Certificate of Sponsorship UK

Irish businesses will need to issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to their overseas workers in the UK.

If you would like to sponsor your foreign national employees in the UK, and are looking for more information and/or legal advice regarding how to proceed with issuing a CoS, or what criteria you must meet, dial +353 061 518 025 today to speak with our legal team members.

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    What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

    A CoS is an electronic document that a licensed employer in the UK assigns to their foreign national employees. It is a prerequisite for any work visa application made in the UK by a migrant worker. International students will also require a CoS from a licensed educational institution, to apply for a study visa in the UK.

    A CoS will contain the details of the work/study visa applicant to whom it has been granted, the details of the sponsoring organisation, start and end dates, and a unique CoS reference number.

    UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) uses the unique reference number to ensure whether the work/study visa applicants have a valid and suitable CoS for the type of visa requested.

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    Who Needs a Certificate of Sponsorship?

    Irish businesses, who are looking to open a branch in the UK or already have a branch there, will need to assign a CoS to each foreign national worker they employ in the country.

    Due to the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement between the Republic of Ireland and the UK, Irish citizens do not need to apply for a work visa in the UK, so you will not need to issue a CoS to them. Your UK citizen employees or people with indefinite leave to remain in the country will not need a work visa sponsorship either.

    However, you will need to issue a CoS to any third-country nationals working for your company in the UK if they are applying in any of the sponsored visa categories mentioned below, including EEA (the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss citizens who arrived in the country after 31 December 2020:

    • Skilled Worker
    • Global Business Mobility
    • Minister of Religion
    • International Sportsperson
    • Scale-up Worker
    • Creative Worker
    • Religious Worker
    • Charity Worker
    • Government Authorised Exchange
    • International Agreement
    • Seasonal Worker

    Types of Certificates of Sponsorship

    There are two categories of CoS, i.e. the defined certificates and the undefined certificates. Whether you will need to assign a defined or undefined certificate will depend on a) the type of work visa your foreign national employee is applying for, and b) their place of visa application.

    Defined Certificates of Sponsorship UK

    Foreign nationals applying for a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK will require a defined certificate, previously known as restricted certificates.

    As the sponsoring employer, you will have to apply for defined certificates for these employees through the sponsorship management system (SMS).

    Defined certificates will appear in your SMS after approval. You can then proceed with assigning them to your foreign national employees.

    Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship UK

    Undefined certificates (formerly called unrestricted certificates) are for foreign nationals applying for a Skilled Worker visa from within the UK or applying for any other type of work visa.

    During the application process of your sponsorship licence in the UK, you must provide the Home Office with an estimate of how many undefined certificates you might need for Workers and Temporary Workers in the first year after obtaining the licence.

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      Eligibility Criteria for Certificate of Sponsorship

      To assign a CoS to your foreign national employees, you must first obtain a sponsorship licence in the UK. You will have to meet the following criteria to be eligible to apply for a UK sponsor licence:

      • You must prove that you are a genuine business/organisation operating lawfully in the UK or are looking to expand there, you have a genuine vacancy for the overseas worker you seek to hire, and you can offer genuine employment that meets the appropriate salary and skill level
      • You have HR systems, policies and processes in place to meet your sponsor duties, and appointed people to manage sponsorship in your business
      • You or your employees responsible for managing your sponsorship system must not have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or financial crimes
      • You must not have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months

      In addition, you can only sponsor a foreign national worker if:

      • The job offer complies with the UK minimum wage and working time regulations
      • Your foreign national worker meets the other UKVI requirements for their work visa

      Please note that to issue a new certificate, you will have to be an A-rated sponsor licence holder. B-rated sponsors cannot issue new certificates although they can continue with the certificates already issued.

      To issue a new CoS, B-rated sponsors will have to regain their A-rating as per guidance received from UKVI.

      How to Allocate a Certificate of Sponsorship

      Overview

      After obtaining a valid sponsor licence and access to the SMS, you can start allocating CoS to your foreign national recruits, to apply for a suitable work visa in the UK.

      Key personnel in your company appointed as level 1 or level 2 users on the SMS will be able to request and issue a CoS. The process will vary from defined CoS to undefined CoS.

      The sponsoring employer will have to apply for a defined CoS first. Defined certificates are allocated on an individual basis for each specific role and worker.

      On the other hand, sponsoring employers will have an allocated number of undefined CoS, which they can issue to any foreign national employee meeting the eligibility requirements.

      The undefined CoS allocated to an employer will be valid for a period of 12 months from the date of approval of their sponsor licence. Sponsors are usually required to submit a renewal request for bulk undefined CoS allocation every year, although some of the licensed companies may receive an annual automatic allocation of undefined CoS in April every year.

      Applying for a Defined CoS

      The step-by-step process of applying for a defined CoS on the SMS is as follows:

      • Login to SMS as a level 1 or level 2 user
      • Select ‘Defined CoS’ from the ‘Workers’ screen
      • Select ‘Apply for defined CoS’ from the ‘Apply for defined CoS’ screen
      • Fill in the total number of defined CoS required, then select ‘Next’ (it is possible to apply for more than one CoS in a single application when the employment details on each CoS are the same)
      • Provide the employment details on the ‘Application for defined CoS – employment details screen’ and select ‘Next’
      • Check whether the provided information is correct or not, and verify that the information is accurate on the confirmation screen
      • On the next screen read the declaration and then agree that you have read, understood, and consented to all of the terms and conditions indicated
      • Click ‘Submit’

      Your request will now appear on the ‘Application for defined CoS – submitted’ screen of the SMS.

      Creating and Assigning a Defined CoS

      Defined certificates will appear in the SMS account once they have been approved. You will then have to create and assign a defined CoS to your foreign national employees through the SMS, which they can then use within three months to apply for their UK work visa.

      Any Level 1 user in your company can create and assign a defined CoS. They will have to:

      • Login to SMS
      • Select ‘Granted applications – create and assign defined CoS’ from the ‘Apply for defined CoS’ screen
      • Select the relevant radio button from the ‘Granted applications – create and assign defined CoS screen’, and then select ‘Next’
      • Review the application summary from the ‘Granted applications – create and assign defined CoS screen’, then select ‘Create’ (if more than one CoS have been applied for in the same application, they must repeat the following steps for each CoS)
      • Fill in the migrant’s details from the ‘Create a CoS’ screen, then select ‘Save’
      • Select ‘Assign’ from the ‘Confirmation of saved CoS’ screen
      • Review the details from the ‘Confirm CoS details before assigning’ screen
      • On the next screen read the declaration and then agree that they have read, understood, and consented to all of the terms and conditions indicated
      • Click ‘Submit’
      • On the ‘Online payment’ screen, select OK to pay the CoS fee and immigration skills charge (if applicable)

      The CoS reference number will be displayed on the ‘Single CoS assigned’ screen, which you will need to share with your foreign national employee for their UK work visa application.

      Creating and Assigning an Undefined CoS

      The step-by-step process of creating and assigning an undefined CoS on the SMS is as follows:

      • Login to SMS
      • Select ‘Create and assign’ from the ‘Workers’ screen
      • Select the route of the CoS you wish to create using the ‘Select the route’ drop-down menu on the ‘Create and assign CoS’ screen, then click ‘Next’
        • If you have selected the ‘Skilled Worker and Global Business Mobility Routes’, an additional drop-down menu will be displayed. Please select the relevant category of the CoS using the ‘Select the category’ dropdown menu
      • Select the radio button next to ‘Create new single certificate’ from the ‘Create and assign CoS’ screen, and select ‘Next’
      • Provide your foreign national employee’s personal details, work that you intend them to do in the UK, and other relevant details from the ‘Create a CoS’ screen, and select ‘Save’
      • Select ‘Assign’ from the ‘Confirmation of saved CoS’ screen
      • On the ‘Confirm CoS details before assigning’ screen, check whether the provided information is correct or not, and verify that the information is accurate on the confirmation screen
      • On the next screen read the declaration and then agree that you have read, understood, and consented to all of the terms and conditions indicated
      • Select ‘Assign CoS’
      • On the ‘Online payment’ screen, select OK to pay the CoS fee and immigration skills charge (if applicable)

      The CoS reference number will be displayed on the ‘Single CoS assigned’ screen. Please share this unique number with your overseas workers.

      Please note that a CoS is not transferable. Reassigning the same CoS to another worker amounts to a breach of your sponsorship licence duties, which will attract enforcement action from the Home Office.

      If you are sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker and you have a sponsor licence that has a provisional rating, only one CoS can be assigned to your authorising officer, to allow them to enter the UK. You will then have to upgrade your licence to an A-rating, before you are able to request up to four additional certificates using the SMS.

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        Cost of Certificate of Sponsorship

        For foreign national employees on Skilled Worker, T2 minister of religion or Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility), you will have to pay a fee of £239 per CoS.

        For Temporary Workers including Global Business Mobility – Graduate Trainee, UK Expansion Worker, Service Supplier and Secondment Worker route, and Scale-up route, each CoS costs £25.

        A CoS for the International Sportsperson route – Up to 12 months or less will cost £25, while for the International Sportsperson route – Over 12 Months, it will attract a fee of £239.

        If you are assigning a CoS to a worker on a Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker visa, you may also need to pay an immigration skills charge, which will be £364 per CoS for small or charitable sponsors for the first year, and £182 for each six-month period thereafter.

        For medium or large employers, the immigration skills charge is £1,000 for the first 12 months, and then £500 for each additional six months.

        CoS Processing Time

        Typically, UKVI takes one working day to approve the CoS applications.

        However, the processing time may go up if UKVI will need to request additional information or conduct further checks on the information you have provided in your CoS application(s).

        How Can Total Law Help?

        The rules for issuing a CoS to sponsored workers are complex in nature. Employers will have to be aware of potential compliance issues, and ensure that they diligently follow Home Office instructions to avoid risks of penalties or even revocation of their sponsor licence.

        At Total Law, we can help you with legal advice and guidance about CoS, even if your circumstances are complicated.

        Our team of expert immigration lawyers can assist you throughout the process, starting from advising on issuing the correct type of CoS to checking your CoS application thoroughly to rule out any errors. We also offer advice and support for managing your sponsorship duties with regard to CoS.

        Call us today on +353 061 518 025 to speak with one of our expert immigration advisers.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  A CoS is valid for three months after it is assigned. Your foreign national employee must apply for a suitable UK work visa within this time period.

                  Yes. If you no longer require a CoS for a certain overseas worker due to a resignation or termination of contract, you can cancel an assigned CoS through the SMS.

                  Please provide the relevant CoS details on the ‘Manage live CoS’ screen under ‘Sponsorship duties’, then select ‘withdraw CoS’.

                  You must withdraw a CoS within five days of being notified of the change in circumstances.