Certificate of sponsorship: defined or undefined

Certificate of sponsorship: defined or undefined

A certificate of sponsorship (CoS) is assigned to each foreign worker the sponsoring organisation intends to employ in the UK. This is not a physical document, but an electronic record in the sponsor management system. No one can apply for entry clearance or leave to remain under the work route without a certificate of sponsorship, the reference number of which should be provided in the application form.

Why is the CoS required?

By assigning the CoS the licensed sponsor informs the Home Office about the candidate, their prospective position in the company, annual salary, number of working hours, job duties, place of work, and place of application. At the same time, the employer confirms that:

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

In other words, CoS is a formal confirmation to the Home Office that the position is genuine and the person is suitable for the role; and permission to the candidate to proceed with their skilled worker visa application.

There are 2 types of CoS, namely, undefined and defined CoS.

When is an undefined CoS assigned?

An undefined certificate of sponsorship is assigned to Skilled Workers applying to extend their stay or switch their visa category inside the UK.

Undefined CoS is assigned through the sponsor management system from the sponsor’s annual allocation. Initially, the annual allocation is estimated at the moment when the company applies for a sponsor licence, the number of CoSs requested should be justified depending on how many migrants you are planning to hire within the first year of being a registered sponsor. 

Subsequently—each year—the sponsor will be asked to make an annual allocation request for the next CoS year. This is done through the sponsor management system before the allocation year ends.

Can the sponsor request more undefined CoS?

If the company is planning to hire more migrant workers and there are no CoSs, they should make an in-year allocation increase by applying through the SMS.

Applications via the sponsor management system can take up to 18 weeks unless you pay £200 for a priority service.

How is a CoS assigned?

A CoS cannot be assigned earlier than three months prior to the migrant’s work start date. This is done via the sponsor management system by the key personnel who have access to the system as Level 1 or Level 2 users.

When is a defined CoS assigned?

A defined CoS is required by a Skilled Worker applying for a visa from outside the UK.

There is no annual allocation and there are no limits to the number of defined certificates available. Sponsors must first make a request for a defined CoS allocation, providing specific details of the migrant. Once the allocation is received, the CoS can only be assigned to the migrant for whom the request was made.

Defined CoS allocation requests take around 24-48 hours to be processed, however, delays may occur if the Home Office wishes to request further information.

Fees related to assigning the CoS

Both defined and undefined CoS cost £199 to assign. Within the same process of assigning a CoS through the SMS account, a licensed sponsor needs to pay the immigration skills charge which is £364 per year for small or charitable sponsors and £1,000 for medium or large sponsors.

Information included in the CoS:

  • The route on 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

What happens if the wrong type of CoS is assigned?

It is vital to assign the correct type of CoS to the migrant worker.

The Home Office guidance (‘Annex C2: circumstances in which we will normally revoke your licence, Reference U’) is very clear about assigning the wrong type of CoS: “The 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.”

Contact our immigration team today to make the process of assigning CoS and applying for a Skilled Worker visa as smooth as possible.

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