Certificate of sponsorship: defined or undefined

Understanding Defined and Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship

The first step in the immigration road for businesses before they can begin hiring and migrating their preferred overseas talent to the UK, is obtaining a Sponsor Licence. Once the employer has obtained their licence the next step found within the process of applying for a licence is the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). The CoS is an electronic record located in the business’s Sponsor Management System (SMS). An employer must assign a CoS to their preferred candidate, at least 3 months before their visa application. The assigning of a CoS reference number confirms the employer’s intention to hire a prospective candidate. Without a valid CoS reference number, the candidate’s visa application is likely to be rejected by the Home Office which can lead to financial loss, aggravation, and confusion.

There are two types of Certificates of Sponsorship, these are classed as defined and undefined certificates. A defined Certificate of Sponsorship is the certificate needed for visa applicants applying from outside of the UK. Whilst an undefined Certificate of Sponsorship refers to visa applicants applying for permission to remain in the UK by extending their existing visa or permission, or if they choose to apply for any other type of visa which requires a CoS. 

Nation.better can help sponsors to assign their visa candidates with the correct type of Certificate of Sponsorship to avoid serious repercussions including fines, the revocation of the employer’s Sponsor Licence, and the rejection of their applicant’s visa. In this article we will be explaining the importance of selecting the correct type of certificate, informing you of the allocation of certificates, and guiding you on how to assign the correct CoS to your preferred candidate. 

Why is the Certificate of Sponsorship needed?

A Sponsor must assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to their preferred candidate for them to proceed with their visa application. The assigning of a CoS allows the sponsor to inform the Home Office about the candidate and to provide additional information, including the candidate’s prospective position in the company, annual salary, number of working hours, job duties, place of work, and place of application.

At this stage, the employer also confirms: 

  • They are a registered sponsor and eligible to employ migrant workers
  • They have identified the candidate and wish to hire them
  • The candidate meets the requirements
  • The employer is compliant with their duties

In other words, the assignment of a CoS is a formal confirmation to the Home Office that the position is genuine and the prospective employee is suitable for the role, which grants the visa candidate permission to proceed with their Skilled Worker visa application.


What information is included on the CoS:

  • The route which the migrant is being sponsored
  • Candidate’s personal information
  • Work address(es) in the UK
  • Job description, working hours, salary, and employment start-end date

How are Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship allocated to sponsors in SMS?

An undefined CoS is assigned to Skilled Workers applying to extend their stay or switch their visa category from within the UK. When applying for a Sponsor Licence the Home Office will ask employers to provide an estimate of the candidates they are looking to recruit to work for them in the UK within their first year as a licenced sponsor. If at the time of applying for a licence, the organisation does not have any candidates in mind or does not know how many they plan on recruiting they can provide the Home Office with the figure zero, which means they will have no defined Certificates of Sponsorship allocated to them in their Sponsor Management System (SMS) portal. 

As the organisation finds candidates they want to sponsor they can increase their CoS allocation throughout the year using their SMS portal. Whilst companies can request an increase in CoS allocation they must be able to justify and explain these increases to the Home Office, who will process this request accordingly. Please contact our team to learn more about how we can help you with your Certificate of Sponsorship needs. 

An organisation’s Certificate of Sponsorship allocation is renewed on an annual basis, granting employers the opportunity to request certificates based on their hiring forecast for the year. This must be an informed prediction based on the number of eligible positions that need to be filled. As explained above, the allocation can be increased throughout the year to correspond with your business needs. In the event that sponsors have Certificates of Sponsorship which were not used throughout the year of their allocation these will simply expire with no repercussions to the sponsor.

What are the fees associated with assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Regardless of the type of Certificate of Sponsorship assigned to the visa candidate, sponsors can expect to pay £199 to assign the certificate via the SMS portal. 

The sponsor can also expect to pay the Immigration Skills Charge and Healthcare surcharge amongst other fees along the immigration process. For further information regarding these fees please consult this article

What happens if the wrong Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned?

It is vital to assign the correct type of CoS to the migrant worker, as a certificate cannot be amended once assigned. For minor changes, it is possible to add comments via the SMS portal for the UKVI caseworker to review. For more substantial changes, you may need to cancel the certificate and generate a new certificate.

The Home Office guidance is very clear about assigning the wrong type of Certificate of Sponsorship, it states, “The [sponsor] licence will be revoked if you assign an undefined Skilled Worker CoS (or an unrestricted Tier 2 (General) CoS) to a worker who requires a defined (or restricted) one.” (Annex C2). Therefore we cannot stress the importance of reviewing all details before assigning a CoS.

How can Nation.better assist you?

Our team of immigration advisors is ready to help you with the selection and assignment of a Certificate of Sponsorship. At Nation.better we assist employers in obtaining a Sponsorship Licence and begin hiring eligible talent from around the world by providing our recruitment and visa application services. 

Additionally, we can help employers with sponsorship compliance even after candidates have migrated to the UK. We make sure our sponsors remain compliant with the ever-changing Home Office regulations and procedures.

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Before the sponsor can employ a migrant worker, they must assign them a CoS no more than 3 months before their visa application. The candidate then uses the CoS reference number to support their visa application. 

Once the application is submitted, it will take an average of 3 weeks to hear back for an undefined skilled worker application or 8 weeks for a defined application. 

If the Home Office has any concerns regarding the business’s eligibility to hire migrant workers, they can choose not to grant them a sponsor licence. 

However, if these concerns are raised after the sponsor has successfully brought migrant workers into the UK to work for them. Then their sponsor licence will be cancelled, meaning the visas of migrant workers will automatically be reduced to 60 days or the remainder of time if less than 60 days, so they must leave that job and the UK unless they can find another eligible sponsored job before the termination of their visa. 

Each Certificate of Sponsorship has a unique reference number, so visa applicants using the skilled worker or other routes can provide the UKVI with this reference number to support their visa application. Once assigned, the Certificate of Sponsorship is valid for 3 months and can be used if unused or used past this time frame, the certificate will expire, and a sponsor must assign a new CoS. 

Nation.better can assist your business in obtaining a Sponsor Licence. Consult our insightful blog article, for further information. 

It is vital to assign the correct type of Certificate of Sponsorship, as the Home Office guidance clearly states that a consequence of assigning the incorrect CoS is the revocation of the business’ Sponsor Licence. Nation.better can help you choose and assign the correct CoS for £650 + VAT.

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