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Certificates of Sponsorship: All You Need to Know

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (‘CoS’) is an electronic certificate which must be assigned for each migrant worker who wishes to apply under a relevant worker route. Applicants under the Skilled Worker route cannot make their visa / permission to stay application without a Certificate of Sponsorship as the unique reference number must be inputted on the application form.

What Is the Purpose of a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

The purpose of the Certificate of Sponsorship is for the licensed sponsor to confirm:

  • That they wish to sponsor the worker; 
  • That they are satisfied that the worker can meet the relevant immigration requirements for the route they are applying under;
  • That they are eligible to sponsor the worker on the relevant route; and 
  • That they agree to abide by the terms of conditions as stated on the SMS.

Having a valid CoS does not, however, guarantee that the worker will be granted entry clearance, permission to enter, or permission to stay. Applicants under this route must ensure that they meet the requirements of the sponsored route under which they apply.  

To discuss your Skilled Worker Visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our Skilled Worker Route lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

What Is an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship and Who Needs One?

Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship must be assigned to Skilled Workers applying for permission to stay in the UK, from within the UK.

Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship must also be assigned to workers applying on any other sponsored route, such as the Global Business Mobility or Temporary Worker routes. This is regardless of whether they are applying for entry clearance, permission to enter, or permission to stay. 

How Do I Get an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship?

Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship must be assigned to a migrant from the sponsor’s annual allocation. 

What Is an Annual CoS Allocation?

When employers apply for a Sponsor Licence, they will be asked for an estimate of the number of Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship they may wish to assign in their first year in each route for which they are applying to be licensed. This must be justified and further information can be requested. 

Each year, the Sponsor will be asked to make an annual allocation request for the next CoS year. 

Any Certificates of Sponsorship granted will be valid for 12 months. Any unused CoS will be removed from the SMS account, they cannot be carried over. 

What Is an Annual Allocation Request?

Each year sponsors are asked to request an annual allocation for the next year. This can be a manual or automated request, depending on the sponsor’s circumstances (you can log on to the SMS to check this). This request is made through the SMS system and should be made prior to the end of the allocation year. 

The allocation year will depend on when the sponsor licence was obtained. Sponsors should check the SMS system to see when their allocation year runs. 

What if I Need More Undefined CoS Allocations in the Allocation Year?

If a sponsor needs more Certificate of Sponsorship allocations in their allocation year, they can request an in-year allocation increase by making an application through the SMS system. Reasons must be provided for requesting an increase to the allocation.

An in-year allocation increase request can take up to 18 weeks to be decided, unless priority services are obtained. 

What Does the Home Office Consider in a CoS Allocation Application?

The Home Office will consider a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Any agents you will use to recruit workers and whether they have been linked to immigration abuse in the past;
  • Your previous record in dealing with us, including under the current sponsorship arrangements, the previous Tier 2 and Tier 5 arrangements, or the work permit arrangements that were in place before the introduction of Tier 2 and Tier 5;
  • The number of workers employed at your organisation;
  • The kind of business you conduct;
  • The extent of the business you conduct; and
  • The length of time you have been trading.

The Home Office is not obligated to grant a CoS allocation application. If it is not adequately justified, or insufficient reasoning / evidence is provided, they can refuse an allocation grant, or grant fewer than the number requested. Sponsors may wish to seek legal advice when making their CoS allocation application. 

How Do I Assign a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Certificates of Sponsorship must be assigned to the migrant using the SMS system.  A CoS can only be assigned by a person who has access to the SMS as a Level 1 or Level 2 user. A CoS cannot be assigned more than three months in advance of the migrant’s start-date. 

Considering applying for a Sponsor Licence? Read our employer guides to applying for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence or UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence

What Is a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship and Who Needs One?

A Defined Certificate of Sponsorship is required by a Skilled Worker applying for entry clearance from outside the UK. 

A Defined Certificate of Sponsorship is not assigned from the sponsor’s annual allocation – there are no limits to the number of Certificates available. Sponsors must make a request for a Defined CoS allocation. Contrary to the Undefined CoS allocation requests, specific details of the migrant must be provided. Once the allocation is received, the CoS can only be assigned to the migrant that the request was made for. 

Defined Certificate of Sponsorship allocation requests take around 24-48 hours to be processed, however, we have seen delays where the Home Office wishes to request further information. 

What Information Must Be Included on the Certificate of Sponsorship?

The Certificate of Sponsorship must include: the route on which the migrant is being sponsored, the migrant’s personal information, contact details, work address(es) in the UK, job description, hours, salary, and start and end date of employment. The Certificate of Sponsorship must include the same details as stated in the applicant worker’s passport.

What Happens if I Assign the Wrong Type of Certificate of Sponsorship?

It is very important that the correct type of Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned to a migrant and that Sponsors understand the difference between Defined and Undefined CoS. If an Undefined CoS is assigned to a migrant who requires a Defined CoS, this is a ground for revocation. 

Annex C2 of the Part 3 guidance contains ‘“circumstances in which we will normally revoke your licence”. It lists the following as a ground for revocation:

“u. You assign an undefined Skilled Worker CoS (or an unrestricted Tier 2 (General) CoS) to a worker who requires a defined (or restricted) one”

Sponsors should seek legal advice if they are not sure. 

How Much Does a Certificate of Sponsorship Cost?

Sponsors must pay a fee each time they assign a Certificate of Sponsorship. If the correct fee is not paid, then the Home Office may cancel the CoS. 

It costs £199 to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship, unless the migrant is applying as a Temporary Worker or as an International Sportsperson (for up to 12 months) in which case it costs £21. 

Sponsors may also need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge. 

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance in relation to Certificates of Sponsorship, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.

This article was co-written by Dr Catherine Taroni and Georgina Griggs


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