You can use the coming months before 5 April to apply to the Home Office via the Sponsor Management System for 'unrestricted CoS' for the year 2015/16 in advance of when you will need to use or assign them to an individual. As a recap, you will need unrestricted CoS's, for example, if you need your existing sponsored employees to apply to extend their permission to work in the UK under Tier 2. If one of your employee's visas will be expiring soon it will be especially useful to have a CoS available to ready assign to them when needed.
Unrestricted CoS are also applicable where a company or organisation wish to sponsor a new employee under Tier 2 but the individual already has a right to work in the UK. An example of this might be where they are a student, graduate, or Tier 2 employee working for another company at the moment.
Also, unrestricted Certificates will be required if, under your Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) licence, there are any potential migrant workers you may wish to bring to the UK with salaries over £153,500 per year and/or there are any employees based abroad which you may wish to bring to the UK in the next twelve months on a short or long term basis.
You may wish to request renewal of your unrestricted CoS allocation now so that you have a CoS available for when you come to need it. There is no cost payable to the Home Office on requesting a CoS until and if you assign it to an individual. For example, if you think the company is likely to need to sponsor any individuals over the next 12 months it may avoid delay to recruitment at a crucial time for your business or avoid the loss of a key employee. The Home Office will wish to know how many CoSs you are likely to require and the reasons for why the CoSs are needed. Your Level 1 user can submit the submit request, with the authority of the Authorising Officer.
If you don't renew the annual allocation now and then need to sponsor someone after 6 April it is still possible to request an additional CoS at any time but it may take approximately 1 - 2 weeks for such a request to be granted by the Home Office. Home Office processing times can vary so it has been known for requests to take several months to process and during this time a company cannot proceed with employing an individual.
There is a different process when it comes to applying for 'restricted CoS' under Tier 2. These are relevant where either you have a non-EEA national in mind to employ who is living outside of the UK or where a Tier 4 (Dependent) visa is held in the UK. It is only possible to apply to the Home Office for these CoS after you have carried out the Resident Labour Market Test for 28 days and found no suitably qualified candidates from those who already have the right to work in the UK. The Home Office accepts applications for these once a month and applications are decided upon by a panel. There is an annual cap on the number of restricted CoSs that are granted.
If you would like support with the CoS renewal process or you are considering applying to become a licensed sponsor, we would be happy to assist. Please contact usto discuss the services we can provide and our fixed fees.