Assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship to International Workers – Everything you Need to Know
In our previous ‘Are you and your EU employees prepared for Brexit’ blog post, we outlined everything UK employers need to know about obtaining a sponsor licence so that they can employ international workers. Next up, is this blog post about assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
Once an employer’s sponsor licence is approved, a Certificate of Sponsorship must be assigned to any international workers they wish to employ.
In this guide, we will take a look at everything you need to know about the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
What is the Certificate of Sponsorship?
A CoS is created through your Sponsor Management System (SMS). It can only be assigned by a person who has access to the SMS as a Level 1 or Level 2 user.
Once assigned, each CoS has its own number which will be used by the worker when they are applying for their visa.
A CoS is valid for 90 days after it is issued. If the worker does not apply for a visa within the 90 days, they will need a new certificate.
Please note, workers must not apply for a visa more than 3 months before the start date of the job listed on the certificate.
Before you assign a CoS to the worker, you must:
Check if the role that you wish to sponsor the worker for is eligible
Ensure you are paying the worker the correct amount for the specified role
Check that the worker is eligible to be sponsored
How much does a Certificate of Sponsorship cost?
A CoS is free for citizens of certain countries, such as:
Republic of Cyprus
For others, the fee per CoS depends on the type of certificate. If it’s for a worker, the cost is £199 and if it’s for a temporary worker, the cost is £21.
However, you may also have to pay the immigration skills charge if you assign a certificate of sponsorship to a worker on a Skilled Worker or Intra-Company Transfer visa.
You must pay the charge if the worker is applying for a visa from outside the UK to work in the UK for 6 months or more or if they’re applying from inside the UK for any length of time.
You do not have to pay the immigration skills charge if you’re sponsoring someone on an Intra-Company Graduate Trainee Visa or a visa to study in the UK if they switch to a Skilled Worker or Intra-Company Transfer Visa.
Also, if you are sponsoring someone with an occupation code, such as a physical scientist (2113), sports player (3441) and many more, you will not have to pay the immigration skills charge.
Another important thing to note is that you do not need to pay the charge for any of the worker’s dependents, such as their partner or child.
How much does the immigration skills charge cost?
The cost for the immigration skills charge depends on the size of your organisation and how long the worker will work for you (using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate).
If you are a small or charitable sponsor, it will cost £364 for the first 12 months that the worker will work for you and an extra £182 for each additional six months.
If you are a medium or large sponsor, it will cost £1,000 for the first 12 months that the worker will work for you and an extra £500 for each additional six months.
Please note that you will need to pay for 12 months if the worker will be in the UK for longer than six months but for less than a year.
You will have 10 working days from when the CoS was granted to pay the charge – if you do not pay it on time, the worker’s visa application will not be approved.
What happens if the person you are sponsoring changes job within your organisation?
If a worker you are sponsoring moves to a new job in your organisation, you will need to assign them with a new certificate. They can then use this to apply for a new visa.
It’s important to note, you will only need to assign a new CoS if the new job has a different occupation code.
Also, if the end date on their new visa is later than the end date on their existing visa, you will need to pay the immigration skills charge again.
Are you entitled to a refund?
You could be entitled to a full or partial refund for a number of different reasons.
If the worker’s visa application is refused or withdrawn, you will get a full refund. Also, if their visa application is successful, but they don’t come to work for you, you will get a full refund.
You will be entitled to a partial refund if:
the worker is granted less time on their visa than the time you sponsored them for
the worker changes to another sponsor after they start working for you
the worker resigns from their job with you before the end date on their CoS
you had already notified the UKVI that you’re now a small or charitable sponsor, but you had previously paid the medium or large sponsor fee when assigning the certificate
When will you receive your refund?
Normally, a refund will be issued within 90 days of:
notifying the UKVI that the worker did not come to work for you
the expiration date on the worker’s CoS, if they did not apply for a visa with it
the date of refusal or withdrawal of the worker’s visa application
the date the CoS was assigned if you had notified UKVI that you became a small or charitable sponsor before assigning it
The worker can ask for an ‘administration review’, i.e. for the decision to be reviewed, if their visa application is refused.
However, you will receive a refund within 90 days if they do not ask for an administration review by the deadline to apply for one.
If the worker was unsuccessful and the administrative review was dismissed, you will receive a refund within 90 days.
Are there different types of Certificates of Sponsorship?
Yes, there are two different types of CoS.
The first is a ‘defined certificate’ which is for workers applying for a skilled worker visa from outside the UK. The second type is an ‘undefined certificate’ which is for people applying from inside the UK, and all other workers applying for other visas.
When you apply for your sponsor licence you will be asked to estimate how many undefined certificates you will require for international workers in the first year.
Once a decision is made on your CoS allocation, they will be allocated to your SMS account and you will have 12 months to use them, i.e. your CoS or allocation year.
So, you must assign any undefined CoS you require from your annual allocation.
There is no annual allocation for defined CoS, you must apply for them separately, each time you need one.
Unfortunately, you cannot carry over any unused CoS to your next allocation year. So, any CoS that is unused will be removed from your SMS account.
In your SMS account, you can submit a manual request to receive automated annual allocations. You can set this up to three months before the end of your CoS year.
How long does it take for the CoS to be approved?
It usually only takes one working day for applications to be approved. However, it could take longer if the UKVI needs to review and make further checks on the information in your application.
Key things to keep in mind when submitting a CoS application
Once a CoS application is submitted, you cannot make amendments. There is a specific ‘sponsor note’ section where any information regarding any amendments can be added.
Ensure the current home address matches the address in the proof of address documents. This address will be used on the CoS and therefore will be where the passport will be returned to.
If the worker’s start date is delayed by more than 28 days, you must stop sponsoring them and inform the Home Office.
If a worker is absent from work without pay for more than four weeks, you must stop sponsoring them. This must be reported in the SMS.
A worker can only have one assigned CoS, so if they wish to change their employer, the first employer will need to withdraw the CoS and then the second employer will be able to assign the new CoS to them.
Sponsored workers must have enough funds, a ‘financial requirement’, to support themselves and dependents while in the UK until they begin receiving their income.
If your licence is rated A, A (Premium) or A (SME+), you can confirm that this requirement is met by checking the ‘maintenance’ box on the worker’s CoS. If you certify maintenance, i.e. agree that you will maintain and accommodate the worker up to the end of their first month of employment in the UK, the worker does not need to provide evidence of their finances.