All non-EEA nationals coming to the UK to work or study must have a sponsoring organisation. Once a sponsor has been granted a sponsorship license by the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA), the sponsor will need to assess what type of Certificate of Sponsorship is required for the migrant - 'restricted' or 'unrestricted'.

Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship

Since 6 April 2011 all migrants applying from overseas have been subject to a limit whereby the government will only allow a specific number overseas migrants to enter the UK during each year. The number of restricted certificates available between April 2012 and April 2013 was set at 20,700. Available certificates will be divided up and each month employers must make requests for a Certificate of Sponsorship.

This applies to all migrants applying for a visa from outside the UK. Points will be awarded based on the following:

  • Priority is given to those roles on the shortage occupation list.
  • Then to those who apply to work in role which requires a PhD and is in the research field.
  • Then to those who have carried out a resident labour market test. Note that the higher the salary, the more points will be awarded.

Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship

Employers can apply for any number of unrestricted sponsorship certificates based on their estimated requirements. Unrestricted certificates can be allocated to the following individuals:

  • Intra Company Transfers;
  • Tier 2 migrants extending their stay with their original employer;
  • Tier 2 migrants with valid leave extending their stay by switching to a new employer;
  • Those admitted in another visa category and applying to switch in-country into the Tier 2 (general) category;
  • Where transitional arrangements for those already in the United Kingdom as a Tier 2 migrant or work permit holder apply;
  • Those seeking admission to fill a vacancy attracting a salary of £150,000 or more; or
  • Tier 2 Sports People or Ministers of Religion.

A Certificate of Sponsorship is not a physical document, but instead is a unique reference number that is provided to the candidate allowing them to make a visa application.

When issuing a certificate to a candidate, the sponsoring employer must complete the Certificate of Sponsorship application form and they must also detail the position's status as a 'shortage occupation' or demonstrate that the position has passed the Resident Labour Market Test. The sponsoring employer is responsible for informing the applicant when a Certificate of Sponsorship is issued.

Please note that a sponsorship certificate does not guarantee that a visa will be granted, but instead forms a precondition for all potential migrants wishing to come to the UK. Only once you are in possession of a Certificate of Sponsorship you may apply for your visa.

Your Certificate of Sponsorship must:

  • Contain the same details as in your Passport;
  • Be assigned to you by your sponsor (employer) no more than three months before the date you apply;
  • Not have been withdrawn by your sponsor or the UKBA.

A Certificate of Sponsorship will run out if it is not used within three months of your sponsor assigning it to you.