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Certificates of Sponsorship – Restricted or unrestricted?

Welcome to the latest edition of our Focus on immigration briefings. This month we look at Certificates of Sponsorship.

Once a registered sponsor employer has agreed to employ a non-EEA migrant worker, they need to allocate a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to that individual in order for them to make their visa application. There are two types of CoS: Restricted and Unrestricted. Choosing the right type is vital as if the wrong type is issued to an employee a sponsor could have their licence suspended or revoked as a result.

Restricted or unrestricted CoS?

The majority of “new” hires into the UK will be subject to the annual limit for Tier 2 (General). This is currently 20,700. For employees who do not fall under an exception an employer will have to request a restricted certificate of sponsorship.

As part of the request process, UKVI may request that the employer provide evidence that it has completed the resident labour market test for a genuine vacancy. It is therefore crucial for sponsor employers to ensure they have sufficient documents to demonstrate the need for the CoS prior to submitting an application.

Generally speaking, an unrestricted Tier 2 (General) CoS may be used in the following circumstances:

  • For individuals who are applying for leave to enter from outside the UK and are offered a role with a salary of at least £159,600.
  • For individuals who are already in the UK extending their Tier 2 (either to work for their current employer or to work for another employer) or who are able to switch from their current immigration category.
  • Inward investment posts.

The distinction between the two types of certificate can be highly technical and therefore it is always advisable to seek advice before assigning a CoS to a migrant worker.

Salary requirements

Provided an employer has identified a role which is at the required skill level contained in Appendix J to the Immigration Rules the employer must ensure that the individual will be paid at least the minimum stipulated salary for the role. If the minimum annual salary stipulated in the code of practice is below £30,000, the employer must pay the higher of the two figures.

There is a lower minimum salary threshold of £20,800 for new entrants (subject to the minimum new entrant level stipulated for the role). A number of public sector occupations are also exempt from the £30,000 minimum salary threshold until July 2019.

The roles capable of sponsorship and the salary requirements are regularly amended by the government, and employers should ensure that the role for which they intend to obtain a CoS is considered skilled enough and will be paid at the appropriate rate.

Once a CoS has been assigned

Once an individual has been issued a certificate of sponsorship they may apply for leave to enter the UK (or to remain if they are already living in the UK). An individual applying under Tier 2 (General) must score 70 points for:

  • Having been assigned a certificate of sponsorship (30 points).
  • The salary on offer being at least £30,000 or the minimum salary set out in the relevant code of practice (20 points).
  • The individual satisfying an English language requirement (10 points).
  • The individual satisfying a financial maintenance requirement (10 points).


If you require any assistance applying for, or the process of assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship, please contact one of our immigration experts who will be happy to assist further.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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