What is a certificate of sponsorship?

A certificate of sponsorship (CoS) is not a paper certificate or document, but a virtual document, like a database record. When you have followed all of the rules set out in this guidance and you are ready to sponsor a migrant under Tier 2 or Tier 5, you must assign a CoS to them using your sponsor management system (SMS) account. This involves working through a short online form where you give us information about the migrant you want to sponsor and the work they will do. All of the information you enter will be stored and can be viewed by UKVI. A CoS can only be assigned by a person who has access to the SMS as a level 1 or level 2 user.

When you assign a CoS, a reference number is generated and you must give this number to the migrant you want to sponsor. They must then include the reference number in their application for entry clearance, if outside the UK or leave to remain under Tier 2 or Tier 5, if inside the UK or worker authorisation if they are a Croatian national. When you give the CoS number to the migrant, you should treat it as a secure and confidential document.

The migrant may ask for other information that was part of the process of generating the reference number. You can give the migrant a copy of their CoS and there is a function within your SMS account to print any CoS you have assigned. You can do this by using the ‘View CoS’ function, where you can open the CoS and choose ‘Print’.

When a CoS you have assigned has been used to support an application, it will show in your SMS account as ‘used’ and it cannot then be used again. If the migrant’s application is refused and they wish to re-apply, you must assign a new CoS to them to quote on their new application. The only exception is where the CoS has been assigned to and used by a migrant who is a non-visa national and who is entering the UK under the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Creative and Sporting sub category, for fewer than 3 months.

If the migrant’s application was rejected or withdrawn, the CoS will still show in your SMS account as ‘assigned’. It can then be used again to support a further application.

Processes are in place at the port of entry for migrants who come to the UK under the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Creative and Sporting sub category, if they have not applied for entry clearance because they are:

  • non-visa nationals; not nationals of a country whose nationals must always have a visa to enter the UK
  •  seeking entry to the UK for 3 months or fewer

Under the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Creative and Sporting, you can assign a ‘group CoS’ to all members of a group.

Once you have assigned a CoS, it can be used by the migrant you have assigned it to, to support their application at any time during the 3 month period from the date it was assigned. During this period a migrant cannot be assigned another CoS by any other sponsor. If the migrant does not use the CoS within this 3 month period to make an application, it will expire and will show as ‘expired’ in your SMS account. Please note, that a migrant cannot apply for Tier 2 or Tier 5 leave more than 3 months in advance of the start date stated on their CoS.

The start date given on the CoS must be the date that the migrant will start working for you. A migrant can be granted entry clearance no more than 14 days before the start date given on the CoS. Once the entry clearance has been granted, it is possible to delay this start date but, in the case of a Tier 2 (General) migrant, any revised start date cannot be put back more than 4 weeks from the start date on the CoS or the date entry clearance is granted. Under Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)), it is possible for the start date to surpass the 4 weeks as long as the migrant continues to be paid by the sending overseas entity.

The start date given on the CoS must be the date that the migrant will start working for you. A migrant can be granted entry clearance no more than 14 days before the start date given on the CoS. Once the entry clearance has been granted, it is possible to delay this start date but, in the case of a Tier 2 (General) migrant, any revised start date cannot be put back more than 4 weeks from the start date on the CoS or the date entry clearance is granted. Under Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)), it is possible for the start date to surpass the 4 weeks as long as the migrant continues to be paid by the sending overseas entity.

Assigning a CoS does not guarantee that the migrant will succeed in being granted entry clearance, leave to remain or worker authorisation. They must meet all of the criteria for the Tier 2 or Tier 5 leave they are applying for, or for worker authorisation if they are a Croatian national.

Before assigning a CoS, you should talk to the migrant about their current immigration status, as this may affect any application they make because of the rules on switching (‘changing’) from one immigration category to another

Cancelling a certificate of sponsorship

UKVI can cancel a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) assigned by you if they  find it should not have been assigned, for example, if it was assigned through misrepresentation or fraud.

You can withdraw a CoS assigned to a migrant, which has not yet been used to support an application for leave to enter, or remain in the UK. This can be done using your SMS account.

A migrant can only have one CoS assigned to them at any given time. If you have assigned a CoS to a migrant who intended to start working for you, but then decided to take up a job offer with a different sponsor, they must contact you to arrange the withdrawal of their CoS. This is because the sponsor who they want to start work for will not be able to assign a CoS to them until you have withdrawn the one you assigned. They must request this in writing or by email giving you 5 working days to action this. If you do not action their request they must send a reminder, after which you will have a further 5 working days.

If you refuse, or fail to withdraw the CoS within the set time, the migrant can ask UKVI to cancel it. UKVI  will not cancel it until they have talked to you about why you have not done as they have asked. Failure to action this request from a migrant, within the set time, may lead to us taking action against you.

When a CoS is cancelled or withdrawn, the fee will not be refunded and we will refuse any application that is supported by that CoS.

If a migrant is in the UK with entry clearance, leave to remain or worker authorisation, we will cancel or reduce their leave, or revoke their worker authorisation if we find the CoS which supported their application was improperly assigned. If this happens:

  • their permission to be in the UK as a Tier 2 or Tier 5 migrant will be shortened to 60 calendar days, to give them a chance to find a new sponsor, if they were not actively involved in the CoS being assigned, or issued improperly
  •  immediately ended (curtailed) if they were actively involved
  •  their worker authorisation will be revoked

Skill level for jobs under Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (IntraCompany Transfer)

Migrants sponsored under Tier 2(General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)) can only work in a skilled occupation at or above Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6, or the equivalent in Scotland. This does not mean that the person employed to fill the job must be educated to that level, it means that the work that person will do is pitched at that level.

The only exceptions to this skill level rule are where the migrant:

  •  will be sponsored under Tier 2 (General) for a job in a shortage occupation listed in Appendix K of the Immigration Rules
  •  will be sponsored in one of the following creative sector standard occupational classification (SOC) codes:
    • o 3411 – Artists
    • 3412 – Authors, writers and translators
    • 3413 – Actors, entertainers and presenters
    • 3414 – Dancers and choreographers
    • 3422 – Product, clothing and related designers
  •  is a Croatian national who needs to apply for worker authorisation – Croatian nationals can be sponsored to fill vacancies at or above RQF level 4 or the equivalent level in Scotland
  •  is already working in the UK under Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (ICT) and they first successfully applied under one of those routes under the rules in place between 6 April 2011 and 13 June 2012; in these circumstances, the migrant can be sponsored to fill a vacancy at or above RQF level 4, or the equivalent level in Scotland – before you apply for a licence or request a CoS to employ the migrant you must tell us that they meet these exception criteria, why they are eligible and provide us with their name for us to check their eligibility. We will close the transitional arrangements for workers sponsored at RQF level 4 from July 2018. This will give those workers sufficient time to apply to extend their stay for long enough to reach the qualifying period for settlement. We will continue to allow workers sponsored at these RQF levels to apply for settlement beyond these dates

You must add a sponsor note when you assign a CoS to explain that they meet these exception criteria and why they are eligible

If you sponsor a migrant who is already in the UK, you will need to find out when they were first granted leave under Tier 2 or the Work Permit arrangements to work out whether they are allowed to take the job you intend to offer them. You should ask for any evidence they have from when they first successfully applied for Tier 2 or the Work Permit arrangements before assigning a CoS. If you assign a CoS and their application is refused because the skill level requirement is not met, we will not refund the CoS fee.