Certificate of Sponsorship UK

Difficulties filling vacancies domestically have led many businesses based in the UK or with branches in the UK to look to hire foreign workers, often requiring a certificate of sponsorship (CoS).

Obtaining a Sponsor Licence and giving prospective workers certificates of sponsorship can be a complex operation. If you decide that your business needs help after reading this article, you can contact the expert legal team at Total Law at +1 844 290 6312 or visit us online.

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    Overview of Certificate of Sponsorship

    A valid certificate of sponsorship, used within three months of being awarded, is often a necessity to apply for a UK visa. This certificate confirms your support for the worker to get a visa to work for your business in the UK.

    CoS comes in two primary forms: defined certificates and undefined certificates. These both come with different application requirements and unlock different types of work visa.

    However, not all businesses have the immediate right to give prospective workers certificates of sponsorship. You will require separate sponsor licences for temporary and permanent workers.

    Your sponsor licence and certificate of sponsorship applications will all be processed through the online sponsor management system (SMS).

    Please read this article if you want to learn more about certificates of sponsorship, the application processes, and how you can manage your certificates of sponsorship.

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    CoS Types


    As a holder of a sponsor licence, you will be able to assign two types of certificate of sponsorship: defined CoS and undefined CoS:

    • Defined CoS: for Skilled Worker visa applicants who are making their application from abroad.
    • Undefined CoS: for all other visa applicants, including Skilled Worker visa applicants applying from inside of the UK.

    Your prospective hire’s application process will vary depending on the type of certificate of sponsorship they have, as detailed in the sections below.

    Defined CoS Application

    All Defined certificates of sponsorship require the same application process, allowing you to hire workers applying for a Skilled Worker visa based outside of the UK.

    1. Give the prospective hire a job offer, and ensure both you and the future employee sign an employment contract.
    1. Apply for Defined CoS using the sponsorship management system. Make sure that your migrant worker has at least 70 points according to the points-based system.
    2. Wait while the UKVI assesses your application.
    3. Once you are successful, you can pay the fee, which will allow you to get a certificate of sponsorship number.
    4. Make sure that your prospective hire applies for a Skilled Worker visa within three months of getting the CoS allocation.

    Undefined CoS

    All other visas, with applications made inside and outside of the UK, will need you to apply for an Undefined CoS. The application process is as follows.

    1. Receive your annual CoS allocation on the sponsor management system.
    2. Assign a certificate of sponsorship number to your foreign hire and pay the fee.
    3. Follow up on the migrant worker to make sure that they complete the application within three months of being assigned a certificate of sponsorship.

    Certificate of Sponsorship Allocations

    When you make your sponsor licence application, you will need to estimate the size of CoS allocation you require. This is because the number of undefined certificates of sponsorship a business can allocate is limited to the CoS allocation.

    When you submit your sponsor licence application, you will be required to estimate the number of undefined CoS you will require over the course of the year. When making this application, you will need to submit evidence that you truly require that number of undefined CoS, and provide documentation surrounding the roles you want to hire migrant workers for.

    Cases Where You Won’t Need to Use Your Allocation to Give a CoS

    When using defined certificates of sponsorship, you will not have any limit on the number of certificates you can give, so long as you have a valid sponsor licence.

    Rather, you may submit a new application for a CoS every time you want to hire a new migrant worker. As part of the application process, you will need to specify the role you are recruiting for, how the migrant was identified for the role, and information about the migrant.

    Visas that Require a Certificate of Sponsorship

    In nearly all cases, you will need to provide a certificate of sponsorship for your prospective foreign workers to get a visa. The UK visas usually requiring a Cos allocation are as follows.

    • Skilled Worker.
    • Intra-Company Transfer.
    • Global Business Mobility.
    • Scale Up.
    • Minister of Religion.
    • International Sportsperson.
    • Scale-up Worker.
    • Creative Worker.
    • Religious Worker.
    • Government Authorised Exchange.
    • International Agreement.
    • Seasonal Worker.

    Each of these visas is contingent on your providing a role to a foreign worker which is consistent with the visa’s specific requirements.

    Speak to our legal team for assistance with your certificate of sponsorship application. Contact Us

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      Using the SMS System to Apply for and Assign CoS

      Once you offer a role to a migrant worker, you will need to use SMS to assign them a certificate of sponsorship. Doing so is simple, and both “level 1” and “level 2” SMS users can assign a CoS. The process is slightly different depending on if you are assigning defined or undefined certificates of sponsorship.

      Applying For an Assigning Defined CoS on the SMS System

      You must submit relevant information about the role and details of the migrant worker that you are hiring for the position. Having submitted the information, you will normally need to wait one working day to receive the CoS reference number required for your worker’s visa application. However, it may take longer if UKVI decides further checks are required.
      Once you have received the CoS, simply assign it to the migrant worker on the SMS system and pass on the reference number, which they can use for their visa application within three months.

      Using SMS to Assign Undefined CoS

      You don’t have to apply for undefined CoS individually, instead assigning those that are applied to your business to your migrant workers through SMS. The steps to assign undefined CoS are as follows:

      1. Navigate to the workers screen and select “create and assign”.
      2. Select the appropriate visa category.
      3. Enter details about the proposed employment and select “save” and then “assign”.
      4. You will then be navigated to the “confirm CoS details before assigning” screen, where you will verify that the information you have included is correct.
      5. Tick the box confirming your consent to the terms and select “assign CoS”.
      6. Complete payment of the CoS fee on the “online payment screen”.

      Having completed the undefined CoS application process, you may view the certificate of sponsorship with a reference number that you must pass on to the migrant worker for their visa application.

      Managing Your Workers' CoS


      There are three ways that you can manage any certificate of sponsorship to make it work better for your changing requirements. These types of management include the following:

      • Renewals.
      • Cancellations.
      • Transfers.


      A certificate of sponsorship cannot be extended or renewed as it is a single-use document for when a visa application is made. You will need to assign the worker a new one on the SMS system. Make sure to give at least 30 days leeway to account for processing times.


      If your migrant worker decides they don’t want to come to the UK, you may decide to cancel their certificate of sponsorship. This will allow you to use the CoS allocation for a different migrant worker. The cancellation procedure can be easily carried out within the SMS system.

      Alternatively, you may want to let the certificate of sponsorship expire if you decide that you don’t need to hire a migrant worker to fill your staffing gap. In this case, simply wait until three months have elapsed since you assigned the certificate of sponsorship.

      Transferring a CoS

      Occasionally, a migrant worker will decide to leave your employment before their certificate of sponsorship or work visa has elapsed. In this case, you will want to transfer your CoS so that a different migrant worker can hold the position.

      Like all CoS management procedures, you will need to transfer the certificate of sponsorship to a different worker on the SMS system. This procedure requires you to navigate to the “View CoS” screen. From here, you can select “Transfer” and then “Transfer a Single CoS”. Next, a menu will appear naming all the connections that you have on the SMS system, and you will be able to select the desired migrant worker. Once the transfer has been successful, you will be notified, and the new employee will be able to apply for a work visa within a three-month period.

      Allow our team of legal experts to make the process of obtaining a certificate of sponsorship easier. Contact Us

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        How Can Total Law Help?

        You need certificates of sponsorship if you want to hire a foreign skilled worker in most cases. There is a challenging process behind both documents, and you may want to enlist help from a legal firm to guarantee that you don’t encounter any barriers. Total Law is an excellent choice for legal representation in this process because our legal team has decades of expertise and experience working in the immigration sector. You can visit us online to find out more about the services that we offer.

        Starting with Total Law is easy. All you have to do is call us at +1 844 290 6312, and you will be connected with a lawyer with experience working with businesses like yours.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  In the majority of cases, a migrant worker will need to be over 18 to be awarded a certificate of sponsorship. However, there are three notable exceptions, allowing UK companies to sponsor minor workers for the following visas:

                  • International sportsperson visa (minimum age 16).
                  • Creative worker visa (no minimum age).
                  • Government Authorised Exchange Visa (no minimum age).

                  In some cases, you may find that you end up requiring more undefined CoS than the number requested at the start of the year. Luckily, you are able to request additional CoS.

                  If your business has such a change of circumstances, you may request additional CoS at any time of year. This process is completed via the Sponsor Management System. Commonly accepted reasons for increasing the size of a CoS allocation include the following:

                  • An existing sponsored worker is changing their visa category.
                  • A sponsored migrant worker wants to extend their visa in the UK.
                  • Your business grows, and you require many new hires that the domestic market cannot provide.

                  Your SMS account will be run on a day-to-day basis by a selected “level 1” user. They are responsible for the day-to-day management of your firm’s certificates of sponsorship.

                  However, larger firms will struggle to fulfil all of their duties on SMS with a single “level 1” user. In this case, you can appoint an optional “level 2” user. A “level 2” user will have limited access to some features of SMS, and will not be able to withdraw CoS from a prospective migrant worker.

                  Please note that while you can leverage HR contractors and agency staff to fill both “level 1” and “level 2” roles, you must have at least one “level 1” user recruited in-house. Furthermore, you may use UK-based legal representatives to manage your SMS, but they must be qualified to give immigration services.