Certificate of Sponsorship

Our guidance and support services can help ensure your organisation achieves compliance with the Home Office’s rules in relation to Certificate of Sponsorships.

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Certificate of Sponsorship

If your organisation in the UK holds a sponsor licence enabling it to hire workers from abroad, you will not be able to sponsor a migrant worker until you have assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). You will need to undergo this process in order to confirm that the conditions of the relevant visa have been fulfilled. After this, the worker will use the CoS to apply for the visa.

However, there are complicated rules around the issuing of Certificate of Sponsorships, with stringent conditions and timings involved.

Our team at Cranbrook Legal can help your organisation achieve compliance with these requirements. This will help ensure your migrant worker secures their visa and your business does not face enforcement action from the Home Office, such as your sponsor licence being downgraded, suspended, or even revoked.

Why does my company need a Certificate of Sponsorship?

The Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) plays a vital part in the work visa sponsorship system in the UK. If your organisation holds a sponsor licence from the Home Office and intends to use this to recruit someone from abroad, the successful candidate for your vacancy will need to have a valid CoS from you. They will then be able to use this CoS in their application for a UK visa.

Unlike what the term “certificate” may seem to imply, a Certificate of Sponsorship is not a physical document. It is, instead, an electronic record with a unique reference number, and it is not possible for someone to apply for a visa in the Worker or Temporary Worker category – such as the Skilled Worker, Senior or Specialist Worker, or Scale-up Worker visa – unless they have a valid CoS.

Your organisation assigning a CoS to a particular individual will serve as a declaration to the Home Office that the proposed conditions of employment comply with the relevant visa route’s requirements.

There are various stringent requirements in place in relation to Certificate of Sponsorships and your company’s issuance of them. These include the migrant worker needing to use the CoS to submit an application for their intended visa within three months of the CoS being assigned to them. The migrant is not allowed, however, to apply for their visa more than three months prior to the start date of the job that the CoS mentions.

How does my company apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship?

It is thankfully a relatively straightforward process to apply for and obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship, provided that your organisation already has a valid sponsor licence, and access to the sponsorship management system (SMS).

If this is the case for your organisation, your nominated level 1 or level 2 user will need to provide the relevant details about the role via the SMS. This process will allow for the issuance of a unique reference number for the CoS.

Your organisation’s application for a defined certificate should be approved within one working day. However, the wait may be longer than this if UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) needs to undertake further checks on the information in the application.

Once your firm’s application for a defined certificate has been approved, it will appear in the SMS account, and you will then be able to assign the CoS to your worker. The person wishing to take on your role will then have a three-month window – from the date the CoS is assigned – to apply for a UK visa.  

What is the cost of applying for a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Whenever your organisation assigns a CoS to a worker, it will need to pay a fee to the Home Office. The exact fee will depend on the type of sponsor licence your organisation has.

The latest CoS costs, at the time of typing, were as follows:

Type of licence

Cost per certificate

Worker (except workers on the International Sportsperson visa)


Temporary Worker


International Sportsperson – where the Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned for more than 12 months


International Sportsperson – where the Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned for 12 months or less



Please note that in the event of assigning a CoS to a worker on a Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker visa, it might also be necessary for you to pay the Government’s ‘immigration skills charge’.

If you are interested in learning more about the fees that we charge for our guidance and support services in relation to the sponsor licence and Certificate of Sponsorships, please call the central London-based Cranbrook Legal team today, on 0208 215 0053. Alternatively, you are welcome to enquire to us via email to arrange a free consultation.

What is the difference between a defined and undefined Certificate of Sponsorship?

Changes to the UK Immigration Rules in December 2020 mean that two types of Certificate of Sponsorships now exist: ‘defined’ and ‘undefined’ CoS.

The differences between them are as follows:

  • A defined Certificate of Sponsorship – formerly known as a ‘restricted certificate’ – is for someone applying on a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK. As a company looking to hire someone on this basis, you will need to use the sponsorship management system (SMS) to apply for a defined certificate for them. You will gain access to the SMS once the Home Office has approved your organisation’s application for a sponsor licence.
  • An undefined Certificate of Sponsorship – formerly known as an ‘unrestricted certificate’ – is for a Skilled Worker visa applicant who is already in the UK; it is also required in order to employ applicants for all other visa categories.

Under the UK’s points-based immigration system, an organisation holding a sponsor licence will need to assign the correct type of CoS to each worker that it wishes to sponsor.

The SMS will enable your organisation to manage its sponsor licence and request Certificate of Sponsorships. You will then be able to allocate CoS to sponsored skilled visa workers, who in turn, will then be able to use the CoS to apply for a visa from the Home Office.

With the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020 – which also meant free movement coming to an end – the UK put in place a new points-based immigration system for work visas.

Reform to the UK immigration system at this time involved the previous Tier 2 (General) visa being replaced with the Skilled Worker visa category, which brought with it new criteria – in terms of points and attributes – that sponsored workers were required to meet. It also meant changes were made to the employer sponsorship requirements.

There was no longer a cap on skilled worker visas, for example, which meant the restricted Certificate of Sponsorship was effectively made redundant. As a consequence of the changes, the Government has ceased to issue restricted and unrestricted CoS; these have been superseded by the defined and undefined CoS.  

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Can my company apply for one or more Certificates of Sponsorship?

When an organisation in the UK applies for a sponsor licence, the Home Office will ask it to estimate how many undefined Certificate of Sponsorships it will require for Workers and Temporary Workers in the first year.

For this part of your organisation’s sponsor licence application, you will need to provide evidence to support the requested amount of CoS. There is not, however, a limit to the number of undefined certificates that can potentially be assigned, as long as the workers are eligible for the given visa category and the sponsor pays the fee required in order to assign the CoS.

In the event of your organisation using its full CoS allocation within 12 months, you will have the option of using the SMS to apply for further certificates.

If you are sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker, and your licence has a provisional rating, you will be limited to assigning just one CoS. This will need to be assigned to the authorising officer, to enable them to enter the UK. Once they have been approved for their visa, you will be able to upgrade your organisation’s licence to an A-rating. This, in turn, will give you the right to request as many as four additional CoS, via the sponsorship management system (SMS).

How can we help you apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Our experts in UK immigration law here at Cranbrook Legal can provide a wide range of services and assistance in relation to the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) process.

We have long helped organisations across a wide range of sectors to not only successfully apply for a sponsor licence in the first place, but also achieve continuous compliance with the various sponsorship licence management requirements the Home Office puts in place.

We have an excellent track record in this regard, and to this end, can provide CoS services such as:

  • Advice on how to ensure you issue the right type of Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Guidance in relation to the requirements for points-based visas – for example, minimum salary levels for the Skilled Worker visa
  • Help with incorporating the CoS requirement into your organisation’s current processes for recruitment and onboarding
  • Help with matching the given role to the right Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code
  • Advice to guard against any potential errors on the CoS
  • Help with issuing Certificate of Sponsorships for the extension of worker visas.

If you would like to learn more about what our UK immigration solicitors in central London can do to help ensure your organisation achieves constant compliance with its sponsor licence duties – including as far as CoS issuance is concerned – please do not hesitate to call us on 0208 215 0053.

You are also welcome to book a free consultation with us by completing and submitting our straightforward online contact form.

Why Choose Us For Your Certificate of Sponsorship?

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Contact our Immigration Solicitors In London on 0208 215 0053 or
via info@cranbrooklegal.com to make your enquiry.

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