Call for paid service +44 (0)344-991-9222

UK Work Visa Certificate of Sponsorship

Section Menu

show hide

The UK immigration points system changed on 1 December 2020.  The Skilled Worker visa and the Intra-Company Transfer visa replaced the Tier 2 visa category.  In order to apply for a UK Skilled Worker visa or Intra-Company Transfer visa, you must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer with a sponsor 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 sponsor licence holder and must have access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) as a level 1 User. Level 2 users can only assign an undefined 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). Defined Certificates of Sponsorship are mainly used to employ people based outside the UK. Undefined CoSs are to employ people switching to a visa from within the UK.

This guide is split into the following sections:


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

  • Your Skilled Worker visa 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 minimum skill level requirement. This means it must usually be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 or above, or RQF level 4 or above if it is on the  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 Visa after Certificate of Sponsorship Assigned

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


Types of UK Certificate of Sponsorship

There are two types of Certificate of Sponsorship: defined and undefined. All prospective employees based outside the UK will need a defined 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.

  • Defined Certificates of Sponsorship are for prospective employees who are based abroad, and planning to work in the UK on Skilled Worker visa. Prospective employees based in the UK who are eligible to change status to a visa usually do not need a defined COS. The exception is for partners of Tier 4 visa holders who wish to switch to a visa. These applicants do need a defined certificate of sponsorship. 

  • Defined Certificates of Sponsorship are to employ prospective employees who are already in the UK (except dependent family members of Tier 4 visa holders).

What if you have a UK 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 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's team of specialists has over thirty years of experience in international visa services, and have helped thousands of people to study and work in the UK. We work in conjunction with OISC registered advisers who can submit your UK sponsor licence application and visa application to UK Visas and Immigration at the Home Office. 

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