Certificate of Sponsorship

The rules for assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship are complex, exposing employers to compliance risks.

We help employers avoid Home Office penalties.

Certificate of Sponsorship

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) must be assigned by a sponsor licence holder to every prospective foreign employee before the individual can apply for a Tier 2 visa. 

The CoS is a self-certifying document that a sponsor licence holder issues to a Tier 2 visa applicant to onboard them into the organisation. It is used to confirm to the Home Office that the role you are recruiting for meets all of the relevant requirements under the visa classification. 

Strict conditions and timings apply when assigning the CoS, which employers must be aware of and comply with. There are also two different classes of CoS, and employers must ensure that in each instance, they are using the relevant type of CoS in the correct way. 

There is a lot to consider when assigning the CoS and any errors in the allocation can result in Home Office enforcement action, such a sponsor licence downgrade, suspension or even revocation.

It is critical that HR teams and those responsible for assigning Certificates of Sponsorship understand the rules and stay up to date with changes in policy affecting CoS allocations.

We can help

At DavidsonMorris, we support UK employers with all aspects of their sponsor licence management and compliance duties, including guidance on assigning Certificates of Sponsorship.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office personnel, we can work with you to assist with compliant use of CoS as required under your sponsor licence duties.

Our Certificate of Sponsorship services include: 

  • Advice on selecting the right class of Certificate of Sponsorship 
  • Guidance on Tier 2 requirements including minimum salary levels and minimum skill levels
  • Integrating the CoS requirement into existing recruitment and onboarding processes 
  • Matching the role to the relevant SOC code 
  • Advice if there is an error on the CoS 
  • Planning for unrestricted CoS allocations 
  • CoS allocations for Tier 2 visa renewals

We can also help with workforce planning and unrestricted CoS allocations, aligned to organisation strategy and projected need for future skills and resources. We can help you to determine how you will use the two different types of certificates and how many to request from the Home Office on an annual basis, enabling you to plan and ensure your recruitment needs can be met throughout the four-year licence period.

We also offer specialist advice in relation to CoS allocations for Tier 2 visa renewals to avoid issues with existing sponsored employees’ permission to work in the UK.  

Certificate of Sponsorship: employer considerations

With a sponsor licence in place, the next step to onboard a Tier 2 worker is to allocate the relevant Certificate of Sponsorship.

To issue a CoS, you will need to submit relevant information about the role onto the sponsor management system (SMS) and a unique reference number will be issued. This is the Certificate of Sponsorship.

A number of strict rules apply with regards to CoS. For example, the employer must assign a restricted CoS within 3 months of receipt. The applicant does not have to apply immediately, but you cannot assign a CoS more than 3 months in advance of the intended work start date.

Reassigning the CoS to another individual would be considered a breach of your sponsorship licence duties, exposing the organisation to Home Office punitive action.

There are two different classes of Certificate of Sponsorship; the restricted certificate of sponsorship and the unrestricted certificate of sponsorship.

An unrestricted certificate of sponsorship is for individuals who are already based in the UK. They could already be here on another Tier 2 visa, working for another company, or they could be a Tier 4 visa holder switching from a student visa onto a Tier 2 visa. They could also be new hires earning an annual salary of £159,600 or more, or they could be applying to extend an existing grant of leave under Tier 2.

An unrestricted certificate of sponsorship is for individuals who are already based in the UK. They could already be here on another Tier 2 visa, working for another company, or they could be a Tier 4 visa holder switching from a student visa onto a Tier 2 visa, or they could be applying to extend an existing grant of leave under Tier 2. An unrestricted . An unrestricted CoS can also be used for a new hire from overseas who will be earning an annual salary of £159,600 or more.

Restricted certificates of sponsorship are for those employees who are based abroad and who wish to relocate to the UK to join your organisation. A restricted CoS will be required where the individual is earning less than £159,600 per year or for individuals who are dependants of Tier 4 students, where that dependant is already in the UK and wishes to switch into Tier 2 (General).

There is an annual restriction in place on the number of migrant workers admitted to the UK from outside the EU under a Tier 2 visa on restricted CoS.

UKVI review all applications for restricted CoS on a monthly basis, and where there is an oversubscription for that month’s allocations, only applications scoring the highest points scored will be approved. The ‘allocation date’ is set as the first working day after the 10th of every month. To be considered for that month’s allocation, employers have to ensure their Tier 2 application(s) are made by the 5th of that same month.

Applications submitted after the 5th have to wait until the next month’s allocation date for consideration. There is no guarantee the CoS application will be successful.

If a CoS is granted, the employer assigns the CoS to the individual, who can then use the reference number to apply to the Home Office for entry permission.

Any restricted CoS unallocated after three months will be automatically returned to UKVI for reallocation.

For help and advice about issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship, please contact us.


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