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The Tier 2 (General) CoS Limit

The Tier 2 (General) visa category is for skilled migrants coming to the UK with a job offer. To prove that they have a job offer, migrants submit a document called a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) on which their employer certifies their proposed employment conditions. There is an annual limit of 20,700 CoS in the Tier 2 (General) category, broken down into monthly limits. In February 2015 a very high number of CoS were applied for and the limit was exceeded. This means that there are fewer CoS available in March 2015.

Migration limits and targets are politically sensitive issues, and it is important to ensure that your business understands how they work, so you can ensure you are able to bring the right people to the UK at the right time.

Who falls within the limit?

A Tier 2 (General) CoS for any of the following will count towards the Tier 2 (General) limit:

  • A CoS for a new hire from overseas where the salary will be less than £153,500 (less than £155,300 for a CoS assigned on or after 6 April 2015);
  • A CoS for a Tier 4 dependant switching into Tier 2 (General);
  • A CoS for a Croatian national.

Any other Tier 2 CoS will not fall within the limit, so new hires who are earning £153,500 or more (£155,300 where a CoS was assigned on or after 6 April 2015), or who are already in the UK (unless they have a visa as a dependant of a Tier 4 migrant) do not count.

CoS that count towards the limit (except those for Croatians) are called ‘Restricted’ CoS. The sponsoring employer needs to apply for a Restricted CoS on or before the 5th of any given month, for allocation that month.

What is the limit?

The annual limit is 20,700 between 6th April in one year to 5th April in the following year. This is broken down into a monthly limit. From 6th April 2015 the limit will be 1650 in all months except 6th April – 5th May, for which the limit is 2550. If the amount of applications is fewer than or equal to the monthly maximum then all qualifying applications will be granted. However, if the limit is not met one month, then the extra CoS roll over to the next month. For example, if only 2540 CoS are used in April then 10 roll over to May, so May will have 1660 CoS available.

As employers do not need to apply for a Restricted CoS for a Croatian national, the number of CoS assigned to Croatian nationals will be deducted from the limit for the next month. For example, if 30 CoS are assigned to Croatians in June, there will only be 1620 CoS available in July.

What happens if the limit is reached?

If the amount of CoS applied for is 100 or fewer than the amount available, then the CoS required will be taken from the next month’s allocation. For example, in February 2015, 17 Certificates of Sponsorship were removed from the March 2015 allocation and used. As March 2015 is the last month of the allocation year this may mean that not all Restricted Certificates applied for are granted.

If the limit is reached, then applications are scored by points. The most points are given to jobs which are on the Shortage Occupation List (75 points). Jobs at PhD level are given the second-highest number of points (50 points). This does not mean that the applicant has to have a PhD, but the work they are doing must require education or experience of that level, e.g. a forensic scientist, physicist or university lecturer (in any field). Last preference goes to all other roles.

Additional points are scored for having a higher salary, with a maximum of 30 additional points for a salary of £100,000 or more per annum.

Applications for CoS will then be granted to those scoring the highest number of points, until the limit is reached. This means that if you are trying to recruit a skilled worker who will not be working in a shortage or PhD level occupation, they may not obtain their CoS unless they are well-paid.

How does this affect my business?

If the limit is reached, you may not be able to sponsor the workers you need. It is important to plan ahead, as far as your business allows it. If you will be recruiting skilled workers then you need to recruit as early in the year (April – April) as possible to ensure that you will be able to get the Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship you need.

April (6th April – 5th May) is a good month to apply for CoS in as it is early in the year so no Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship have been used for earlier months and it has the highest monthly allocation of the year. April is also the only month where Croatian nationals do not count towards the limit, freeing up a few more Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship.

Contact Us

For advice or assistance with applying for a Certificate of Sponsorship, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or by email to


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