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Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship Guidance

Our immigration lawyers in London are experienced in advising sponsorship licence holders on applying for the correct type of Certificate of Sponsorship to meet their business needs.  Our team based in London can assist you with Tier 2 Certificates of Sponsorship, and can offer guidance on any complications, including challenging the Home Office when they raise questions about the genuineness of the vacancy.

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Also known as a CoS, is a virtual document managed by Sponsor Licence Holders on their Sponsor Licence.

The CoS contains all objective data to do with the position to employer seeks to fill, including the chosen SOC code, the job title, job description and salary on offer.

It is the way in which the Home Office can control how many non-EU workers a license holder can sponsor in any given year.

A sponsor would need to ‘assign’ a CoS to any non-EU worker they wish to hire, which the individual would then use to support their visa application which is dealt with direct on the Sponsor Licence.

There are two types of CoS – Unrestricted and Restricted.

What are unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship?

These are called unrestricted certificates because you can get as many as your business needs. When you submit a request for a CoS, you will need to provide the Sponsor Licence Team the reasons why you need the number of certificates that you’ve asked for.

What are restricted Certificates of Sponsorship?

There are 20,700 CoSs available each year, divided into monthly allocations (this is detailed in the Sponsor Guidance) and are processed on the monthly basis.

These are used for:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers who are applying from outside the UK and will be paid less than £159,600 a year and are not in an inward investment post
  • family members (dependants) of Tier 4 migrants who are switching within the UK to a Tier 2 visa

You must apply for restricted certificates for these workers via the Sponsor Licence.

The deadline to submit these requests is the 5th of each month. These requests are considered on the first working day after the 10th day of the month and the Sponsor Licence Team usually begins issuing decisions after 11th or 12th of each month. The team can ask a sponsor to provide further evidence in order to consider the CoS request, in which case they will set a deadline to submit the further evidence. If the evidence isn’t submitted by this date, the request will automatically be considered in the next month’s allocation.

For more assistance on submitting tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship requests before a deadline, please get in touch with our team.

Brexit changes to Certificate of Sponsorship

In 2021, new immigration changes came into effect which ended free movement between the UK and the EU. Under these new rules, there were some changes to the Certificate of Sponsorship guidelines. For individuals from outside of the EU, the rules have remained largely the same. The main change is for individuals coming to the UK from the EU on a Skilled Worker Visa. These individuals will now also require sponsorship from their employer in order to secure their Skilled Worker Visa and take up a role in the UK.

The Certificate of Sponsorship guidance is now largely the same for applicants from EU countries as it is for individuals from non-EU countries.

How to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship

Businesses can apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship online through the gov.uk website. You will need to pay the license fee when you apply. 

What is the Certificate of Sponsorship processing time?

Most applications (8 out of 10) are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business. You may be able to pay £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. You’ll be told if you can after you apply.

What does the Certificate of Sponsorship cost?

Certificates of Sponsorship are free for individuals from the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.

When sponsoring individuals from countries not listed above, the Certificate of Sponsorship fee is £199 for a worker, and £21 for a temporary worker.

Where does the Certificate of Sponsorship fit into the sponsorship process?

What is the Resident Labour Market Test (“RLMT”)?

Before a CoS can be assigned to a non-EU worker, the company would need to demonstrate that they couldn’t fill the role with a worker who is already in the UK. This assessment is called the RLMT.

This requires a sponsor to place at least 2 adverts for at least 28 days and ensure they comply with the guidance for the content of the advert and the advertising method (contained in the UK Government’s Tier 2 Sponsor Guidance).

Westkin can assist with project managing the RLMT and selection of SOC codes.

Not all vacancies require the RLMT to be carried out, for example those who are in the UK with a Tier 4 Student Visa, or if the vacancy is on the Shortage Occupation List or the proposed migrant would be classified as a High Earner.

Our team at Westkin can advise on whether the RLMT needs to be carried out or whether you can rely on one of the exemptions to carry it out.

Read our blog for more information on the RLMT.

Sponsorship Licence application for employers

Companies looking to hire overseas workers must attain a sponsorship licence in order to do so. Following the new immigration rules which came into effect in 2021, this now applies for both EU and non-EU workers. The application to obtain a sponsorship license is a two part process.

1.Your company must fill out an online application that provides details of the company and the corporate structure.There is an application fee which must be paid online at the time of application.

  1. Supporting documents must be submitted to the Sponsor Licence team within 5 days of the online form being submitted. This includes documentation on your companies’ VAT records, criminal records of relevant individuals and documentation on your allocated staff.

As part of our services, we will complete all necessary forms, prepare them for submission, advise you as to the most appropriate supporting documents, and guide you on submitting them before the deadline.

It takes 2 – 8 weeks for the application to be processed by the Home Office. Please note the reason the processing times vary is that the Home Office may carry out a compliance visit before deciding the licence application.

Certificate of Sponsorship

After the licence has been approved, the company can deal with the relevant ‘restricted’ or ‘unrestricted’ Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to request and assign it to the proposed employee.

Please also note the CoS assigning fee and the government Immigration Skills Charge (“ISC”), is payable at this stage.

The Licence will work out how much you need to pay based on:

  • The size of your organisation.
  • How long the worker will work for you, using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate.

First 12 months:
Small or charitable sponsors – £364
Medium or large sponsors – £1000

Each additional 6 months:
Small or charitable sponsors – £182
Medium or large sponsors – £500

Tier 2 visa application

Once the CoS has been assigned, the prospective employee will then need to make the Tier 2 General Visa application. We will of course advise them and prepare the entire visa application.

As discussed, please find below the link to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Codes that are listed by the UKVI, please note that the job role that we select shall have to at minimum NQF Level 6 or above and this can be found at the Immigration Rules Appendix J Table 2: codes of practice for skilled work.

Certain SOC Codes will require the individual to obtain an overseas criminal record certificate from any country where they have resided for more than 12 months (excluding the UK) in the last 10 years. These are the Codes that involve working with vulnerable groups.

Our team can assist your prospective employees with their Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa applications. Find out more.

An example of the Certificate of Sponsorship allocation cycle

If a firm wishes to bring in 3 engineers from India, they will then need to advertise each vacancy in accordance with the Sponsor Guidance on carrying out the RLMT, if the positions don’t fall under one of the exemptions to determine whether there was anyone suitable in the UK who could fill the vacancy. If the company doesn’t identify a suitable resident worker, they can apply for a R CoS in the monthly allocation process.

When the Sponsor Licence Team approves the request for the R CoS, the company can assign it to each individual that wants to hire.

Dangers of misusing the Certificate of Sponsorship that has been issued to you.

Companies must use the correct type of CoS to sponsor a non-EU worker. If a company uses an unrestricted CoS to try and sponsor a worker instead of a restricted CoS (or vice versa), or they raise concerns on whether you have a genuine vacancy to fill, this can lead to the Sponsor Licence Team to take action against you.

The team at Westkin can advise you on what remedial action to take if you believe you have assigned the incorrect CoS to a proposed worker or you have concerns about whether you can demonstrate the vacancy you want to fill is genuine.

Tier 2 compliance visit

As a sponsor of a Tier 2 worker, your company will need to meet certain criteria to show that they are able to fulfil certain duties to their Tier 2 employees. Before you begin hiring overseas workers, you will have a pre-license assessment visit. This visit ensures:

  • The potential sponsor has the necessary HR systems in place to carry out their sponsor duties.
  • The number of migrants they want to sponsor is appropriate to the size and nature of the organisation.
  • The potential sponsor poses no threat to immigration control.
  • Any areas of concern are identified.
  • The sponsor is genuinely able to offer employment that meets the Tier 2 requirements at the correct skill and pay level.

Our team at Westkin can assist your business in preparing for Tier 2 compliance visits, ensuring that you have the necessary information and documentation prepared. For more information on how we can assist you, please get in touch.

How do I amend a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Certificates of sponsorship can be amended if a mistake has been made when filling it out, or if the information on an employee has changed and needs to be updated. Amendments can be made through your company’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS) which is set up online when you begin sponsoring employees.

Westkin Certificate of Sponsorship services

Our team at Westkin can advise on all aspects of sponsorship for tier 2 workers and minimise the risk of any errors occurring along the way that may delay your projected timescales for your new hire to start with you by your target start date. Find out more about our services for businesses.

If the Sponsor Licence team makes a mistake at any stage, the team at Westkin can also advise you on how best to deal with that error and challenge it.

For further information on Certificates of Sponsorship, or for assistance with compliancy when hiring foreign workers for your business, please get in touch.

Westkin Associates


5th Floor, Maddox House
1 Maddox Street
United Kingdom

0207 118 4546

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