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What is the difference between restricted and unrestricted CoS?

Any foreign national can apply to work in the UK, but their employer must issue them a valid CoS. However, let’s clarify that a CoS is not a physical document but an electronic record containing a unique reference number that a worker must use to apply for their visa within three months of issuance.

You might be familiar with the terms “restricted cerficate” and “unrestricted certificate” if your company had sponsored workers on Tier 2 visas before December 2020. However, the Skilled Worker route replaced the Tire 2 General Visa which in many ways made it easier to obtain a work visa. Removal of restrictions on share ownership made it easier for employers to come under the employment-based immigration rules.

In addition, the opening of the Skilled Worker route, the Home Office released updated Guidance for Sponsors. As part of these changes, they changed the terminology around CoS. Specifically, restricted certificates are now referred to as defined CoS, and those called unrestricted certificates changed to undefined certificates.

If you want to know more information on how IAS can help you with your certificate of sponsorship queries, call our friendly immigration advisors today on  0333 305 9375 for immediate help and assistance.

Let’s examine the difference between the defined and an undefined CoS.


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Understanding Defined and Undefined CoS

If you’re sponsoring a skilled worker, you must understand the difference between a defined and undefined CoS and assign the correct type of CoS to each worker.

Here’re some points to note;

You cannot assign;

  • An undefined CoS where you require a defined CoS.
  • A defined CoS for a job if it differs from the one described in the CoS application.

Any employer doing any of the above will be committing a compliance breach and risks revocation of their sponsor licence by the Home Office. Below we define the two types of CoS and explain when and how to use them.

So what’s the difference?

  1. Defined CoS – For skilled workers who apply for entry clearance from outside the United Kingdom, excluding the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route.
  2. Undefined CoS – For skilled workers who apply for permission within the UK or workers on all other routes such as the ICT route.

Let’s look at each term in detail.


Defined CoS

You assign a defined CoS to a foreign national who will be applying to enter the UK under the Skilled Worker route. However, you must be an A-rated sponsor to apply for the defined CoS and provide specific details about the job and salary.

If you’d like to request a defined CoS, you must log into the Home Office’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS) and submit your request individually. Your certificate of sponsorship will be available in your SMS Account after you’re approved. You can then assign your employee.

Processing defined a Certificate of Sponsorship takes a day unless further information is needed concerning the role, the candidate, or the recruitment process.

In addition, the Home Office sponsor guideline, “Manual 8 of 12, ” gives a step-by-step process of creating, assigning CoS, and deleting sponsorship certificates.

You don’t need to identify a prospect to apply for a defined CoS. All you must do is confirm a genuine vacancy and salary details of the position the migrant will fulfil. It means you can’t have an annual allocation limit of defined CoS. Instead, you must apply for one using a separate process each time you need it.

However, when the worker’s gross annual salary is below the requires £25,600 and the going rate, the worker may seek to trade points. But the CoS will explain how they will claim points. A worker can claim points in circumstances where they have a higher skill level, e.g. a PhD in the subject area, or the role is a shortage occupation. A successful application for a CoS also hinges on how many points the job corresponds to.

Points are calculated based on the job types and salary. For example, a position paying £36,000 per year that passes the Residence Labor Market Test earns 36 points. However, a job on the shortage occupation list can still score at least 130 points if the gross annual salary is lower than £36,000.

As the monthly allotment is determined, points will be assigned from highest to lowest. Around the 20th of the same month, the UKVI will publish the minimum point threshold for each month on its website.

If any certificates are available from the previous month, they can be used for the next month. As of December 2017, the monthly minimum points have been as high as 46 points per more.

defined cos

Undefined CoS

You assign an undefined certificate to a migrant worker applying for a Skilled Worker visa within the UK or if you want to bring in an Intra-Company (ICT) visa assignee.

Unlike the defined CoS, you don’t need to submit individual requests. It can be issued to a worker immediately if you have a certificate available in their annual CoS allocation.

When applying for a sponsor licence, you must indicate how many undefined certificates you believe you will require in the first year.

However, you must justify your request, and the Home Office may ask for more information before deciding on your allocation. You must also ensure that workers are eligible under the visa route. The application will include evidence to support the requested amount of CoS, but there’s no cap on the number of undefined CoS.

There is also a fee associated with assigning each Confirmation of Support.

When the Home Office has decided on your CoS allocation, the certificates will be allocated to your SMS account. You’ll have 12 months to utilize them after that. We call it your CoS year (or ‘allocation year’).

You must submit an SMS request for a renewed allocation of undefined certificates before your CoS year runs out. Otherwise, your allocation will reset to zero after the 12-month period has ended. You may obtain extra certificates through SMS if you require more CoS during your business allocation year.

What is CoS Allocation Year (CoS Year)

In the previous section, we mentioned the CoS allocation. Therefore, it’s worth noting that several factors determine a sponsor’s annual CoS allocation year. CoS year runs from April 6 to the following year on April 5 if:

  • On December 1, 2020, the company was granted a skilled worker or ICT routes licence.
  • On November 30, 2020, the sponsor held a valid Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (ICT) visa.
  • They automated their allocation renewal.

The Annual CoS allocation (CoS Year) begins 12 months from when the sponsor’s renewal request was granted in 2021. If renewed, it will continue for 12 months from whatever future date the sponsor’s renewal request is granted under the following conditions;

  • The sponsor must have held a valid Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (ICT) licence on November 30, 2020;
  • On December 1, 2020, the Expert Worker or Intra-Company routes certification was changed to a Skilled Worker or Intra-Company routes licence.
  • The sponsor allocation renewal process has not been automated.

For all other sponsorships, the CoS allocation will last 12 months from when the sponsor licence was granted. In subsequent years, it will run for 12 months from when the renewal request is granted.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to receive assistance on your CoS application.

How Can IAS Help?

Our reliable, affordable UK immigration lawyers can advise you on everything you need to do to ensure a successful CoS application. The office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) governs IAS. Our solicitors are also governed by the solicitors regulation authority.

Call us on 0330 311 6351 for immediate help & assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone, or online.

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

The Home Office created new guidelines for sponsors to use when the Skilled Worker route opened. Defined CoS or defined Certificate of sponsorship is a record with a unique soc code the Home Office issues on a case by case basis to sponsors/employers that need workers who’ll be an entry clearance application from abroad.

Tier 2 visa application takes about three weeks, which applies to those using the defined CoS. However, if you wish to speed up the process of your Tier 2 visa application and you already have a CoS, you can always pay for enhanced services.

You can pay the Priority Service £500, which takes five days to process, or £800 for Super Priority Service, which processes as early as the next working day.

To apply for a defined CoS, you must use the Sponsorship Management Service (SMS). You get access to the SMS as soon as you get your sponsor licence, but there’s a limited number of CoS available each month. Each valid application is assessed using the points system.

To get your defined certificates of sponsorship, you must log into the Home Office’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS). Your certificate will be available in your SMS Account following your successful application.

The Resident Labour Market Test is a requirement from UK Visas and Immigration that employers show that no ‘settled worker‘ is available for the role they want to fill with a Tier 2 visa worker.

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