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UK Visa Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship

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In order to apply for a Tier 2 UK visa, you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer with a Tier 2 Sponsorship licence. Your prospective employer must request and if granted assign your CoS via their online Sponsor Management System account. In order to do so they must be a UK Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence holder and must have access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) as a level 1 User. Level 2 users can only assign an unrestricted CoS. They will then provide you with a certificate number which you must use when submitting your visa application.

You will not receive a physical certificate, though you may ask your employer for a print out of the details for the certificate from the SMS system. There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship are to employ people based outside the UK. Unrestricted CoSs are to employ people switching to a tier 2 visa from within the UK.

This guide is split into the following sections:


Your prospective UK Tier 2 employer confirms on the CoS that you have a job offer which meets the following conditions:

  • The employer has met the conditions of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), or the job is exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test requirements. To meet RLMT requirements the job must have been advertised to workers from the European Economic Area before being offered to the applicant from outside the EEA. More information can be found on our Resident Labour Market Test page. 

  • Your Tier 2 (General) application must be made no more than 3 months after the CoS is issued, and you will start work no more than 3 months after your visa application is made. 

  • The job in question meets the Tier 2 minimum skill level requirement. This means it must usually be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 or above, or RQF level 4 or above if it is on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List, or it is in certain certain roles within creative fields such as dance, theatre and opera, and television and film. 

Application process for UK Tier 2 Visa after Certificate of Sponsorship Assigned

Once you have been assigned a CoS you have 3 months to make your Tier 2 visa application, after which time the certificate will expire. During this 3 month period you cannot be assigned any additional CoS by another employer.

Monthly allocation for UK Tier 2 Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship

There is a monthly allocation meeting for restricted COSs on the 11th of each month, and an annual cap of 20,700 split into 12 monthly caps. Your employer must apply by the 5th of the month to be allocated a restricted CoS by the 11th of the month.

Types of UK Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship

There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship: restricted and unrestricted. All prospective employees based outside the UK will need a restricted certificate of sponsorship unless they will be working in a role which pays £159,600 a year or more, or will be working in an inward investment post.

  • Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship are for prospective employees who are based abroad, and planning to work in the UK in a role paying less than £159,600 a year, unless the job is an inward investment post. There is a monthly allocation meeting for restricted certificates (usually 1000-2000) and an annual cap of 20,700. Prospective employees based in the UK who are eligible to change status to a Tier 2 visa do not come under the Tier 2 Visa Cap and usually do not need a restricted COS. The exception is for partners of Tier 4 visa holders who wish to switch to a Tier 2 visa. These applicants do need a restricted certificate of sponsorship. 

  • Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship are to employ prospective employees who are already in the UK (except dependent family members of Tier 4 visa holders) or are outside of the UK and will be working in a role which pays £159,600 a year or more, or will be working in an inward investment post.

What if you have a UK Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship but decide not to go ahead with your application?

In that case, you should contact your sponsor who will cancel the Certificate of Sponsorship. If you fail to do so, it will expire after three months in any event.

What if you have a UK Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship but decide to work in another position in the UK?

If you wish to take up alternative employment in the UK then the procedure is as follows


  • You must ask your sponsor to withdraw your live Certificate of Sponsorship, either in writing or by email. You cannot apply for another Certificate while the original one remains live.

  • The sponsor must then cancel your live Certificate within five days of receiving your request. If the employer does not do this you must send a reminder, after which they have another five days to cancel the CoS.

  • If your sponsor does not cancel your CoS after the steps above, you can ask the Sponsor Licensing Unit of the UK Visas and Immigration to cancel it instead.

  • Once the original Certificate is cancelled, you can apply for another one from your preferred employer.


Further information, help, and advice has been in the immigration business for almost thirty years and has helped thousands of people live and work in the UK from around the World. We represent clients under Section 84 of the 1999 immigration act and can submit your UK visa application to the Home Office to be dealt with on the same day.

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at