Is the restricted Certificate of Sponsorship process fit for purpose?

21 March 2018

Over the last 5 months, employers have advertised their roles and, having found nobody suitable in the resident workforce, made requests for a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for various roles, including the following:

  • Financial Analyst
  • Architect
  • PR Consultant
  • Medical practitioners

Each month the requests have been refused and the absurdity of the “points based” system becomes ever more evident.

How points are scored

There are 20,700 CoS available each year, split unequally into monthly allocations, with more CoS available in the months at the beginning of each financial year. Employers must have a Sponsor Licence and if they wish to employ individuals from outside the EU, they are required to go through the laborious process of applying for a restricted CoS (subject to a few exemptions).

At present, points are awarded for:

  1. advertising or an exemption from advertising; plus
  2. salary

Looking at some examples:

A nurse on a salary of £30,000

130 points are allocated for shortage occupation roles, i.e. those where there is an acknowledged lack of suitable workers in the resident labour market (click here for more information).  Nurses fall within this category.

10 points are awarded for a salary of £30,000.

With 140 points in total from shortage occupations and the £30,000 salary, the nurse is certain to obtain a restricted CoS. This is because the 130 points for the shortage occupation role all but guarantees that the request will succeed, as the maximum possible score for a non-shortage occupation role is 135 (PhD level role plus £100,000 salary).

The system has been set up this way intentionally, so that shortage occupation roles always come to the top of the pile, certain to score the most points. With this almost guaranteed success in mind, what purpose does it serve to include shortage occupation roles within the restricted CoS cycle? These roles will always score the highest points and the CoS will always be allocated. This has a huge impact on other roles which are then pushed out, if much of the quota is taken up by shortage occupation roles. The request process only serves to delay the visa application.

A doctor on a salary of £30,000

Only a handful of medical specialities are considered to be a shortage occupation. The doctor in this scenario is not – apparently UKVI has missed the news that we’re running short of doctors.

Advertising has been carried out and 20 points are scored for passing the Resident Labour Market Test. This new doctor is on the same salary package as a nurse, so again scores 10 points for salary.

With a total of 30 points, this doctor’s restricted CoS request was unsuccessful in December 2017. Another request was made in January, which was again unsuccessful. More requests were made in February and March, both unsuccessful. The doctor is unable to apply to work in the UK, while the hospital can’t fill the post – the advertising they carried out in November clearly demonstrated that there was no suitable settled worker who wanted the job.

Our businesses, our NHS, our schools are left with unfilled posts and individuals are left in limbo – unsure of whether they will ever be able to make their visa applications to take up the roles they’ve been offered in the UK.

It is to be hoped that the government will take steps to remove shortage occupation roles from the restricted CoS allocations as unless they do, employers will continue to face uncertainty and extreme delays when trying to hire the staff they need.

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We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

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