ArticleUnderstanding the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

The Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is pivotal for employers aiming to recruit international talent under various sponsored work visa categories. This mechanism is not just bureaucratic; it’s a crucial validation of an employer’s adherence to immigration rules, with significant implications for both businesses and migrant workers.

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

A Certificate of Sponsorship is not a physical document, but an electronic record represented by a unique reference number. This number is essential for individuals applying for visas in the Worker and Temporary Worker categories, such as the Skilled Worker, Senior or Specialist Worker, and Scale Up Worker routes.

By assigning a CoS, sponsors certify to the Home Office that the employment offer meets all the requirements of the applicable visa category, ensuring compliance and integrity within the system. However, the responsibility does not end there; employers must maintain strict conditions related to the issuance and use of CoS to avoid potential pitfalls such as visa refusals or even punitive measures against their sponsorship licence.

Types of Certificate of Sponsorship

Post-December 2020 changes to the Immigration Rules introduced two classifications of Certificates of Sponsorship—defined and undefined:

  1. Defined Certificates of Sponsorship: These are designed for Skilled Worker visa applicants applying from outside the UK. Employers request these certificates through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) upon securing their sponsor licence. Once approved, these can be assigned to prospective employees.
  2. Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship: These are utilised for sponsoring Skilled Worker visa applicants already residing in the UK and for all other sponsored visa categories. The initial allocation of undefined certificates is estimated during the sponsor licence application, with additional certificates available upon request through SMS if the initial allocation is exhausted within the first year.

Who Requires a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Individuals needing to enter or remain in the UK under sponsored work visa categories require a CoS. This encompasses a wide range of visas including, but not limited to:

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Global Business Mobility visas
  • Scale Up visa
  • Minister of Religion
  • International Sportsperson
  • Creative Worker
  • Religious Worker
  • Government Authorised Exchange
  • International Agreement
  • Seasonal Worker

For new businesses under the UK Expansion Worker route, the rules are particularly stringent. Initially, only one CoS can be assigned to the designated Authorising Officer. Following their successful entry and the upgrade of the company’s licence to an A-rating, up to four additional certificates may be requested.

Compliance and challenges

The issuance of a CoS must be meticulously managed. The worker must use it within three months of issuance, and the visa application should not be more than three months prior to the job start date specified on the CoS. Missteps in these areas can lead to visa application denials and possible sanctions against the employer’s licence, including downgrades, suspensions, or revocations.

Employers must also ensure they have robust systems for record-keeping and reporting to the Home Office, especially concerning changes in employee circumstances or company details. Failure to comply can trigger investigations and revocations, severely impacting the business operation and its workforce.

Get in touch:  For a comprehensive understanding of your options or queries on UK immigration matters, contact GigaLegal Solicitors at 02074067654 or click here to book a no-obligation consultation with an immigration expert.