The UK Has Hit An Immigration Cap On Skilled Migrants

01 Feb 2018, 57 mins ago

A dramatic fall in the number of EU job applicants has left major employers like the National Health Service (“NHS”) running into the migration threshold. Until December 2017, the immigration cap for skilled migrants had not been reached since 2015.

Home Office data demonstrates that this is the second month in a row that the immigration threshold has been reached.  There are also fears that the cap is expected to be reached in both February and March. This is a result of a decrease in the number of European immigrants to the UK, which has forced companies to look for qualified international persons to fill the job roles available.  

The sharp increase in demand for skilled non-EU workers has come as net immigration from the EU has fallen dramatically since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The most recent data available showed a net figure of just 9,000 EU migrants arriving in the second quarter of the year, a number the Office for National Statistics said was not statistically different from zero. Overall net immigration in the year to June dropped by almost a third to 230,000.

The capped threshold has proved to be problematic and it has led to difficulties in recruiting doctors from overseas for the NHS. The NHS trusts and recruiters in England have reportedly turned away at least 20 otherwise well qualified doctors from outside the EU during this capped period.

Under the Tier 2 (General) sponsorship route, there are a maximum of 20,700 restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (“CoS”) available each year for employers to sponsor non-EEA skilled workers. The cap of 20,700 applies to Tier 2 (General) new hire workers applying from overseas who will earn less than the higher earner threshold (currently set at £159,600 per year) and Tier 4 dependants switching to the Tier 2 category.

The annual cap of 20,700 restricted CoS is split into strict monthly allocations. The allocation year runs from April to March. At the start of the allocation year there are more places available, starting at 2,200 per month.

The minimum salary requirement under the Tier 2 General route is £30,000 per annum. However, in December 2017 and January 2018, even if you were offered a salary above £30,000, the request for a restricted CoS could still be refused. In December 2017, there was a spike in the number of requests for a restricted CoS. This resulted in the Home Office granting requests using their points scoring system. The Home Office would award points according to the salary offered as per the guidance. In December 2017, a salary of £55,000 or higher resulted in the request for a restricted CoS being approved. In January 2018, the salary was lowered to £50,000, this meant that if an applicant was offered a salary of £50,000 or higher, their request for a restricted CoS was approved.

There is no guarantee as to how the cap will be maintained over the next few months. Therefore, in terms of future planning, where possible, employers should consider applying for restricted CoS in the April to September allocation cycles when the monthly allocation is at its highest.

Should you be struggling with the employment of Tier 2 skilled migrants, Gherson’s skilled corporate immigration team has extensive experience dealing with all Tier 2 matters and can assist and advise in respect of such applications. Should you require our advice or assistance with your application, please do not hesitate to contact us.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2018