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What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

This article was first published in August 2019. Read our updated April 2022 guide to Certificates of Sponsorship: Certificates of Sponsorship: All You Need to Know.

Migrants moving to the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa must submit a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) through which their employer (holding a valid sponsor licence) certifies their proposed employment conditions. A Certificate of Sponsorship is not a paper certificate or document, but a virtual document, similar to a database record. There are 2 types of Certificates of Sponsorship – unrestricted and restricted.

When assigning a CoS the employer is confirming that either they have carried out a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) as set out in Tiers 2 and 5: guidance for sponsors – version 03/19 and have been unable to identify a suitable settled worker to fill the post or that a RLMT is not required. 

Restricted and Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship

An unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship is for specific workers including:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers applying from overseas who will be paid £159,600 or more a year;
  • Tier 2 (General) workers who are already in the UK working for you and need to extend their leave;
  • Tier 2 (General) workers who are already in the UK working for you and are changing jobs and the new job is in a different standard occupational classification (SOC) code;
  • Tier 2 (General) workers who are already in the UK and who want to start work for a new sponsor;
  • Individuals already in the UK under another immigration category and who are eligible to switch into Tier 2 (General); this doesn’t include those who are in the UK as a Tier 4 dependant
  • High value inward investment posts – where the job offer is for the migrant to work in support of a posting from an overseas firm to you in connection with the relocation of a high value business to the UK or a significant new inward investment project;
  • Nurses using SOC code 2231;
  • Doctors using SOC code 2211;
  • Croatian nationals.

Candidates who do not qualify for an unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship, are required to apply for a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship. There is a specific amount of restricted Certificates of Sponsorship available.  Applications for a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship can be made through the sponsorship management system (SMS). Applications will be scored and prioritised based on the “Job and recruitment” criteria and the gross annual salary being paid to the migrant. An application must score a minimum of 40 points to be valid. In order to qualify for a restricted Tier 2 CoS, the sponsor is required to carry out a RLMT.

Certificate of Sponsorship UK Limit 

There is an annual limit of 20,700 Certificates of Sponsorship available to sponsors under Tier 2 (General). The limit runs from 6 April each year to 5 April the following year. It is vital to plan ahead to ensure employers are able to get the Certificates of Sponsorship needed. 

A list of monthly allocations of restricted Certificates of Sponsorship under the permanent limit on migration through Tier 2 (General) can be found here. This states the number of CoS from the annual limit set aside for allocation in each meeting. The last monthly allocation meeting date was 11 July 2019.

A Tier 2 (General) CoS for a new hire from overseas where the salary will be less than ££159,600 and  a Tier 4 dependant switching into Tier 2 (General) counts towards the Tier 2 (General) limit. Those not included in the annual limit are:

  • High value inward investment posts;
  • New hires: high earners – where the annual salary for the job is £159,600 or more; 
  • Applications by migrants who are applying from within the UK;
  • Where an applicant is being sponsored to work in standard occupational classification code ‘2211 Medical Practitioners’ or ‘2231 Nurses’.

What is the Cost for a Certificate of Sponsorship UK?

The Home office processing fee for a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship is £199 (no VAT). Certificates are free for citizens of Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey. Please note that if an employer assigns a CoS to a worker with a Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) visa, they might also need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC).

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (Cos) Reference Number?

Each Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) has its own reference number. The Certificate of Sponsorship reference number can be found on the CoS or the  submitted application form. 

How do I cancel a Certificate of Sponsorship?

You can use the SMS account to withdraw a CoS which has been assigned to a migrant but has not yet been used. Application fees will not be refunded if a sponsor withdraws an application once consideration has begun.

Contact Our Business Immigration Barristers 

For assistance with applying for a Sponsor Licence, Certificate of Sponsorship, drafting a Certificate of Sponsorship and any matters regarding the sponsorship of a Tier 2 (General) migrant, contact our immigration barristers and lawyers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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