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With the migration from the EU at the all-time low as a result of the uncertainty and economic instability being caused by Brexit, the businesses in the UK have no choice but to try and fill their vacancies with migrants from outside the EU.

However, the current UK work permit system is simply unable to cope with such high demand. As a result, the monthly allocations of work permit quotas have been oversubscribed consecutively every month since December 2017.

This has never happened before, in fact, there has only been one case of a month’s quota being oversubscribed in June 2015. So, why does this happen?

Majority of skilled migrants from outside the EU need to apply for a visa under Tier 2 (General) category in order to work in the UK. The minimum salary for new applicants under this category is normally £20,800 or £30,000 for experienced migrants.

As part of the application, the prospective employer-sponsor will need to request a Certificate of Sponsorship (“CoS”) from the Home Office. The number of certificates that can be issued is restricted to 20,700 per year. This number is further apportioned into different monthly CoS allocations – currently varying from around 2,200 to 1,000 per month in order to provide higher quotas during the busier months of April through to September.

Employers must request their certificates by the 5th of each month. When the number of CoS requests exceeds monthly allocations, the Home Office processes the applications by a point-based priority: with the few roles officially recognised as being in shortage (such as the Medical practitioners, nurses, IT specialists and specialised engineers) being awarded the most points, followed by some occupations at PhD level and finally points are awarded based on the applicant’s salary for everyone else.

Consequently, when the number of requests is much higher than the monthly allocation of certificates, the Home Office will grant applications with the highest salary and move down until they run out of certificates available. This resulted in requests where the salary was below £55,000 being refused in December 2017, £50,000 in January and February 2018, and £60,000 in March allocation.

With increasing numbers of EU nationals leaving the UK as a result of the uncertainty caused by Brexit, falling sterling rate and Europe becoming more attractive job market in general, “Brexodus” is truly starting to take shape.

However, with the demand for the foreign skilled workers remaining high in the UK, the businesses are facing a potential skilled labour crisis with the restricted CoS shortage set to continue.

Despite the current CoS shortage, there are steps that can be taken by the employer-sponsors to pre-empt the increase in pressure on quotas and plan ahead with the help of experienced professional immigration lawyers.

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