An Expert Guide to UK CoS: Types, Application and Withdrawal

Luxshana Senthilvel
13/03/2024

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What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

A Certificate of Sponsorship is a virtual document with a unique reference number containing information about the job and the overseas worker’s details. It’s not a physical document or an actual certificate but merely an electronic record.

In the UK, a CoS is used in the immigration process to validate and support applications for working visas. It’s issued by a UK-based employer who is licenced to sponsor workers from outside of the UK.

The certificate confirms that the worker is eligible to undertake a specific job in the UK and that the job meets the relevant conditions for their immigration category. It must be applied for before the overseas worker applies for a visa.

What are the types of certificate of sponsorship?

There are two main types of Certificate of Sponsorship that companies can apply for when sponsoring individuals from outside the UK.

Defined Certificate of Sponsorship (previously known as restricted CoS)

A defined CoS is a type of certificate that is used for sponsoring individuals who are applying for work visas from outside the UK and are subject to immigration controls. These CoS are subject to an annual limit set by the government, which restricts the number of CoS that can be allocated each year by the employer.

Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship (previously known as unrestricted CoS)

Undefined certificates are a type of Certificate of Sponsorship that employers might need if they are sponsoring a migrant worker. They are used for in-country applications, where someone is switching from a different visa to a Skilled Worker visa, or where extensions to existing Skilled Worker visas are being sought.

During the application for a sponsor licence, the applicant has to provide an estimate of the number of undefined certificates they will need throughout the first year of sponsorship.

It is important to note that the number of undefined certificates being asked for initially isn’t set in stone. If during the course of the year the employer finds that the requirements have changed and need to increase the number of CoS issued, they can do so by submitting a request through their Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

This flexibility ensures the employer can always meet the sponsorship needs of the company, even if circumstances change or unexpected opportunities for sponsoring migrant workers arise. For this reason, it is crucial for sponsoring organisations to keep track of their undefined certificate usage and adjust their estimates as necessary. This will help to prevent any disruption in the hiring process and ensure the continuous availability of sponsorship certificates for potential skilled workers.

Who needs a Certificate of Sponsorship?

A Certificate of Sponsorship is a requirement for individuals who are seeking to apply for specific categories of UK-sponsored work visas. These individuals need to secure a Certificate of Sponsorship from the employer in order to successfully apply for leave to enter or remain in the UK.

The visa categories that require a Certificate of Sponsorship include, but are not limited to:

  • Skilled Worker Visa
  • Temporary Worker Visa
  • Internship visa or Government Authorised Exchange (GAE)
  • Student Visa
  • Global Business Mobility Visa
  • Minister of Religion
  • Seasonal workers
  • International Sportsperson
  • Scale-Up Visa

This certificate is a crucial component in the work visa application process, validating the individual’s eligibility to undertake specific jobs in the UK.

The Employer’s Role in the CoS Process

An employer’s role in the Certificate of Sponsorship process is to ensure that the immigration rules and regulations are followed accurately, and that the sponsorship of the migrant worker is conducted in a compliant manner. Here are some key responsibilities that employers have in the CoS process:

  • Obtaining a Sponsor Licence: Before issuing a CoS, an employer must first obtain a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office. This involves completing an application, providing supporting documentation, and meeting the eligibility criteria set out by the Home Office.
  • Assessing the job role: It is the employer’s responsibility to determine whether the job role being offered to the migrant worker meets the criteria for sponsorship under the Tier 2 visa category. This includes ensuring that the job is on the eligible occupation list and meets the required skill level and salary threshold.
  • Issuing the CoS: Once the Sponsor Licence is obtained, the employer can then issue a CoS to the migrant worker. This involves entering the relevant information into the Home Office’s sponsorship management system, including details of the job role, salary, and duration of employment.
  • Compliance with the rules: Employers are responsible for ensuring that they comply with all the rules and obligations set out by the Home Office as a licenced sponsor. This includes keeping accurate records, reporting any changes to the migrant worker’s employment status, and cooperating with any compliance visits or audits conducted by the Home Office.
  • Supporting the migrant worker: Employers should also provide the sponsored workers with the necessary support and guidance throughout their employment in the UK. This includes assisting with visa applications, offering training and development opportunities, and ensuring that the working conditions meet the required standards. By fulfilling these responsibilities and ensuring that the CoS process is carried out correctly, employers can help to facilitate the smooth and successful sponsorship of migrant workers under the skilled worker visa category.

By fulfilling these responsibilities and ensuring that the CoS process is carried out correctly, employers can help to facilitate the smooth and successful sponsorship of migrant workers under the skilled worker visa category.

How to Apply for a CoS

Becoming a Licenced Sponsor

Before an employer can assign a Certificate of Sponsorship, they must first apply to become a licenced sponsor. For the sponsor licence application process, the employers must provide proof that they are eligible to become a sponsor and have a genuine need for sponsoring workers.

Here are the steps to become a sponsor in the UK and the CoS application process:

  • Obtain a Sponsor Licence: Before applying for a CoS, the company/employer must obtain a Sponsor Licence from the UK Home Office. To do so, the company must meet eligibility requirements and provide the required documentation.
  • Access the Sponsorship Management System (SMS): Once the licence is obtained, the designated user in the company should log into the SMS.
  • Request a CoS: The user should then navigate to the appropriate section in the SMS to request a CoS (if not already granted with the sponsor licence). The procedures might be slightly different depending on whether the company needs an “undefined” or “defined” CoS.
  • Input Required Information: The user should input relevant details about the job and the prospective employee. This includes information on the role, salary, and the candidate’s qualifications, work dates, weekly hours, etc.
  • Submit the Request: After verifying all the information, the request should be submitted.
  • Wait for Approval: The Home Office will review the request. If approved, the certificate can be assigned to the prospective employee.

Keep in mind that a CoS is not a physical document but a virtual record. Each CoS has a unique reference number, which is used by the employee in their visa application. It’s important to ensure all information is accurate, as errors can lead to delays or visa refusals.

Assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship

Once the employer is a licenced sponsor, they can assign a CoS to a foreign worker through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

  • Log into the Sponsorship Management System: The authorised user must log into the SMS where they can manage their sponsored workers.
  • Navigate to ‘Create and assign’: After logging in, the user should go to the ‘Create and assign’ option, where they will be allowed to begin the assigning process. They will be asked for details about the route and number of CoS to be issued and then fill in the worker details.
  • Confirmation of details: In the next step, the employer should confirm the data they have filled in and then assign the CoS to the respective employee.
  • Pay the CoS assigning fee: To successfully complete the process of assigning the CoS, the employer must pay the CoS assigning fee.
  • CoS number: After the payment, the CoS is assigned, and a unique CoS number is generated for the sponsored employee’s work visa application.

More navigation details are available in SMS Manual 8.

Informing the Employee

Once the CoS is issued, the employer should inform the employee. The employee will need the CoS reference number for their visa application.

The employer should remember that rules for sponsoring foreign workers and issuing a CoS can change, and it’s always a good idea to check the latest information on the UK government’s official website or consult with an immigration advisor.

The City Legal team has helped numerous employers secure a sponsor licence, allowing them to issue a CoS for their desired candidate. Contact us at 020 8175 4000.

Legal Implications of a Certificate of Sponsorship

There are several legal implications of a CoS:

1. Compliance with immigration laws: The CoS is a key document that enables foreign workers to apply for a work visa in the UK. The employer must ensure that the CoS is issued in compliance with UK immigration laws and that all information provided is accurate and up to date.

2. Responsibility for the sponsored employee: By issuing a CoS, the employer becomes the sponsor of the employee and is responsible for ensuring that the employee complies with the conditions of their visa, including maintaining the requisite level of skill and salary.

3. Reporting and record-keeping requirements: Sponsors are required to keep records of their sponsored employees and report any changes or issues that may affect the employee’s immigration status. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements can result in sanctions or penalties.

4. Renewals and extensions: Sponsors may need to apply for a new CoS if the employee’s visa is due to expire or if there are changes to the employee’s role or terms of employment. It is essential to ensure that the CoS is up to date and reflects the current circumstances of the sponsored employee.

5. Revocation of sponsorship: If a sponsor fails to comply with the duties and responsibilities of sponsorship, the Home Office may revoke the sponsor licence, which can have serious consequences for the employer, including loss of the ability to sponsor future employees.

How to Withdraw a Certificate of Sponsorship?

A Certificate of Sponsorship that has been assigned can be withdrawn, effectively cancelling it if it is no longer required for the individual. The Sponsorship Management System (SMS Guide 10) provides a simple process to do this.

Here are the steps to cancel a CoS:

  • Logging into the SMS: The user needs to log into their Sponsorship Management System (SMS) account.
  • Navigating to ‘Manage live CoS’: Within the SMS, the user should look for the section titled ‘Sponsorship duties’. Under this section, they will find the ‘Manage live CoS’ option.
  • Entering the CoS details: In the ‘Manage live CoS’ section, the employer should input the relevant details of the CoS they wish to cancel. This will typically include the CoS reference number or the individual’s personal details.
  • Selecting ‘Withdraw CoS’: After entering the required details, the user should select the ‘Withdraw CoS’ option.

Following these steps withdraws the CoS, essentially cancelling it. This action should only be taken if the employer is sure that the CoS is no longer required for the identified candidate.

Please remember always to follow the relevant guidelines and rules when managing Certificates of Sponsorship. It is essential to keep up to date with any changes to immigration and sponsorship laws to ensure the employer’s actions are compliant.

Important: The Home Office has issued a warning about a potential security concern involving unexpected contact from individuals claiming to be from the Home Office asking for SMS details. Please note that the Home Office NEVER asks for SMS account credentials. Contact Home Office at 030 0123 4699 for any concerns or suspicions.

How can City Legal Solicitors help with sponsorship?

The City Legal team has assisted many employers obtain the sponsor licence which allows an employer to issue a CoS for the candidate they want to sponsor. With a wealth of knowledge and expertise, we can provide expert advice and guidance to help you navigate the complex legal landscape.

Our solicitors are dedicated to providing a high level of service and are committed to helping our clients achieve the best possible outcomes. Contact us if you want to get a sponsor licence or want assistance from our legal team in any immigration matter.

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