Virginia, US
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| Naomi Goldshtein | Sian Saunby

Sponsor Licensing – Practicalities of Renewing Your CoS Allocation in the UK

In the past three months, we have seen the demand for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (“RCoS”) exceed supply, resulting in a number of RCoS requests being rejected.

Despite the uncertainty of an RCoS allocation, the un-restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (“CoS”) allocation process is something that you can be certain about.

Unrestricted CoS are available within your Sponsor Management System (SMS) from 6 April in one year to 5 April in the following year. The Tier 2 Guidance for Sponsors confirms that any CoS that aren’t used before the 5th April will be lost – “Any CoS that remain unused at the end of your CoS year will be removed from your SMS account. You cannot carry over any unused CoS to the next year.”

If you are lucky enough to have qualified for ‘auto-allocation’ renewal, no action is required. However, if you have received an e-mail from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) regarding the renewal of your allocation, now is the time to act.

Who can have an Unrestricted CoS?

Whilst unrestricted CoS cannot be used to provide sponsorship for Tier 2 General applicants from overseas receiving a salary below £159,600, they can be used for:

  • Tier 2 (ICTs) (both in-country extensions and out of country applications);
  • Tier 2 (General) high earners (currently set at a salary of £159,600 or above);
  • In-country Tier 2 (General) applications including extensions, changes of employment and those switching immigration category into Tier 2 (General) from applicable categories; and
  • Croatian nationals who need to apply for worker authorisation.

When can I apply?

Now! As the unrestricted CoS allocation renewal period for 2018-19 approaches, now is the time to review your internal recruitment plans and prepare to file your unrestricted CoS allocation request.

Consideration

A key consideration when looking to renew your CoS allocation is justifying the genuine need for the number of CoS. Practically, that means looking at any recruitment predicted within the next 12 months, together with any extension applications that may be required for current sponsored employees.

If you are an overarching body and sponsor licenced in Tier 5 GAE, you must also consider the CoS issued last year versus the number of applications from individuals and existing clients/employers expected in the next allocation year. Internships are becoming increasingly popular and should you run a scheme supporting Internships in the UK, you should be prepared for a spike in demand and request sufficient CoS from the UKVI to support this.

The number of CoS requested should not be guessed and should be based on a reasonable forecast for the coming 12 months. The UKVI reserve the right to request additional information on requests of this nature and if requested the information must be provided within a finite time period, usually around 10 working days.

What is the process?

Once the number has been determined, the process is relatively straight forward. The request is submitted through your Sponsor Management System (“SMS”) and no supporting documentation is required (unless of course requested by UKVI further down the line.)

How long can I expect to wait?

Following consideration and submission of your CoS allocation request, you may find yourself waiting for a number of weeks for the CoS to be allocated. The UKVI consideration time often increases during peak CoS allocation renewal times and you can expect to wait up to 18 weeks, which may result in you being without CoS for a period of time.

Helpfully, the UKVI now operate a priority service for consideration of the annual allocation requests reducing the consideration time to 5 working days (from anything up to 18 weeks). The service attracts a government fee of £200, however, it is worth its weight in gold where you have an individual whose visa is expiring or has a change of employment application to support.

Adverse decisions

Following UKVI consideration of the allocation request, do not be alarmed or surprised if you find yourself in the familiar situation of the UKVI refusing to grant you any CoS for the 2018-19 allocation period, or having your request partially granted, meaning you are permitted some CoS but not the total amount requested.

Whilst frustrating, this is a common occurrence and nothing to be particularly concerned about. Although another annual request cannot be made (if the first has been refused by UKVI) sponsors are able to use the additional allocation request function to make ad-hoc requests throughout the year.

The priority service is also available for additional allocation requests and can be utilised at any time by the Sponsor.

If you have any questions or if you would like to engage the services of the Fragomen Compliance Team please do not hesitate to contact us at emeacomplianceteam@fragomen.com.