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What is a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)?

Once a job offer has been made to an individual who will require a Tier 2 (General) visa to gain right to work in the UK, the first step for the department/institution is to request a CoS from the Compliance Team. Only once a CoS has been issued can the potential employee apply for their Tier 2 visa. The CoS is the University's undertaking that the role is genuine and meets the necessary salary and skill level requirements. The Compliance Team will only assign a CoS to an individual provided all these requirements have been met. Please note the following:

  • For non-PhD level roles, the CoS must be assigned to the individual within six months of the date the advert went live.
  • For PhD level roles, the CoS must be assigned to the individual within twelve months of the date the advert went live.

Types of Tier 2 CoS

There are two types of Certificates of Sponsorship: restricted and unrestricted. UKVI only issues restricted CoSs on a monthly cycle, and all restricted CoS are subject to review by UKVI before they are agreed. There is a maximum number of restricted CoSs that UKVI can issue nationally each month. Therefore, it is never certain that a CoS will be issued when requested.

This does not apply to unrestricted CoS applications as the University has a fixed allocation of unrestricted CoSs.

Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship

We must issue a restricted CoS in the following circumstances:

  • New employees earning under £155,300 per year coming to start work in the UK from overseas.

  • Individuals who are dependants of Tier 4 students, where that dependant is already in the UK and wishes to switch into Tier 2 (General).

For restricted CoS, the CoS Application form and all supporting documents (including the CHRIS10(A) if applicable) must be submitted, either electronically or by post, to the HR New Appointment Team no later than the last Friday of the month. This deadline is to enable submission to UKVI by their deadline of 5th of the following month. UKVI will consider applications on the 11th of the month and will notify the University of the outcome of an application within 5 working days of it being considered. Only in exceptional circumstances, at the prior agreement of either the Immigration & Compliance Manager or the Head of Recruitment, will a Tier 2 restricted CoS application be accepted beyond the end of the month for submission by the 5th of the following month.

Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship

We must issue an unrestricted CoS in the following circumstances:

  • Highly-paid new hires: where the annual salary for the job is £155,300 or more.

  • Switching immigration category: Where an individual who is already in the UK under another immigration category is eligible to switch into Tier 2 (General). Please see the list of visas eligible to switch to Tier 2.

  • Extensions: Where you need to extend leave for an individual who is already in the UK working for you and has or was last granted leave under Tier 2 (General) or as a Work Permit holder. See the guidance below on how to apply for a CoS extension.

  • Croatian nationals: Where you have a Croatian national who needs to gain the right to work in the UK, they can apply for a Purple Registration Certificate, supported by an unrestricted CoS. See the section on Croatian nationals for full guidance.

  • Changes of employment (1): A current University employee who was last granted leave under Tier 2 (General) and who wants to change to a new job which falls in a different SOC code.

  • Changes of employment (2): An individual who was last granted leave under Tier 2 (General) while sponsored by a different UK employer, who wants to start a new job at the University (Please note: this does not include employees transferring to the University under TUPE – seek advice from the Compliance Team in such cases).

Please note: where an individual is making a change of employment application, in either of the above scenarios, they cannot start the new job until the Tier 2 visa has been issued.

There are no mandatory deadlines for unrestricted CoS applications. However, for Tier 2 extensions, departments must bear in mind that the individual cannot apply for a new visa more than 3 months before their current visa expires. For all other unrestricted CoS applications, the individual cannot apply more than 3 months before the CoS start date.

If applications are not accompanied by all of the necessary supporting documentation then we will not be able to process the CoS because we will not be compliant with UKVI rules.

CoS Application procedure

New Tier 2 appointments

In all cases, following acceptance of an offer of employment, the recruiting department/institution must complete the Tier 2 CoS application form for new appointments. This form should be used for all new employees requiring a Tier 2 visa who are:

  • Applying from abroad and do not have the right to work in the UK; or
  • Applying from inside the UK and are switching immigration category to Tier 2 (General); or
  • Applying from inside the UK and already hold a Tier 2 (General) visa and are making a change of employment application.

Where the Web Recruitment System has been used for the vacancy

Where a CoS is required, this is managed within Step 5 of the offers and appointment process.

Within Step 5, departments/institutions can use the system to request personal details, documentation and other relevant CoS information directly from the applicant. Where this function is used, the applicant will be sent a message requesting them to log into the system, provide their details and upload any relevant documentation (such as their passport and qualifications, if required). After the applicant has provided the relevant information this is stored automatically in the system. Whilst this is not a mandatory requirement, and the information can be collected from the individual outside the system, using the system will negate the need for departments/institutions to complete Part 2 of the CoS application form.

Once the CoS application is complete, departments/institutions will be required to either upload the CoS application form and supporting documents into the system or indicate that these will be posted out separately to the HR New Appointment Team. The CoS application and supporting documents can be uploaded even where the department/institution requests the applicant’s details outside of the system.

The CoS application, supporting documents and applicant details (if uploaded) will automatically form part of the new appointment request ‘pack’ that will be downloaded by the HR New Appointment Team. This will be placed to the HR Compliance Team for processing.

For further details on making a new appointment request through Web Recruitment, please see the Make an Appointment Request webpages within the Recruitment Guidance.

Please also see the Tier 2 CoS – Quick Reference guide and Tier 2 CoS - Guide to Requesting Applicant Details for more detailed guidance on managing CoS applications within Web Recruitment.

Where the Web Recruitment System has not been used for the vacancy

Where a department/institution has not used Web Recruitment, the Tier 2 CoS application form all the supporting documents listed in Part 9 (which include the CHRIS/10 and CHRIS/10A new appointment form where applicable) must be sent to the HR New Appointments Team either electronically via email or on paper via UMS.

Tier 2 extensions

In order to apply for an extension to a Tier 2 (General) visa for a current University employee, a new CoS application will need to be submitted by the department/institution. Please note: the Compliance Team cannot process a CoS extension more than three months before an individual's Tier 2 visa is due to expire.

As the individual currently holds a Tier 2 visa and is an employee of the University, much of the information required for a CoS is already held by the Compliance Team. In addition, there are fewer requirements to meet for Tier 2 extensions (for example, the Resident Labour Market Test does not have to be met and the individual does not need to meet the maintenance requirements, as they did previously). Therefore, the Compliance Team only needs a select amount of additional information, which must be provided on the Tier 2 extension application form. Please note: this form must be sent directly to the HR Amendment Team and not to the Compliance Team.

Length of CoS

Departments/Institutions have the option of applying for a CoS that will allow the individual to work either:

  • Up to a maximum of 3 years (the visa will cost £564 from outside the UK; £651 from inside the UK), or
  • Up to a maximum of 5 years (the visa will cost £1,128 from outside the UK; £1,320 from inside the UK).

The cost of the CoS to the department/institution is the same (currently £199) in either case. Departments/institutions should make a decision on the duration of the required CoS on the basis of the length of the contract and the cost of the visa to the individual.

CoS Outcome

If the application is successful, then the Compliance Team will issue the CoS reference number to the recruiting institution along with further instructions. The institution will be asked to pass the restricted CoS number to the candidate, who must then use it to apply for entry clearance or a residence card within 3 months.

If the application is unsuccessful, then the Compliance Team will liaise with the recruiting institution to decide whether to resubmit the application the following month. The delay may result in a new Resident Labour Market Test having to be conducted.