Tier 2 update: Immigration skills charge and application for annual allocation of unrestricted certificates

Immigration skills charge

If you are a licensed sponsor under Tier 2 of the UK immigration Points Based System then, subject to final Parliamentary approval, with effect from 6 April 2017 you will be subject to a new skills charge payable at the point that you issue a certificate of sponsorship to a worker from outside of the EEA.

The skills charge will be £1,000 per year of sponsorship for medium and large sponsors, and £364 per year for small and charitable sponsors. The Government's aim is to encourage UK-based employers to train the resident settled workforce, rather than to rely on the migrant workforce.

The skills charge will be payable up front for the whole period covered by the certificate of sponsorship, though the Government has not yet published details of the mechanics for paying the charge. It will, therefore, be important to consider carefully how long any sponsorship should last.

The skills charge will apply to Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) migrants who are:

  • applying from outside of the UK for a visa;
  • applying from inside the UK to switch into this category from another category; or
  • applying to extend their visa where they were first sponsored from 6 April 2017.

There are, however, some exceptions:

  • a migrant sponsored under Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) where they were first sponsored before 6 April 2017 and they are applying from within the UK to extend their stay with either the same or a different sponsor;
  • a Tier 4 student visa holder switching in the UK to a Tier 2 (General) visa; 
  • a Tier 2 (Intra Company) Graduate Trainee; and
  • workers performing certain specified PHD level occupations.
Have you applied for an allocation of unrestricted certificates of sponsorship for the upcoming CoS year – 6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018?

The current annual allocation of unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) will automatically expire on 5 April 2017. If you have not used the CoS allocated to you, they cannot be carried over to the next CoS year (i.e. 6 April 2017 – 5 April 2018) and they will be removed from your sponsorship management system (SMS) account.

Unless you have received an automatic annual allocation, if, during the upcoming CoS year (6 April 2017 – 5 April 2018), you intend to:

  • continue to sponsor a migrant whose visa is due to expire;
  • hire new migrants with a salary of £155,300 or more; or
  • employ a migrant already in the UK with leave to remain,

You should apply for an annual renewal of your unrestricted CoS allocation by no later than 5 April 2017.

The application is made via the SMS and you will need to inform the Home Office how many CoS you are likely to require and be able to justify any request that you make. This will involve considering the development of your business over the upcoming 12 months and the impact this will have on the recruitment of staff.

Although you can apply for a CoS after the deadline in April, the time in which you will receive the CoS will not be guaranteed and it will depend on the waiting time at the Home Office. This may cause delays to the hiring process of a non-EEA migrant.

If you require assistance with this process or you are intending on becoming a licensed sponsor, we would be delighted to assist. Please feel free to contact a member of our immigration team to discuss your requirements further.

Sarah Harrop

Sarah Harrop

Partner, Employment & Immigration

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