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How to Assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

The Sponsor Management System (SMS) is an online tool that allows a UK employer to assign a certificate of sponsorship to a recruited employee to enable him/her complete a UK visa application.

If you need help applying for a sponsor licence to obtain a Sponsor management system (SMS) account for purposes which include assigning certificates of sponsorship to your workers, contact us today on 0333 305 9375 or chat with us online.

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Assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship: Overview

UK employers who obtain a sponsor licence are able to assign certificates of sponsorship to workers (workers and temporary workers) they employ from within and outside the UK.

The Sponsorship Management System (SMS) enables those who have been appointed to SMS management roles to assign applicable CoS to employees and to routinely carry out their sponsorship duties.

CoS are of two types – defined certificates and undefined certificates. Furthermore, the type of CoS assigned to an employee determines the cost of application to be paid by the employer and whether he will also pay the immigration skills charge.

The steps involved in assigning a CoS differ depending on the type of CoS being assigned. However, assigning either type of CoS would require the organisation’s Level 1 user to log in to the company’s SMS account and follow the instructions carefully.

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

A Certificate of Sponsorship is an electronic record (not a physical document) given by a sponsor licence holder to an employee. This document holds the information and number required to apply for a visa.

It is issued through the SMS account of the employer and is valid for 90 days after it is issued. Workers can only apply for a visa no more than three months before the start date of the job as indicated on the CoS they are issued.

What is a Sponsor Licence?

A sponsor licence is issued by the UK Home Office to eligible employers following an application and allows them to recruit skilled workers who are based overseas or within the UK into jobs that are suitable for sponsorship.

Once their applications are approved, they will be given a licence rating and their licence will be valid for four years with the option of renewal.

Who does not need a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Employers do not require a licence to sponsor those with:

  • Irish citizenship.
  • Settled or Pre-Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • Indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Who needs a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Every foreign worker requires sponsorship. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

What is the Sponsor Management System (SMS)?

The SMS is an online tool that enables UK employers to meet their requirements while sponsoring Worker and Temporary Worker visa holders.

When applying for a sponsor licence, employers need to appoint people to manage the sponsorship process. The management roles in the SMS include:

  • Authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS.
  • Key contact – the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
  • Level 1 user – the person responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS.

Types of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

The following are the types of CoS:

  • Defined certificates: These are for people applying for a Skilled Worker visa outside the UK. Employers must apply for defined certificates for these employees through the SMS.
  • Undefined certificates: These types of certificates are for skilled workers applying from inside the UK, including applicants on other visas.

While applying for a sponsor licence, employers will be asked to state how many undefined certificates they will require in the first year for both their workers and temporary workers.

Employers may have to pay the Immigration skills charge if their employees are applying for a Skilled Worker visa or a Senior or Specialist Worker visa.

Certificate of Sponsorship Cost

The type of sponsor licence determines how much the certificates of sponsorship cost. The following are the types of licence and cost per certificate:

  • Worker (except workers on the International Sportsperson visa) – £199.
  • Temporary Worker – £21.
  • International Sportsperson (for certificates of sponsorship assigned for more than 12 months) – £199.
  • International Sportsperson (for certificates of sponsorship assigned for 12 months or less) – £21.

Cost of Immigration Skills Charge

Employers have to pay the Immigration skills charge when assigning a certificate of sponsorship to someone applying for a Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker visa.

The amount employers need to pay depends on the size of their organisation and how long their sponsored workers will work for them.

For the first twelve months, the cost of Immigration skills charge is £364 for small or charitable sponsors and £1,000 for medium or large sponsors.

For each additional six months, the cost is £182 for small or charitable sponsors and £500 for medium or large sponsors.

Employers will get a full refund if a worker’s visa application is refused or withdrawn, or if successful and the worker does not come to work for them.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to receive assistance on Certificate of Sponsorship(CoS).

How to Assign a Certificate of Sponsorship

The steps to assigning a certificate differ slightly, depending on the type of CoS (defined or undefined). You will be directed to an online form, after logging in, where you will input job and employee details.

Applications for certificates of sponsorship are usually approved within one working day except in cases where further checks are required by the UKVI.

Defined CoS

You must apply for a defined certificate when recruiting a migrant worker under the Skilled Worker route if they will be applying for leave to enter the UK from overseas.

You must also be an A-rated licensed employer. The steps to assigning a defined CoS are contained in the SMS Guide 12 on the UK government website.

The steps, after you have logged in, are as follows:

  • From the Workers screen, select ‘Defined CoS’. You will see a ‘Apply for Defined CoS’ screen.
  • Select ‘Apply for Defined CoS’.
  • Select the category of CoS (e.g Skilled worker) and input the number of CoS (one or more). Then, select ‘Next’
  • Enter all details of the employment on the page titled ‘Application for defined CoS – employment details’ which comes up. Then select ‘Next’.
  • You will see a confirmation screen where you can check to ensure the details you entered are correct.
  • Read the declaration and tick the box to confirm you have read, understood, and agreed to all indicated terms.
  • Then, select ‘Submit’. On the ‘Application for defined CoS – submitted’ screen, your request number will also be displayed.

Undefined CoS

Note that if your licence has a provisional rating, you will only be able to assign one certificate of sponsorship which must be assigned to the authorising officer to enable him/her to enter the UK.

You can then proceed to upgrade your licence to an A-rating and request additional certificates of sponsorship using the SMS.

The steps to assigning a defined CoS are contained in the SMS Guide 8 on the UK government website. After logging into the SMS account, the steps are as follows:

  • From the Workers screen, select ‘Create and Assign’.
  • From the ‘Create and assign CoS’ screen, select the route of the CoS you wish to create from the ‘Select the route’ drop-down menu.
  • If you select either Skilled Worker or Global Business Mobility Routes, an additional drop-down menu will be displayed from which you will select the category of CoS you wish to create.
  • Select the button next to ‘Create new single certificate’ on the ‘Create and assign CoS’ screen. Then select ‘Next’.
  • Enter all details of the employment on the page titled ‘Application for defined CoS – employment details’ which comes up. Then select ‘Save’.
  • From the ‘Confirmation of saved CoS’ screen, you can check to ensure the details you entered are correct. If you want to make changes, select ‘Amend’. Then, select ‘Assign’.
  • You will see the ‘Confirm CoS details before assigning’ screen where you can check all entered details to ensure there are no errors.
  • Read the declaration and tick the box to confirm you have read, understood, and agreed to all indicated terms. Then select ‘Assign CoS’.
  • You will be taken to the Online payment screen where you can pay the CoS fee and immigration skills charge using a third-party payment service.
  • After making payment, you will be brought back to the SMS and to the ‘Single CoS assigned’ screen where you can see that the CoS has been assigned and given a unique CoS number.

Then, select ‘Submit’. On the ‘Application for defined CoS – submitted’ screen, your request number will also be displayed.

If you have any questions about Certificate of Sponsorship(CoS), our team is happy to assist.

How can IAS Help

Once you have obtained a sponsor licence, you need to dutifully carry out your sponsor duties to avoid a licence withdrawal or being denied a renewal.

If you need further information or help with the SMS to successfully manage your licence, our team of expert immigration lawyers at IAS are here to help.

We will help you put together the right documents required to successfully apply for a sponsor licence. We will also work with you to ensure you have the right SMS team by carrying out suitability checks before they are appointed to those roles.

Contact IAS today on 0333 305 9375 or chat with us online to successfully apply for a sponsor licence and/or to get help with appointing suitable persons to manage your SMS account.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Assigning an incorrect type of CoS is grounds for a visa refusal. Therefore, employers need to assign the correct type of CoS when sponsoring a worker.

When you assign a certificate to a worker, they must use it to apply for their visa within three months and not earlier. The assigned certificate becomes invalid after three months if the prospective worker does not use it, and you would have to reassign a new CoS.

The annual CoS allocation year (also the CoS year) runs for 12 consecutive months from the date your sponsor licence was granted or last renewed. You can request the number of undefined certificates of sponsorship you require on an annual basis (the next 12 months).

You may request additional CoS if you use up your annual allocation. Any unused CoS in your SMS account will be removed after its allocation year ends.

CoS applications are usually granted within one working day except in cases where the Home Office requests further information regarding the role or the prospective employee.

The CoS does not guarantee you a visa. After your employer has assigned you a CoS and given you the required details, you would have to submit a visa application under either the worker or skilled worker category.

An approved visa application is what gets you a visa to enter the UK to work.

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