Immigration cap approaching limit - impact for employers

19 September 2014

The immigration cap, which applies to non-EEA nationals coming from overseas who are being sponsored to work in the UK, is now regularly approaching and has even exceeded its monthly limit.


In April 2011, the UK Government introduced an annual limit, running from April to April each year, on the number of Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoSs) that UK companies who hold Tier 2 (General) Sponsor Licences can issue to non-EEA nationals that they wish to sponsor to work in the UK. The annual limit was set at 20,700 RCoSs and applies to non-EEA nationals, who are based overseas and are coming to work for the UK sponsor as a new hire, who will earn less than £153,500 in the UK. Since it was first introduced, there has been no change to this annual limit, although the Government did commit to reviewing it on an annual basis. The limit is divided into 12 monthly allocations of 1,725, and this monthly total is increased in line with any RCoSs which have been unallocated, returned or reclaimed during the previous month.

Recent developments

Until the start of this year's limit, the cap has been heavily under subscribed with only 15,920 RCoSs being issued in 2013/14. However, in April of this year, all but eight of the monthly allocation of RCoSs were issued and, at the time of writing, the balance stands at only 570 RCoSs remaining unallocated out of a possible 10,350. More importantly, the monthly allocation was exceeded in June, July and August. The only reason why, to date, the monthly limit has not been reached is because of a low number of RCoSs being issued in May. If this trend continues, it is likely that the monthly limit will start being regularly reached, and applications therefore rejected, before the end of the allocation year.

Impact for employers

If the Home Office were to receive more valid applications for RCoSs than it was able to approve under the monthly limit, it would rank the applications, awarding points on the basis of whether the position is on the Home Office's Shortage Occupation list, whether the job requires a PhD level qualification and the anticipated salary. In effect this would mean that RCoSs would only be allocated for those jobs which require skills which are recognised as being in short supply, require a PhD level qualification or are highly paid. This would particularly affect employers looking to fill vacancies which are not recognised as requiring skills in short supply in lower paid professions where they cannot find resident workers to do the roles.

Employers should therefore be reviewing their recruitment needs and processes to ensure that they submit their requests for RCoSs as early as possible while a proportion of the limit remains unallocated.

How we can help

If you would like to discuss ways to potentially minimise the impact of the cap being reached, please contact James Perrott, in our immigration team at or on 020 7791 4081.