What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

what is a certificate of sponsorship


Those entering the UK workforce from outside the UK often require sponsorship from a licensed UK employer. This sponsorship system acts as a bridge, connecting skilled individuals from overseas with job opportunities and facilitating their legal entry and residence in the UK.

The Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a crucial aspect of this system, enabling foreign workers to apply for the appropriate work visa. It acts as a vital piece of information for the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) when assessing a visa application, demonstrating the legitimacy of the employment offer and the employer’s sponsorship capabilities.

Understanding the intricacies of the CoS is essential for both employers seeking to sponsor foreign workers and individuals navigating the UK’s immigration system.

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a mandatory requirement for foreign nationals when applying to the Home Office for certain sponsored work visas, such as the Skilled Worker visa.

The Certificate of Sponsorship is an electronic document with a unique reference number for use in the applicant’s visa application, and also states the personal information of the applicant and details of the job offered to them.

The CoS acts as confirmation that the employer has offered the individual a legitimate job role and acts as validation that an applicant’s job offer, their annual salary, and the role they will be filling all satisfy the visa route eligibility criteria.

Without a Certificate of Sponsorship from a qualifying employer, the applicant will be unable to apply to the Home Office for their sponsored visa.

Certificates of sponsorship can only be issued by an employer with a valid sponsorship licence. The Home Office’s register of sponsors details all organisations currently operating with a sponsor licence.

Who needs a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Workers applying under the following sponsored work routes must have a valid CoS in order to make their application:

  • Skilled Worker Visa: This is the most common visa route requiring a CoS for individuals outside the UK seeking employment.
  • Global Business Mobility Visas: These routes allow specific types of workers from overseas-based companies to work in the UK on a temporary basis.
  • Scale-Up Visa: This visa targets high-potential individuals seeking to establish or join fast-growing businesses in the UK.
  • Minister of Religion Visa: This visa allows religious ministers to take up positions in the UK.
    International Sportsperson Visa: This visa is for professional athletes and coaches coming to the UK to compete or work in a recognized sport.
  • Temporary Worker Visas (specific categories): Certain categories within the Temporary Worker Visa route, such as those for seasonal workers and religious workers, may require a CoS.

Types of Certificate of Sponsorship

There are two types of certificate of sponsorship: undefined and defined CoS. The sponsoring employer must ensure they are assigning the correct type of CoS to the worker.

Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship

Undefined CoS are used for Skilled Worker visa applications for individuals already in the UK with valid permission to stay, or for individuals applying for any other type of visa which requires a CoS.

Employers can issue an undefined CoS directly to the sponsored worker without applying to the UKVI, provided they have an adequate allocation of CoS.

Defined Certificates of Sponsorship

A defined Certificate of Sponsorship is a specific type of CoS used for skilled worker visa applications submitted from outside the UK. It differs from an undefined CoS in the following ways:

  • Application process: Requires employers to apply directly to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for a specific CoS, providing detailed information about the job offer and the sponsored worker.
  • Purpose: Primarily used for occupations listed on the Skilled Worker visa route with specific salary thresholds.
  • Eligibility: Used for skilled worker visa applications made from outside the UK.

How to get a Certificate of Sponsorship

Certificates of sponsorship are assigned to workers by licensed sponsors through their online Sponsor Management System (SMS) account.

Certificates of sponsorship are not automatically generated, nor are they a physical document.

Certificates of sponsorship can only be used by the original applicant and cannot be transferred to another candidate or used for another role.

If the original applicant declines or cannot take up the job offer, the certificate of sponsorship cannot be used. The applicant requires a new CoS if taking up employment with another employer.

It is not possible for the applicant to complete a Tier 2 visa application without the certificate of sponsorship. Tier 2 Visa applications normally take between 15 and 30 days to process. The employer and non-EEA or Swiss national should therefore work closely to ensure that the certificate of sponsorship is issued within 3 months of the date on which the applicant will need to apply for the visa.

How much does a Certificate of Sponsorship cost? ?

It costs employers £239 to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship under a Worker Sponsor Licence, or £25 under the Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence.

How long is a Certificate of Sponsorship valid for?

Certificates of Sponsorship must be used by the worker for their Home Office application within 3 months of allocation.

A CoS can only be used once and will expire if it is not used by the applicant worker within 3 months of the employer assigning it to them.

Can you transfer a Certificate of Sponsorship to a different worker or role?

CoS are not transferrable. They can only be used by the person named on the CoS and for the role that the CoS was applied for. If the sponsored role is changing, a new CoS must be assigned to the worker for use in their visa application.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute tax, financial or legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the rules and should not be treated as such.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.

Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert tax, financial, legal or other advice should be sought.



What is a Certificate of Sponsorship? 1

Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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