What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?
A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) must be applied for by a UK-based employer each time they wish to recruit an overseas national on Tier 2 Skilled Worker Visa or Tier 5 Visa. Once the certificate has been obtained, it will be used by your prospective employee as a supporting document for their visa application. Only employers that hold a Sponsor Licence are able to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship.
The CoS application should only be commenced by an employer once the job has been formally offered. As part of the application, an employer should provide details regarding both the role and salary. If there are any differences between the information provided and the reality, the employer will be at risk of having their Sponsor Licence suspended.
There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship currently allocated by the government- Restricted and Unrestricted. At present, only 20,700 of the Restricted type are issued each year.
How do I obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship?
To apply for a CoS, an employer must first obtain a Sponsor Licence. This is the central eligibility requirement that must be satisfied in order to obtain a CoS, as the certificate essentially acts as proof that the employee has a job offer from a sponsored employer.
Once your Sponsor Licence is in place, it is then necessary to ensure that you allocate the correct CoS to your prospective employee.
In order to do this, you must gather all relevant information regarding the role being applied for including the likely salary that will be paid.
Once the information is in place, it needs to be inputted the Sponsor Management System (SMS). The SMS will then produce the CoS in the form of a unique reference number.
This number will be used by your prospective employee as part of their visa application.
Are there specific rules that must be adhered to when applying?
When you apply for a CoS, it is hugely important that the relevant guidelines are followed correctly. For example, your prospective employee must apply for Tier 2 clearance within three months of the CoS being issued.
In addition, the CoS can only be assigned to the individual it was originally applied for. It is not permissible for it to be transferred. If you were to attempt to reassign a CoS to a different individual, it would be viewed as a violation of your duties as a sponsored employer.
This would put your organisation at risk of having your Sponsor Licence revoked or suspended by the Home Office.
In addition, you can also have your Sponsor Licence revoked if it becomes clear that you know longer comply with the ‘Genuineness Test’. The test is the Home Office’s way of determining whether you have a genuine need for overseas workers.
What is the Sponsor Management System (SMS)?
If your application for a Sponsor Licence is successful, one of your key tasks will be to use the Sponsor Management System (SMS) effectively.
The SMS is used to keep a log of all of the overseas workers that you employ. You should use the SMS to record any periods of absence or changes in immigration status.
In addition, you should update the system if an employee is not complying with their visa or receives a promotion.
You also use the SMS to obtain a CoS. This is achieved through inputting all relevant information about the role and the prospective employee into the system.
The SMS uses the information provided to produce the correct CoS.
How does an restricted CoS differ from one that is unrestricted?
There are currently two types of Certificate of Sponsorship- restricted and unrestricted.
A restricted CoS is assigned to overseas-based prospective employees that are earning less than £159,000. There is an annual restriction in place on the number of non-EU nationals that can enter the UK with a restricted CoS.
An unrestricted CoS differs considerably in that it is assigned to prospective employees that are already based in the UK. They could be employed on a Tier 2 Visa by a different company, or on a Tier 4 Student Visa looking to switch on to a Tier 2 Visa.
Each year, a company/organisation is allocated a fixed amount of Unrestricted CoS. Those that are unused expire on the 5th of April.
How long will it take to obtain a CoS?
If you are a sponsored employer, obtaining a CoS should not form a time-consuming process.
Once all of the relevant information has been gathered and inputted into the SMS, your prospective employee’s unique reference number will be produced almost instantly.
This reference number is their CoS and must be used on their visa application.
What are the Certificate of Sponsorship fees?
The CoS pricing is relative to the type of visa being applied for by your prospective employee.
If a Tier 2 Visa is being applied for, the CoS currently costs £199 to obtain. A CoS for a Tier 5 Visa costs £19.
The ‘immigration skills charge’ must be paid for Tier 2 General and Intra-Company Transfer Visas.
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A CoS forms an integral part of an overseas national’s supporting documentation when applying to enter the UK on a Tier 2 or Tier 5 Visa.
It is an electronic record rather than a physical document, and features an individual number that must be submitted when applying for a UK Work Permit.
It provides the Home Office with proof that the visa applicant has an official job offer from a sponsored employer, and is a necessary piece of information for most UK Work Visa applications.
There are currently two types of CoS- Restricted and Unrestricted. The latter is allocated to those earning a salary in excess of £159,000 per year. A Restricted CoS is for those earning less than this amount, and only 20,700 are allocated per year. As a result, it is important to complete your application to the highest standard.
The CoS is a required document for all Tier 2 and Tier 5 Visa applicants.
It is not required by those on the Tier 5 Youth Mobility route as the applicant’s country of origin acts as their sponsor.
Employers also do not need to sponsor Tier 1 Visa applicants.
The cost of obtaining a Certificate of Sponsorship depends on the type of visa being applied for. For Tier 2 Visas, the cost is currently £199. For Tier 5 Visas, the cost is currently £21.
It is also necessary to pay the ‘immigration skills charge’ if you are recruiting someone via the Tier 2 General or Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer route.
At the Immigration Advice Service, our team of expert lawyers are immensely experienced in assisting with Certificate of Sponsorship applications. We understand that having access to as wide a talent pool as possible is an integral part of thriving as an organisation. As a result, we will guide you through the application process step-by-step, ensuring that you receive your desired outcome.
As part of our services, you will receive:
- Ensure that you are fulfilling your sponsorship duties correctly;
- Assess the role and individual you intend to hire in order to establish what CoS must be applied for;
- Assess the details of your employee’s application to ensure that all requirements are met;
- Ensure that the role being filled is either on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) or has passed the Labour Market Test;
- Assist you in the use of the Online Management System.