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Key professions hit as UK visa applications breach limit

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    Doctors, teachers, engineers and IT professionals worst affected by visa cap, according to data secured by Eversheds Sutherland

    Approximately 10,000 applications made by employers for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (Restricted CoSes) have been refused since December last year, according to data secured by Eversheds Sutherland under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Restricted CoSes are confirmation from UK Visas and Immigration that an individual may be employed in the UK. These are limited to 20,700 certificates per year, broken down into monthly allocations. Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship, for employees applying within the UK or who earn salaries above £159,600, are not impacted by the quota.

    A breakdown of the data (December 2017-April 2018), requested by Simon Kenny, a Principal Associate in the global legal practice’s immigration team shows that doctors, teachers, engineers and IT professionals are amongst those largely being refused permission to work in the UK under the current quota system.

    The quota system has existed since 2011 but, until December 2017, the limit was only ever exceeded in one month. Since that month, applications have consistently been in excess of the monthly limit.

    Simon Kenny commented:

    “Certificates are allocated based on priority criteria determined by UK Visas and Immigration. Applicants whose occupations are considered to be in notable shortage, as determined on a list prepared by UK Visas and Immigration, are issued the most points. Those who need PhDs to do their jobs also receive extra points, likely to be enough to qualify in any given month. Remaining certificates are allocated based on the proposed income of applicants coming to the UK, without any additional consideration of what they will do. This allocation process has led to many sponsors unable to offer such sponsorship.

    “Roles which would generally pay less than £50,000 and are not in the shortage or PhD classifications have applications consistently refused, without exception. That specifically appears to hit public sector roles, or those which are subject to publicly agreed banding, worst. This can be seen most clearly in the data regarding doctors at registrar level and below.”

    According to Kenny, the policy itself is unlikely to change in the near future, with the possible exception of an exemption of doctors from the quota, which may have a relatively small impact on qualification.

    Kenny offered the following advice to employers:

    “It would appear sensible for employers to expect and in turn, plan for a shortage in Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship over at least the next six months. The phenomenon of the “refusal pool” increasing due to re-applications seems to make it unlikely the requirement will drop below 50 points this year without changes to the process. Employers should note the likely score required and plan recruitment accordingly.

    “Employers should carefully assess whether any other provisions of the Immigration Rules may allow employees, who might otherwise need a Certificate of Sponsorship, to work. Tier 1, Tier 5, business visit or looking at any status which may allow personal immigration are all potential options.

    “Employers should also contribute to consultation exercises operated by the Migration Advisory Committee to indicate how this shortage impacts them. Some occupations always fail to qualify for restricted Certificates of Sponsorship based on this data. Whether allocations should continue to be made on the basis of salary should, we suggest, be reviewed.”

     For more information on Eversheds Sutherland, visit

    This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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