Certificates of Sponsorship: A Comprehensive Guide

If you're planning to employ someone from outside the UK, it's essential to understand the process of obtaining a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). This document allows you to sponsor and hire individuals, including citizens from the EU and other countries, to work in the UK. In this guide, we'll walk you through the key steps and information you need to know about CoS.

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a crucial document for employers in the UK who wish to hire foreign workers, including those from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after December 31, 2020. It's worth noting that this requirement also applies to unpaid work, such as volunteering for a charity. However, certain groups, such as Irish citizens, individuals with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, do not require a sponsor licence.

How to Get a Sponsor Licence

Obtaining a sponsor licence is a necessary step before you can apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship. Here are the key steps to get started:

Check Your Business Eligibility
  • Ensure your business does not have unspent criminal convictions related to immigration offenses or other specific crimes.
  • Make sure you haven't had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.
  • Establish appropriate systems for monitoring sponsored workers and designate individuals within your business to manage sponsorship.
Check Job Suitability for Sponsorship
  • Ensure that the job you intend to offer complies with the UK minimum wage and working time regulations.
  • Verify that the job meets the specific criteria required for the worker's visa category.
  • Understand job suitability requirements for various worker categories, such as skilled workers, health or care workers, and creative workers.
Choose the Type of Licence
  • Select the appropriate type of licence based on the type of worker you plan to sponsor.
  • Options include a Worker licence for skilled or long-term employment and a Temporary Worker licence for specific temporary employment.
  • You can apply for a licence that covers one or both types of workers, depending on your needs.
Decide Who Will Manage Sponsorship
  • Appoint individuals within your business to manage the sponsorship process.
  • Key roles include the authorising officer, key contact, and level 1 user, with the option to appoint a level 2 user once you have the licence.
  • Ensure that individuals involved in sponsorship meet suitability criteria and are based in the UK most of the time.
Apply for a Licence and Pay the Fees
  • Submit your application online through the official UK government website.
  • Pay the required licence fees based on the type of licence and your organization's size.

Costs of the Licence

Type of licenceFee for small or charitable sponsorsFee for medium or large sponsors
Temporary Worker£536£536
Worker and Temporary Worker£536£ 1,476
Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licenceNo fee£940
Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licenceNo feeNo fee
How to Determine Your Sponsor Category

To determine whether you are a small or charitable sponsor, consider the following factors:

  • Annual turnover of £10.2 million or less
  • Total assets worth £5.1 million or less
  • 50 employees or fewer

If you're a charitable sponsor, ensure you meet the specific criteria mentioned in the guidelines.

Processing Time and Expedited Service

Typically, most applications are processed within 8 weeks. In some cases, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may conduct on-site visits to your business. You also have the option to expedite the process for an additional fee of £500, which can provide a decision within 10 working days. However, this expedited service is limited and subject to availability.

Sponsor Responsibilities: Ensuring Compliance

Once you've secured your sponsor licence and are in the process of issuing Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to foreign workers, it's vital to understand and fulfill your responsibilities. These responsibilities are in place to ensure that your sponsorship is in compliance with UK immigration and employment laws. Here's a concise summary of your key obligations:

  1. Verify Skills and Qualifications

Confirm that your foreign workers possess the necessary skills, qualifications, or professional accreditations required for their job roles.

Maintain copies of documents as evidence of their qualifications.

2. Assign CoS for Suitable Jobs Only:

Assign CoS to workers exclusively for job roles that are suitable for sponsorship and that comply with UK employment laws.

3. Report Non-Compliance:

Immediately notify UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if any of your sponsored workers fail to adhere to the conditions of their visas.

4. Compliance with UK Employment Law:

Ensure that your employment practices for the offered jobs are in line with UK employment laws and that you provide fair and lawful working conditions.

Failure to meet these responsibilities could result in the downgrading, suspension, or withdrawal of your sponsorship licence.

Monitoring Workers
  • Establish HR systems to effectively monitor the immigration status of your sponsored workers.
  • Maintain copies of pertinent documents for each sponsored worker, including records of right-to-work checks.
  • Keep accurate records of workers' attendance.
  • Ensure that worker contact details are up to date.
  • Promptly report any issues to UKVI, such as instances where a sponsored worker stops attending work.
Changes to Your Business
  • Notify UKVI of significant changes in your business circumstances within 20 working days. This includes scenarios like ceasing trading, experiencing insolvency, or undergoing mergers or takeovers.
  • Inform UKVI of changes that affect your relationship with overseas businesses that send workers to your organization.
  • Report changes to contracts pertaining to secondment workers or service suppliers.
  • Keep UKVI updated with any changes to your details, such as your business address or allocated roles.
Reporting Changes
  • Utilize the sponsorship management system (SMS) to register changes in your circumstances.
  • Standard change requests may take up to 18 weeks, but you can expedite the process within 5 working days using the priority service, for which there is a fee of £200.

Your Licence Rating

Upon approval of your application, you'll receive an A-rated licence, which allows you to start assigning certificates of sponsorship. Your business will be listed in the register of sponsors, indicating your ability to sponsor foreign workers.

UK Expansion Worker Provisional Rating

If you're applying to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker and your authorising officer is based outside the UK, you'll receive a 'provisional' rating. This rating allows you to assign one certificate of sponsorship to the authorising officer for their entry into the UK. Once they have their visa, you can upgrade your licence to an A-rating and request additional certificates of sponsorship using the sponsorship management system (SMS).

Downgrading to B-rating

Be aware that your A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating if you do not continue to meet your sponsor responsibilities. In such cases, you will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you've made necessary improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating. However, you can still issue certificates to workers you already employ who want to extend their permission to stay.

Upgrade to an A-rating

To upgrade your licence from a B-rating to an A-rating, you must follow an 'action plan' provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). This process incurs a fee of £1,476, which must be paid within 10 working days of notification about the downgrade. Completing all the required steps in the action plan will result in an upgrade to an A-rating. Failure to complete the steps may result in the loss of your licence.

Second B-rating and Licence Limits

If you receive a second B-rating, be aware that you can only have two B-ratings within the 4-year validity of your licence. After the second B-rating, you will lose your licence if further improvements are necessary.


In the event that your licence is revoked, you cannot appeal, but you can reapply. However, you must wait at least 12 months before reapplying, and you will need to start a new application when you do so.

In conclusion, obtaining a Certificate of Sponsorship and a sponsor licence is a crucial process for businesses in the UK looking to employ foreign workers. Ensure you meet all the requirements, select the appropriate licence type, and follow the guidelines carefully to facilitate a smooth application process. For more information and to start your application, visit the official UK government website.

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