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29 February 2024

A helpful guide to the Certificate of Sponsorship

The Certificate of Sponsorship is an incredibly useful document that allows companies to employ skilled overseas workers in roles that they are struggling to find employees for. Learn all about how to get a Certificate of Sponsorship and what you can do with it in our blog.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Employer meeting new employee after issuing them with a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Anyone who wants to work in the United Kingdom will need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). 

The certificate is issued by a business that wants to sponsor an overseas worker to come and work in the UK. The business must also hold a Sponsor Licence. Additionally, if they are a healthcare or medical organisation, they must be registered with the Care Quality Commission. 

Once the prospective employee has the certificate, they can then apply for a Skilled Worker Visa or any other type of worker visa. If the worker does not apply for the visa, then they cannot come to work in the UK.

If you are a business looking to employ overseas workers, or are an individual who wants to work in the UK and are looking into the Certificate of Sponsorship, then read on to find out more about the Certificate of Sponsorship.

What are the different types of Certificates of Sponsorship?

Before you can apply for a CoS, you should know about the two different types, so you know which one to apply for. 

First, there is the Defined Certificate of Sponsorship. This allows employers to sponsor workers who are going to be applying for a Skilled Worker Visa from outside of the UK.

For all other situations, employers will need to issue an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship. This allows them to sponsor people who are applying for the Skilled Worker Visa from within the UK, or those who are applying for another type of worker visa

How to get a Certificate of Sponsorship

Employers will need to apply for the certificate, with the process being slightly different depending on which version they need. Read on to find out how to get a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Defined Certificate of Sponsorship

As an employer, to apply for a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship, you will need to use the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). This is only possible for businesses that have a Sponsor Licence. You can apply any time there is a worker you want to employ and you have a role that needs to be filled.

Once the certificate application has been approved, it can be issued to a worker by the employer. It usually takes around a day for applications to be approved, unless you are asked to provide more information. PLEASE NOTE: certificates are taking longer to process due to a high volume of applications to the Home Office; some are taking several months to process.

There is no limit to how many you can apply for, but you must mention the roles you are recruiting for when you apply. You also need to include information about the overseas workers you plan on employing, if this is applicable. 

Please note that there is no priority service available for you to use when you apply for the defined certificate.

Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship

To apply for an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship, you will initially be asked when you first first apply for your Sponsor Licence how many of these certificates you may need. After this, you will be given your certificates.

Although you must include an estimate of how many certificates you need, there is not an actual limit on how many undefined certificates that you can apply for. 

If you run out of undefined certificates, you can apply for more through the SMS. You can request additional certificates throughout the year, or during the annual allocation period.

Also, there is a priority service available for the undefined certificate, allowing you to get your certificates faster. This will require you to pay an additional fee to the Home Office. 

What visas require a Certificate of Sponsorship?

When to use the certificate

The employer can issue the Certificate of Sponsorship whenever they have it.

Once the worker receives it, they have to use it within three months of it being issued to them.

It should be noted that the worker also cannot apply for their visa any more than three months before the job start date listed on their certificate.

What are the fees for a CoS?

The fee to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship depends on what type of Sponsor Licence the employer holds. 

Licence type

Certificate cost

Worker (except the International Sportsperson Visa)


Temporary Worker


International Sportsperson Visa for over 12 months


International Sportsperson Visa for 12 months or less


Immigration skills charge

There are also extra fees to issue a CoS to those on the Skilled Worker Visa and the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa; this is called the ‘immigration skills charge’. 

This applies to those who are applying from outside of the UK, but will be working in the UK for six months or more. It also applies to those applying from within the UK who will be working for any length of time.

However, the charge does not apply to specific job roles. These are:

  • Biological scientists
  • Biochemists
  • Chemical scientists
  • Social scientists
  • Humanities scientists
  • Other natural and social scientists
  • Research managers and development managers
  • Higher education teaching professionals
  • Sports players
  • Sports coaches, instructors or officials
  • Clergy

Fees for the overseas worker

The worker will need to pay any fees that relate to their visa application. They will also need to pay the immigration health surcharge.

However, they will not need to pay any fees that are related to the Certificate of Sponsorship.

Can certificates be issued if my Sponsor Licence does not have an A-rating?

Depending on how compliant with the rules a Sponsor Licence holder has been, they may either have an A-rating, which is the normal rating, or it may have been downgraded to a B-rating. 

If you have a B-rating, you may be wondering what limits you may have on issuing Certificates of Sponsorship. 

You will not be able to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship to potential overseas employees. However, you will be able to issue certificates to your existing workers. 

Can a Certificate of Sponsorship be cancelled?

Using the SMS, employers can cancel a Certificate of Sponsorship. You can do this through the ‘sponsorship duties’ option, which has further options for managing existing CoS that you have issued. 

You will need to enter some details, and then you can select ‘withdraw CoS’. The certificate will then be cancelled.

How we can help

Our team of immigration experts can help you with applying for a Sponsor Licence and provide guidance regarding how to get a Certificate of Sponsorship, as well as help you with managing your Sponsor Licence. 

If you are an overseas worker, then we can assist you with the process of applying for your worker visa. As long as you have a job already lined up, we can help you.

Book a free 10-minute consultation with a member of our team, where you can discuss your issue and find out if we can help you. After this, you can book a longer 30 minute or one hour long consultation, during which we provide you with guidance.

The team member you initially talk to will act as your case worker and will be there to answer any questions you may have.

Get in touch with us today if you need our immigration assistance.

Ready for assistance?

If you have any questions, or want to book an appointment with one of our legal experts, contact Woodcock Law today. Call us on +44 (0)20 7712 1705 or email

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