What Are Certificates of Sponsorship?

certificate of sponsorship

UK employers must secure a sponsor licence from the Home Office when they want to hire workers from outside the country. This licence enables them to allocate a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the potential applicants so they can apply for a work visa and come to the UK.

In this article, we will discuss a Certificate of Sponsorship, its variations, and more. Let’s get started. 

What Is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is an essential document for individuals looking to take part in employment in the UK under different work visas, such as the Skilled Worker and Senior or Specialist Worker routes. It isn’t a physical document but an electronic record which plays an important part in the UK immigration process.

The CoS is basically a reference number that a UK employer assigns to a prospective employee from outside the UK. This assignment is an employer’s declaration to the Home Office that the job offer and employment conditions comply with the specific requirements of the visa category in question. This confirmation is vital for the Home Office to process the visa application.

There are stringent rules about issuing a CoS. Once it is issued, the worker must utilise it to apply for their visa within three months. Additionally, the worker cannot apply for their visa more than three months before the appointment start date mentioned on the document. 

This rule ensures that the CoS is used within an appropriate and valid time frame, maintaining alignment with current employment conditions and immigration regulations. For businesses seeking guidance on this process, consulting with UK Sponsor Licence Lawyers for Businesses can be highly beneficial.

Types of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) are divided into two main types: defined and undefined. Let’s explore them in detail.

Defined Certificate of Sponsorship

Employers planning to employ a foreign citizen on a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK must obtain a defined Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). To obtain a CoS, employers must apply through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

This application must be inspected and authorised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) before the certificate can be assembled and allocated to the worker. The defined CoS is tailored for situations where the employee has yet to enter the UK. This ensures the sponsorship aligns with immigration requirements for entering the country under the Skilled Worker route.

Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship

Conversely, an undefined Certificate of Sponsorship is utilised for hiring foreign citizens who are already in the UK, typically those applying for a Skilled Worker visa from within the country. When employers apply for their sponsor licence, they are asked to estimate how many undefined CoS they will need in their first year and to provide evidence justifying this number.

Once a quota of undefined CoS is granted, employers can assign these to eligible workers without needing to apply each time. Unlike defined CoS, there is no limit on the quantity of undefined CoS that can be issued as long as each sponsored worker fits the eligibility requirements for the visa they are requesting.

What Does an Organisation Need to Do to Assign a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Before an organisation can assign a CoS, it must maintain a current sponsor licence and have entry to the Sponsor Management System (SMS). Within the SMS, the responsibility of assigning CoS usually falls to nominated users at Level 1 or Level 2, who are designated to handle these tasks.

Steps to Assign a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship

For defined CoS, assigning a certificate of sponsorship involves:

  1. Application Submission: A Level 1 or Level 2 user logs into the SMS and selects the option to apply for a defined CoS under the ‘Workers’ screen.
  2. Details Entry: They must then choose the specific CoS category, indicate the number of CoS required, and fill in the employment details on the designated application page.
  3. Confirmation and Submission: After verifying the accuracy of the information on the confirmation screen, the user checks a box to agree to the terms and submits the application.
  4. Approval and Assignment: Defined certificates typically receive approval within one working day, although delays can occur if further verification is needed. Once approved, these certificates appear in the SMS account and can be assigned to the respective worker.

Steps to Assign an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship

For undefined CoS, the process includes:

  1. Create and Assign CoS: From the ‘Workers’ screen, the user selects ‘Create and Assign’ and enters the necessary employment details.
  2. Verification and Assignment: After saving and confirming the details, the CoS is assigned to the worker following payment of the required fees, including the CoS fee and, in some cases, the immigration skills charge.

It’s important to note that CoS are not transmissible. Any attempt to reassign a CoS to another individual is considered a breach of sponsorship licence duties and can lead to enforcement action by the Home Office.

Related article: What Documents Will My Company Need to Apply for a Sponsor Licence?

Fee of Certificate of Sponsorship

The expense of issuing a CoS varies based on the type and the sponsor licence category. Understanding these costs is crucial for organisations planning to hire foreign nationals, as it impacts the overall budget for recruitment and compliance with immigration regulations.

The fee for issuing a CoS depends on whether the worker is categorised under the Worker or Temporary Worker visa route. Here are the typical costs:

  • Worker CoS: £239 per certificate
  • Temporary Worker CoS: £25 per certificate

For specific categories like International Sportspersons, the cost varies based on the duration of the CoS:

  • International Sportsperson CoS for more than 12 months: £239
  • International Sportsperson CoS for 12 months or less: £25

Immigration Skills Charge

In addition to the CoS issuance costs, employers may also require disbursing an Immigration Skills Charge if they sponsor employees through the Skilled Worker or Intra-Company Transfer visa routes. The fee is variable based on the sponsoring company’s size and the visa’s span.

  • For Small or Charitable Sponsors:


    • £364 for the first year
    • £182 for a further  six months
  • For Medium or Large Sponsors:


    • £1,000 for the first year
    • £500 for a further  six months

These fees contribute to the administrative costs of processing CoS applications and maintaining the sponsorship system. Employers must factor these costs into their budgeting process when planning to hire from abroad.

Let Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Help You

Securing a sponsor licence and managing Certificates of Sponsorship are crucial but complex aspects of hiring foreign talent. At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, we are here to streamline this process for you.

Our team of expert immigration lawyers will provide clear guidance and robust support to ensure your business meets all legal requirements easily. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you. 


To obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship, your potential employer in the UK must be a licensed sponsor and they will need to assign a CoS to you through the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

If you are applying for a visa to work in the UK under certain categories, such as the skilled worker visa, you will need a Certificate of Sponsorship from your sponsoring employer.

Sponsors with a Certificate of Sponsorship are responsible for ensuring that the sponsored worker complies with the UK immigration rules and their job role as specified in the CoS. They must also report any issues to the Home Office.

A Certificate of Sponsorship must be used by the worker to apply for their visa within three months from the date it is issued. Also, you’re not allowed to submit the application more than 3 months before the job begins.

It is not possible to transfer a Certificate of Sponsorship. Each CoS is specific to the individual it was issued to and the job to which it was assigned. 

Ask our Expert Legal Team

At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

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