponsor needing a CoS for a migrant who is due to start work before the sponsorship panel sits in the following month; or where a consultant surgeon has been recruited and needs to be appointed immediately because they have patients listed for life-saving surgery before the panel sits in the following month. 

Would an application with a score of 21 points be less likely to get a RCoS than one scoring 54 points?
To qualify for consideration, a RCoS application must score a minimum of 21 points. The points-based prioritising system applies when there are more applications than there are RCoS available in any one month. This is referred to as over-subscription. In such cases, an application with higher scoring points is more likely to be approved.

For more information on the allocations of RCoS, please visit our Tier 2 web pages.

Do staff from overseas need to earn at least £35,000 to stay in the UK?
In 2011 the government announced the introduction of a cap on the time individuals can spend on Tier 2 visa, set at six years. To stay beyond six years will require the individual to apply for ILR. A salary of £35,000 is required to qualify for settlement, unless their role is or has been included on shortage occupation list at any time while they have been sponsored to do that role.

The £35,000 income threshold came into effect in April 2016 for ILR applications. This new earnings threshold will apply to individuals who were granted a Tier 2 visa after 6 April 2011.

Please see our ILR webpage on this for full details, exceptions, and the other settlement criteria.

Tier 2 policy change

I’ve heard that the RLMT will need to be carried out before recruiting a non-EEA nurse in future – is that correct?
Yes, nurses will remain on the national shortage occupation list, but the usual exemption from the RLMT which comes from being on the shortage occupation list will not apply to nurses. This is because if a large volume of nurses are sponsored in Tier 2, they could prevent other occupations from being allocated places in the Tier 2 limit.  It is therefore important that nurses are only sponsored where they are needed – i.e. for posts which genuinely cannot be filled from the resident workforce.  

From 24 November 2016, employers will need to carry out a RLMT before a non-EEA nurse is assigned a CoS.  

What is the process around providing evidence for the RLMT as part of the Tier 2 process? 
The RLMT requires that vacancies are subject to a four-week advertising period (28 days). All job advertisements need to be placed with both Universal Jobmatch and another medium, which can be NHS Jobs.  While there is a system in place to cross-post vacancies from NHS Jobs site to Universal Jobmatch site, the onus is on employers/sponsors to confirm that a vacancy has been advertised on both and capture the necessary evidence.

Advertising requirements and criteria are set out in Appendix A of the immigration rules.

Please visit our Resident Labour Market pages for more information.

Is the total cost of the ISC payable upfront when an employer assigns the certificate of sponsorship or on an annual basis?
The immigration skills charge, typically £1,000 per year, will be calculated using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate. The full charge must be paid in one go upfront when the CoS is assigned to the worker.

What will the funds raised from the ISC be used for? Are employers able to access the funds/draw down from the funds? 
The Department for Education is responsible for allocating the funds raised by the ISC. We are awaiting for further details regarding how the funds will be used to be released shortly and our website will be updated as more information is made available.

Will there be an option to set up a payment account with the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC)?

This facility will not be available initially.  However, UKVI are aware that it may be an issue for some sponsors and it may form part of the new sponsorship IT system which is under development.

If payment of the ISC is taken at the point of assigning the CoS, will it be refunded if, for example, the individual fails the OSCE and as a result must leave the UK?
A full refund will only be given if the workers application is refused/withdrawn or if they do not come to work for you.

A partial refund can be given in circumstances if the worker leaves their job before the end date on their certificate of sponsorship if they fail to secure a necessary professional qualification. Partial refunds can not be made in the first year of sponsorship.

Refunds are usually given with 90 days and will be automatically sent through the SMS.  

Further information on refunds can be found on the government website.

If we sponsor a five year CoS and the individual leaves after three years, do we get a refund of the ISC from the Home Office? 
A partial refund can be given in circumstances if the worker leaves their post early. You can notify UKVI via the SMS if there are changes in the workers circumstances.

Will the ISC be applied to employers of non-EEA migrants who are assigned a certificate of sponsorship before April 2017?
No, the ISC will not be applied to employers of non-EEA migrants assigned a CoS before April 2017.  

What is the justification for charging the NHS £3,000 to recruit nurses to a position critically-under staffed?
The Home Office have taken the recommendations and advice from the MAC. The MAC have advised that all public sector organisations are employers like any other and are encouraged to consider the resident labour market first, before recruiting from overseas.

Does the £30,000 salary threshold increase apply to nurses from April 2017?
No, nurses are exempt from the £30,000 salary threshold increase until 1 July 2019.

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Where can I find more information?

Detailed guidance can be found in the Tiers 2 and 5: guidance for sponsors or you can get advice to individual queries by emailing BusinessHelpdesk@homeofice.gsi.gov.uk or calling the sponsorship and employers helpline on 0300 123 4699.

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