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Defined & Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship

The Certificate of Sponsorship plays an important role in the UK’s work visa sponsorship system.

One of the requirements of the Skilled Worker visa is that the applicant has a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from a licensed employer. The Certificate of Sponsorship is a reference number, and not a physical document. It is used by the employer to effectively self-certify that the worker meets the requirements of the visa route, including skill level and salary.

The sponsor has to assign the correct type of CoS to each worker it wants to sponsor under the points-based system, as either a skilled worker or an intra-company transferee. UKVI operates an online Sponsor Management System, the ‘SMS’. The SMS is used by sponsors to apply for and manage their licence. This includes requesting and allocating Certificates of Sponsorship to sponsored skilled visa workers.

The worker then uses the CoS to make their visa application to the Home Office.

Reform of the UK points-based immigration system saw the Skilled Worker route replace the Tier 2 (General) visa, bringing in new requirements on points and attributes which the sponsored worker must meets, as well as changes to the employer sponsorship requirements.

The removal of the cap on skilled worker visas, for example, effectively rendered the restricted CoS redundant.

The two types of Certificate of Sponsorship were revised. Restricted and unrestricted CoS are no longer issued and have been replaced by defined and undefined CoS.


Undefined CoS

Undefined CoS are for individuals switching to the skilled worker category from within the UK, or applying under one of the other visa routes from within the UK or overseas.

When an organisation makes their sponsor licence application, they submit a request for undefined certificates. The application will need to include evidence to support the requested amount of CoS, although there is no cap on the number of undefined CoS that can be assigned, provided the workers are eligible under the visa route and the sponsor pays the fee to assign the CoS.

Any current allocation of unrestricted CoS on your SMS will be transferred into undefined CoS to be used as and when required.

The allocated CoS were initially expected to expire on the 5th April each year. Sponsors will either be asked to submit a request for a yearly allocation of new CoS, or they will be allocated a quantity automatically. It is also possible to apply for additional COS during the year.


Defined CoS

For out of country skilled worker visa applications, (not ICT applications), sponsors will need to apply for a Defined CoS. This is a specific application to the Home Office, and details of the specific job and salary will need to be provided.

If the individual is seeking to trade points because their salary does is below the standard requirement of £25,600 and the going rate, the CoS will need to explain how those points are claimed, such as whether the role is a shortage occupation, or the worker has a PhD in a relevant subject area.

Applications are typically processed within a working day, unless further information is requested in relation to the role, the recruitment process or the job candidate.

Sponsors make their requests using the SMS, requesting a renewal of annual allocation. In addition, the Home Office sponsor guidance, ‘Manual 8 of 12: Creating and assigning CoS’, details the steps to take to create, assign or delete individual or batch CoS.



Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris’ specialist immigration lawyers are on hand to advise on all aspects of sponsor licence management, including allocations of Certificates of Sponsorships. If you have a query about a request for CoS, or changes to the sponsorship rules under the new immigration system, contact us.

Last updated: 3 March 2021

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