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.

You can discuss with the employer a certain start and end date when assigning a CoS.  Many people will apply for a visa for a period of three years or five years. This is probably because when you apply for a UK visa the visa fees are either for a period of up to three years or for between three and five years.  You can usually apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the end of five years. When the Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned the employer will provide you with a certificate number which you must use when submitting your UK 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 used to employ Skilled Worker visa applicants based outside the UK. Undefined CoSs are to employ people switching to a visa from within the UK, to employ those on Intra-company visas and to sponsor others under the points based system.

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 or Intra-Company Transfer visa application must be made no more than 3 months after the CoS is issued, and you will have a start date no more than 3 months after your visa application is made. 

  • The job in question meets the minimum skill level requirement. This means for Skilled Worker visa applicants it must be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 or above.  For Intra-Company transfer visa applicants it must be at RQF Level 6 or above.

Application process for UK Visa after Certificate of Sponsorship Assigned

Once you have been assigned a CoS by your sponsor, you have 3 months to make your visa application, after which time the certificate will expire. If required, the CoS start and end date can be changed by the employer by making changes via a sponsor note in the Sponsor Management System.  You cannot apply for your UK visa more than three months before the start date of the CoS.


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.

  • Defined Certificates of Sponsorship are for Skilled Worker visa prospective employees who are based abroad. Prospective employees based in the UK who are eligible to change status to a Skilled Worker visa or those outside the UK applying for an Intra-Company Transfer visa need an Undefined CoS.

  • Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship are to employ eligible new employees living in the UK, or for visa extensions for current employees who are already in the UK.  it is also to be used for those applying under the Intra-company transfer visa category and others.

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