Employing a foreign worker in the UK – Tier 2, Tier 1 and Tier 5


Tier 2 restricted certificates of sponsorship:

Skilled non-EEA worker numbers have been capped since the 6 April 2011.

The Annual Limit is currently 20,700.

The pool of available Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) is divided into 12 monthly allocations 4,700 CoSs were made available for the first month and 1,500 have been available for each month thereafter.

The cap applies to most Tier 2 (General) migrants.

Those who are coming to the UK to undertake an occupation for which they will be paid £152 100 or more are not subject to the quota.

An employer wishing to recruit a non EEA skilled worker will need to undertake the following steps:
- register with the UKBA and obtain a sponsorship licence as an A-rated Tier 2 (General) sponsor;
- file a request for a restricted certificates of sponsorship (CoS);
- assuming that the request is granted, issue the restricted CoS and invite the foreign national to apply for entry clearance.

Restricted certificates are only granted for graduate-level jobs as per the codes of practice. When filing for a restricted certificate an employer must demonstrate that they have conducted a resident labour market test (in other words that they have advertised the role), or be able to confirm that the job is exempt from the resident labour market test. The annual salary offered must meet the minimum requirements set in the codes of practice (with a minimum of £20,300).

Requests for restricted certificates must be filed by the 5th of each month.

Although no supporting documents are required as part of the application process, the UKBA may request additional information. The Level 1 user is required to give full details of the job, including:

job title;
start date;
SOC code (from the relevant code of practice or shortage occupation list);
gross annual salary;
the organisation’s sponsor licence number and name; and
personal details – full name, contact phone number and email address.

Applications are assessed against ranking criteria. Where the monthly limit is oversubscribed, applicants with the highest number of points are issued a CoS. Priority is given to shortage occupations and to applicants with the highest prospective salaries.

Tier 2 unrestricted certificates of sponsorship

Unrestricted CoSs are not subject to the annual cap and can be issued for:

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfers);
Tier 2 (Sportsperson) and Tier 2 (Minsters of Religion);
Any Tier 2 (General) CoS with a salary of £152,100 or more; and
Any in-country Tier 2 (General) application including extensions, changes of employment and those switching immigration category into Tier 2 (General) as well as for those covered by any transitional arrangements.

An employers wishing to recruit a non EEA skilled worker qualifying under any of the categories listed above will have to:
- be registered with the UKBA and hold a sponsorship licence;
- have been granted a number of unrestricted certificates of sponsorship (CoS) available for them to issue at all times.


Employers wishing to take advantage of the Tier 2 (ICT) route must be aware that although CoSs are not subject to a limit, it is subject to a number of restrictions in terms of minimum salary and length of stay in the UK.

Other routes: Tier 1

Tier 1 (General) is now closed and skilled non-EEA workers who do not fall within the remaining Tier 1 categories Investor, Entrepreneur, Prospective Entrepreneur, Exceptional Talent wishing to come to the UK to work must apply through Tier 2.

Further changes to settlement criteria have been introduced. Applicants other than spouses, civil partners, unmarried or same sex partners of British citizens now need to be free from unspent convictions to be given indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the United Kingdom. The Life in the UK test has been replaced by the English language requirement for some migrants. Some Tier 1 (Investor) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants are now able to take advantage of an accelerated route to settlement.