What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS)?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (‘CoS’) is an electronic record that an employer must assign to each foreign worker it employs. A CoS has its own unique reference number which a worker will need to apply for a visa. 

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Types of Certificate of Sponsorship (COS)

There are two types of Certificates of Sponsorship – a defined certificate and an undefined certificate of sponsorship. It is important to know which one to attain as it could affect a visa application. 

Defined Certificates

A defined certificate is issued to overseas individuals that are applying for a Skilled Worker visa. Employers must use the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) to apply for defined certificates. They are only able to do so once they attain their sponsor licence. Once the defined certificate has been approved it will appear in the SMS account and can be assigned to the foreign worker.

Undefined Certificates

Undefined certificates are issued to individuals that are applying from within the UK for a Skilled Worker visa. An employer applying for a sponsor licence will need to estimate the number of undefined certificates it will need in its first year.

What is the Process for Applying for a Sponsorship Licence?

Prospective sponsors will need to complete an online application and pay the appropriate fee. They will then need to gather and submit the relevant supporting documents to the Home Office as outlined in Appendix A. Sponsors will also need to satisfy the genuineness test, which will involve providing reasons as to why they require a sponsorship licence and why they cannot fill the vacancy in question with settled workers in the UK.

After a Sponsorship licence has been approved, in order to fully sponsor a foreign worker, the sponsor will need to assign the COS to the foreign worker in question.

Things to Remember when Requesting a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS)

Please note that the COS is a very important document and needs to be completed in accordance with the requirements set out by the Home Office. This is to ensure that the vacancy is genuine, that the foreign worker has the prerequisite experience and is being employed at the appropriate level with a salary matching the amount stipulated in the relevant SOC code.

These factors must be taken into account when applying for the COS, as incorrect information will result in a failed application. Although reapplication is possible, it is advisable to make a successful application in the first attempt to avoid delay and unnecessary costs.

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How can NA Law Solicitors Help with Requesting and Assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship?

We are a niche immigration firm based in Brentford, West London. Our team of immigration solicitors specialise in the provision of advice on the Sponsorship Licence Audit and Compliance and advice on employing migrant workers post- Brexit.  We can advise on how to request and assign either a restricted or unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship and ensure that once granted it is assigned correctly in accordance with the Skilled Worker visa policy guidance.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

You need a sponsorship licence if you plan on hiring employees from outside the EEA.

To meet the requirements, you must:

  • be a genuine business or sole-trader which is legally operating in the UK.
  • be able to demonstrate a genuine need for migrant workers.
  • have no unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences, money laundering, or fraud.
  • not pose any kind of threat to the UK via your company or any of its personnel.
  • not have a history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties.
  • have organised HR systems and records.

The Home Office fee depends on the type of business you have. For small businesses and charities the Tier 2 sponsorship fee is £536. For medium and large businesses the Tier 2 sponsorship fee is £1476. You are a small business if you have an annual turnover of £10.2 million and less than 50 employees.

Some of the most common reasons for Tier 2 sponsor visa rejection are:

  • Non-compliance with the Home Office security standards
  • Failing the genuineness test
  • Failing to retain documentation on sponsored migrant workers

The Home Office will award you with a license rating. Your business will be placed on the UK Sponsorship Licence register. You will be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship. Your license will be valid for 4 years.

Applying for a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence is a lengthy and complex process. NA Law Solicitors can assist with your business immigration needs by managing the entire Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence application process. We can help you adhere to your duties as a Tier 2 sponsor and steer you towards a successful outcome. Subsequently, NA Law can assist with the following:

  • Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence applications
  • Audit existing HR and record keeping systems
  • Acting as a key contact and/or level 1 user for your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence
  • Advising on Right to Work checks as set out by the Home Office guidance
  • Applying for a restricted or unrestricted CoS and assigning it to the relevant workers
  • Advising on how to deal with closure notices and civil penalty notices
  • Assisting multi-nationals to bring their overseas staff to the UK via the Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer visa route
  • Advising on Brexit-related issues faced by EEA national workers
  • Advising on all other corporate immigration matters

During the sponsor licence application, the Home Office may come to conduct a compliance visit at the company premises. Our specialist team at NA Law Solicitors can conduct a mock audit for you. This will decrease the chance of an unsuccessful sponsor licence. Contact us for further information, advice or guidance.

Most applications are dealt with within 4 weeks. UKVI will contact the applicant once a decision is made.

Prior to making a decision on a Student sponsorship licence application or as a means to ensure a sponsor is adhering to its Student sponsor duties, UKVI may make an unannounced visit to inspect the sponsor’s HR policies and confirm they have sufficient measures in place to fulfil their obligations.

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