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Certificate of Sponsorship: A Guide For Irish Employers In UK

For businesses active in the UK to be able to hire migrant workers, they need a sponsorship licence. A sponsorship licence enables employers to issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to the workers. A CoS is essential for a migrant worker to be able to apply for a worker visa.

Certificates of sponsorship can be complicated to understand at first, and this is why it can be beneficial to obtain advice from an expert. Here at IAS, our legal team can help you understand how and when to issue a certificate of sponsorship in the UK. Contact us here at +353 061 518 025, and get started today.

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    What Does An Irish Business Expanded In The UK Need To Know About CoS?

    Certificates of sponsorship are electronic documents that prove that licenced UK employers or establishments of education have offered a place of study or a job to a suitable, legitimate migrant. This document contains information regarding the individual it is granted to as well as the details of the sponsoring organisation.

    This certificate of sponsorship UK should contain information such as a start date and an expiry date, as well as a unique CoS reference number.

    All candidates need to have a certificate of sponsorship before they are able to apply for a study or work visa. This is because the CoS number will be used by UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) to check that its visa applicants have a valid and suitable CoS for the requested visa type.

    A certificate of sponsorship is required for those who are applying for one of the following visa types:

    • Skilled Worker Visas.
    • ICT Visas.
    • Temporary Worker Visas.
    • Student Visas.

    Be aware that Youth Mobility and Graduate Visas do not require a certificate of sponsorship.

    When an employer issues a certificate of sponsorship, they are confirming that the individual meets the requirements and criteria for the visa they are applying for.

    With employment, an employer is confirming that the applicant has the necessary skills for the job, the job offered meets the skill level required for the job, and the salary meets the minimum requirement when they issue a CoS to a migrant worker.

    Alternatively, with schools, universities, or colleges, a certificate of sponsorship is only offered to candidates for genuine placements in a study course.

    Acquiring A Sponsor Licence To Get CoS

    Before a company or educational establishment can grant certificates of sponsorship, they need to have an active, valid sponsor licence and access to the SMS (Sponsor Management System).

    As well as this, employers need to be considered A-rated licence holders. B-rates sponsors are unable to issue new certificates of sponsorship. Every request for a certificate of sponsorship needs to be processed via the SMS (Sponsorship Management System), and this can only be accessed once you are a licensed sponsor.

    Level 1 and level 2 users are also the only ones who can request and grant certificates of sponsorship via SMSlimitations,. However, the process does differ depending on whether or not you require an undefined or a defined CoS.

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      The Different Types Of Certificates of Sponsorship


      A certificate of sponsorship allocation is a reference to the number of certificates of sponsorship that an employer can assign to foreign workers with their sponsorship licence. These allocations will be subject to specific rules and limitations depending on the type of licence they require.

      There are several different types of licences an employer can obtain; however, the type of licence an employer obtains depends on the type of employees they need to hire.

      Skilled Workers

      Through UK Skilled Worker Sponsorship, employers will obtain a specific amount of certificates of sponsorship that will be determined by their circumstances, including their history of employing foreign workers and the size of the company.

      Skilled worker sponsorship licences are used for the employment of skilled workers from foreign countries who are entering the UK to fill a specific job role.

      Intra-Company Transfer

      Employers who obtain an intra-company transfer licence will be given a set amount of certificates of sponsorship to sponsor employees who will be transferring to a UK branch of the company from a subsidiary or branch of the same company from overseas.

      The number of certificates of sponsorship that are given will probably vary based on the type of route, which could be short-term or long-term.

      Temporary Workers

      Employers who wish to sponsor temporary workers in different industries, such as creative arts, hospitality, or agriculture,can assign a certificate of sponsorship depending on the specific type of scheme in the temporary worker category.

      There are various categories for the temporary worker visa, so employers seeking this route would be wise to double-check if it is applicable.

      Additional Types

      There are some other categories. Employers may also have a sponsorship licence for specific categories. This can include ministers of religion, international agreement workers, or religious workers. The allocations for a certificate of sponsorship for these categories will differ.

      Defined Vs Undefined Certificates Of Sponsorship

      There are two types of certificates of sponsorship under each category. Every employee outside of the UK needs a defined certificate; however, employers should also be aware of the significance of an undefined certificate of sponsorship.

      Defined certificates of sponsorship are available for Skilled Worker visa potential employees that are based overseas. Those who are potential employees who are based in the UK may be eligible to change their status to the skilled worker, and those who are outside of the UK and are applying to obtain an intra-company transfer visa will need an undefined certificate of sponsorship instead.

      Undefined certificates of sponsorship are there to employ an eligible new employee who is already in the UK. It is also applicable to those who are applying via the intra-company transfer visa category, amongst others.

      To Whom Should Certificates Of Sponsorship Be Issued To?

      A certificate of sponsorship is required by any individual who is applying for leave to the UK to enter or remain in the UK via a work visa category. These work visa categories include the following:

      • Skilled worker visas.
      • Scale-up visas.
      • Global business mobility visas.
      • International sportsperson.
      • Minister of Religion
      • Scale-up workers.
      • Religious workers.
      • Creative workers.
      • Government-authorised exchange.
      • International agreement.
      • Seasonal workers.

      Defined certificates of sponsorship are necessary for skilled workers who are applying to get clearance to enter the UK from outside of the UK.

      This is not a certificate of sponsorship that is assigned from the licenced sponsor’s annual allocation, and there is no limit to the number of defined certificates available. However, sponsors do need to request a defined CoS allocation. Unlike an undefined CoS, specific details on the migrant need to be given. Once the allocation is received, it can only be used for the migrant for whom the request was made.

      A defined CoS allocation request will take one to two days to be processed. However, delays can be possible where the Home Office may require additional information.

      An undefined certificate of sponsorship needs to be assigned to skilled workers who are applying to stay in the UK from a specific location. These should also be assigned to workers who are applying to go on a different sponsored route. This is regardless of the application for entry clearance or permission to enter or stay.

      In some cases, a worker may not require sponsorship; if this is the case, then the applicant will also not need a job offer. These are some of the visas that an applicant can apply for that do not require a job offer and therefore do not require a certificate of sponsorship either:

      • British national visa.
      • Graduate visa.
      • Youth mobility scheme.
      • India Young Professionals Scheme.
      • Global talent visa.
      • UK ancestry visa
      • high-potential individual visa.

      A certificate of sponsorship should always be issued before the migrant worker applies for their visa. The certificate of sponsorship is a critical aspect of what is required for a visa application, and therefore, applicants need to ensure that they have this prepared.

      This also means that the employer needs to submit the certificate of sponsorship 24-48 hours before the employee requires it to apply. Additionally, the certificate of sponsorship should not be issued any more than 3 months before the applicant’s start date for the role mentioned.

      The Cost Of Obtaining A Certificate Of Sponsorship

      Every time the employer issues a new certificate of sponsorship, they will need to pay a fee for doing so. This fee depends on the type of CoS they are issuing. For example:

      • A worker certificate of sponsorship is £199.
      • A temporary worker certificate of sponsorship is £21.
      • For an international sportsperson over 12 months, the certificate of sponsorship is £199.
      • An international sportsperson with less than 12 months’ stay certificate of sponsorship is £21.

      Is it also likely that the employer will need to pay the immigration skills charge. This is most common through intra-company transfer and skilled worker routes. These fees include:

      • Small sponsor’s first-year fee: £364
      • Small sponsor’s additional 6-month fee: £182.
      • Medium or large sponsors’ first-year fee: £1,000.
      • Medium or large sponsors’ additional 6-month fee: £500.

      Note that some sponsors may not need to pay the immigration skills charge. This is because some workers are exempt from it. Be sure to check which occupations are exempt from the immigration skills charge beforehand.

      Another cost that many sponsors may forget is the fee for acquiring the licence. If the sponsor has not yet acquired the licence, then the fee for obtaining the sponsor licence is also important.

      The cost of the sponsor licence depends on the type of licence and the size of the company.

      • Worker licences for small or charitable sponsors are £536.
      • Worker licences for medium or large sponsors are £1,476.
      • Temporary worker licences for small or charitable sponsors are £536.
      • Temporary worker licences for medium or large sponsors are £536.
      • Worker and temporary worker licences for small or charitable sponsors are £536.
      • Worker and temporary worker licences for medium or large sponsors are £1,476.
      • To add a worker licence to an existing temporary worker licence as a small or charitable sponsor, there is no fee (£0).
      • To add a worker licence to an existing temporary worker licence as a medium or large sponsor, there is a fee of £940.
      • To add a temporary worker licence to an existing worker licence as a small or charitable sponsor, there is no fee (£0).
      • To add a temporary worker licence to an existing worker licence as a medium or large sponsor, there is no fee (£0).

      A small sponsor is considered to be a company that has an annual turnover of less than £10.2 million, total assets of less than £5.1 million, and 50 or fewer employees.

      If the company has more employees, a higher value of assets, and a higher turnover, then they are considered to be a medium or large sponsor.

      Charitable sponsors are those who are registered as charities in England or Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland. If the company is a charity but is on the register, they need to provide valid proof that they have charitable status for tax purposes from HMRC.

      Charitable sponsors also include accepted and exempt charities and ecclesiastical corporations that have been established for charitable purposes.

      It is important to know what size business your company is considered to be, as this will impact the fees that need to be paid per immigrant worker for the immigration skills charge.

      The size of the company also impacts the fee for a sponsorship licence but does not affect the cost of a certificate of sponsorship. Costs for a CoS depend only on the type of sponsorship.

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        How Long Does It Take To Get A Certificate Of Sponsorship?

        If the business has not yet acquired a sponsorship licence, then after submitting for a licence, it can take up to 8 weeks for the business to receive a decision. However, be aware that UKVI may need to visit the business to complete their decision.

        Additionally, businesses may be able to pay an extra fee to gain a decision on their application for a licence. This fee is £500 and enables businesses to obtain a decision in 10 working days. However, this is limited to only a small number of applications per day.

        Once the sponsor has their licence and wishes to provide a CoS to a potential employee, they must complete the necessary information using their SMS system.

        An applicant can typically expect to get a defined CoS within a single working day of submitting a request.

        UKVI does state that it can take longer if there are additional checks that need to be carried out or if additional information is required.

        How To Issue A Certificate Of Sponsorship (CoS) To Individuals

        The steps required to assign a certificate of sponsorship will differ depending on whether you are assigning a defined or undefined certificate. Once you log onto the SMS system, you will be directed to an online form where the employer needs to input information regarding the employee and the role.

        Assigning A Defined CoS

        Defined CoS needs to be applied for when the employer is hiring a migrant worker who is applying for leave to enter the UK from outside the country.

        Once the employing sponsor management system level 1 user has logged into the system, they must do the following steps:

        1. From the ‘workers’ select ‘defined CoS’ and there will be a screen that says ‘Apply for a Defined CoS’. Select this.
        2. Next, select the category of CoS, for example, ‘Skilled Worker’ and input the number of CoS, which can be one or more. After this, select ‘Next’.
        3. Now, enter all of the details regarding employment on the ‘Application for defined CoS: employment details‘ page. After this is done, select ‘Next’.
        4. Now there should be a confirmation screen. Here, you should check to ensure that all of the details entered are correct.
        5. Read over the declaration, and then tick the box confirming that you have read, thus understood, and agreed to all of the indicated terms.
        6. Once this is done, simply select ‘Submit’ on the screen that says ‘Application for defined CoS: Submitted’. Once submitted, the request number should be displayed. Ensure that you make note of this.

        Assigning An Undefined CoS

        Should your business only have a provisional rating, the employer will only be able to assign a single certificate of sponsorship, which needs to be assigned to the authorising officer, enabling them to enter the country.

        After this, it is possible to upgrade the licence to an A-rating and, from here, request more certificates of sponsorship making use of the SMS.

        The steps that an employer must take to assign an undefined CoS are to assign it via SMS while processing a worker or temporary worker visa are as follows:

        1. The Level 1 or Level 2 SMS user should log into the SMS account.
        2. From here, go to the ‘Workers’ screen and select ‘Create and assign’.
        3. Go from this screen and then select the route drop-down, choose the route that you intend to create, and click on ‘next’.
        4. Now select the radio button next to ‘Create a new single certificate‘.
        5. Enter the personal and employment information for the worker, and then save.
        6. Select ‘assign’.
        7. Make sure that the details entered are correct and true.
        8. Now, confirm the declaration and tick to show that you are in agreement with the terms and conditions of this
        9. Next, select ‘Assign CoS’.
        10. Finally, make the necessary payment via the third-party payment portal.

        The CoS will be generated and will be given a unique number that can be shared with the worker who is being hired by you or the company.

        Should the company seek to create an individual CoS based upon an existing one, it is best to click on the option to ‘create a new single certificate on an existing certificate’ in the screen for ‘create and assign’.

        When a business goes to create a new CoS that is based on an existing individual, they will probably receive a message stating that a CoS already exists. This simply means that the individual details were already added to an earlier CoS; this does not prevent the assigning of a new CoS.

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          How IAS Can Help Your Business

          Understanding certificates of sponsorship can be tricky as a sponsor licence holder. Workers need a valid certificate to enter the country, and most certificates are assigned instantly; however, businesses that are not yet sponsor licence holders need to be prepared to provide further information and supporting documents before they can obtain a licence to issue CoS.

          Many employers can get confused with sponsorship costs and sponsorship allocations. This is why it is best to have an expert on immigration rules help you through the process. An expert lawyer from IAS can help you understand how many undefined certificates you can have and how to sponsor skilled worker visa applicants as an Irish business in the UK.

          Speak to a lawyer at IAS today to get help in obtaining your sponsor licence and assigning certificates of sponsorship. We can help you get started and walk you through the process of obtaining the employees on the skilled worker route you need. Call us at +353 061 518 025 today, or send us a message to get started.

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                    Any certificate of sponsorship that is issued by a UK employer is valid for three months; the applicant for the worker visa needs to apply for their visa at this time. Once this certificate is issued, the sponsor is considered to be fully responsible for the employees’ actions. After this, the CoS will last however long their visa is.