In country Certificate of Sponsorship application process

Immigration Skills Charge (ISC)

The government has introduced an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), with effect from 6 April 2017. The ISC is being levied on employers who sponsor applicants under Tier 2 to take up certain roles, but few University roles are affected.

Please note the ISC does not apply to Research and Lecturer roles, and there are a number of other exemptions. For full details please see our 'Cost and payment of applications' page.

The Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) application requirements and application forms differ depending on whether the applicant is applying for an 'initial' CoS, or a CoS 'extension'.

Further information on the categories of applicant who will be conisdered initial and extension applicants can be found on the Allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship web page.

Before applying to the Staff Immigration Team for a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship for an in-country 'initial' applicant, departments and colleges must first satisfy themselves that the applicant is able to meet the points criteria for a Tier 2 visa.

Departments and colleges should also satisfy themselves that the applicant has not held a valid Tier 2 visa in the past twelve months. Under the Tier 2 ‘Cooling Off Period’ rules those applying from overseas who have held a Tier 2 visa within the past twelve months will not be eligible to return to the UK on another Tier 2 visa for at least twelve months after either their previous visa expired, or the earliest date from which they can provide evidence that they had left the UK and have not since returned. Similarly, those applying from within the UK who have held a Tier 2 visa within the past twelve months but switched out of Tier 2 into a different immigration category (e.g. Tier 1 or Tier 4) will not be eligible to switch back on to a Tier 2 visa for at least twelve months after they switched out of Tier 2.

Points requirements

Applicants must obtain 70 points in order to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa, as follows:

Requirement Points
Valid Certificate of Sponsorship 30
Salary* meets the 'New Entrant' or 'Experienced Worker' threshold specific to the job type detailed in the appropriate Codes of Practice in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules, and the 'New Entrant' (£20,800 per annum), or 'Experienced Worker' (£30,000 per annum) Tier 2 minimum salary threshold, as appropriate. 20
Maintenance - either (a) the equivalent of £945 of personal savings held for at least 90 days prior to the date of the visa application, plus additional savings (£630) for each accompanying dependant, or, (b) confirmation from the employing department/college that it will if necessary maintain and accommodate the applicant to a minimum value of £945 (and accompanying dependants to a minimum value of £630 each, if required) during the first month of employment. 10
English language: (a) national of an English-speaking country as defined by the Home Office, or (b) has studied for a degree via the medium of English (and this has been certified by UK NARIC if required), or (c) has passed an approved English language test 10

The Home Office defines ‘New Entrant’ applicants as being:

  • graduates switching from Tier 1 (Post-study Work), Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), or Tier 4 into Tier 2 under the post-study provisions; and
  • anyone aged 25 or under on the date of their Tier 2 visa application.

(However, in all cases, applicants will not be classed as new entrant employees if they are applying to extend their total stay in Tier 2 and/or as a work permit holder beyond 3 years and 1 month.)

‘Experienced Workers’ are defined as:

  • anyone not switching into Tier 2 under the post-study provisions and aged 26 or over on the date of their Tier 2 visa application;
  • anyone wishing to extend their total stay in Tier 2 and/or as a work permit holder beyond 3 years and 1 month.
  • anyone where a Certificate of Sponsorship is being issued for longer than 3 years

* Please note that applicants must be paid their salary into their own personal bank account. Payments in cash are not permitted.

English language requirements

In many cases in-country Tier 2 applicants may automatically meet the English language requirements if they have had to meet them when applying for their previous visa. Common examples are:

  • Tier 2 visa holders, either changing employment or extending, where their previous visa was issued on or after 6 April 2011,
  • Tier 4 student visa holders switching into Tier 2 where their Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) was assigned on or after 21 April 2011,
  • Some Tier 1 visa holders switching into Tier 2 – advice should be sought from the Staff Immigration Team in this case

Full guidance on meeting the English language requirements, for those who cannot automatically meet them through their previous visa, can be found in our out of country guidance.

How to apply for an Initial Certificate of Sponsorship

In order to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship for an 'initial' applicant, the employing department or college will need to complete a Tier 2 initial CoS application form (200kb) and return this to the Staff Immigration Team together with the documentation listed at the end of the form.

Departments and colleges are advised to submit Certificate of Sponsorship applications for initial applicants to the Staff Immigration Team approximately twelve weeks before the applicant is due to commence employment.

A Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship can be issued for either up to three years or up to five years in the first instance and can be extended up to the six year maximum permitted time on a Tier 2 visa. Tier 2 visa holders who wish to remain in the UK to work beyond six years should apply for settlement if they are eligible to do so. Those who are not eligible to apply for settlement will be required to leave the UK after six years.

Please note that those applying for a Tier 2 visa, and their dependants, will have to pay the NHS Surcharge in addition to the relevant visa application fees when submitting their visa applications. As the NHS Surcharge is based on the duration of the visa and can be a significant addition to the visa fees this may affect the decision of the length of visa applied for. You may wish to draw the applicant's attention to this issue.

How to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship Extension

The Staff Immigration Team will, where possible, send a reminder to departmental administrators approximately twelve weeks before an applicant's leave to remain (visa) expires. It is the responsibility of the department and of the applicant to ensure that, if an extension is required, it is applied for in plenty of time before the applicant's current leave to remain (visa) expires.

In general, to be considered to be applying for an 'extension', applicants must be continuing to work in the same or similar job. For example, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant coming to the end of their current visa may switch from one department to take up a new research post in another department without the need for the department to show that they have advertised the post. Such circumstances will be considered an extension rather than a new application.

Before applying to the Staff Immigration Team for a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship for an in-country 'extension' applicant departments and colleges must satisfy themselves that the applicant’s job is listed in the Home Office's Codes of Practice as skilled to at least NQF level 6, and that the job meets the salary requirements set out in the relevant Code of Practice.

In order to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship for an 'extension' applicant, the employing department or college will need to complete a Tier 2 CoS extension application form (104kb) and return it to the Staff Immigration Team together with the documentation listed at the end of the form.

Departments and colleges are advised to submit Certificate of Sponsorship applications for extension applicants to the Staff Immigration Team approximately eight to twelve weeks before the applicant's current visa expires.

Those who first obtained a Tier 2 visa on or after 6 April 2011 will have their maximum leave under Tier 2 limited to six years. Visas can be granted for up to three years or up to five years in the first instance and can be extended up to the six year maximum permitted time on a Tier 2 visa. Previous policy permitted an unlimited number of extensions under Tier 2. Tier 2 visa holders wishing to stay in the UK for longer than six years may still be able to apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) after a five year qualifying period. Those who are not eligible to apply for settlement will be required to leave the UK after six years.

This does not affect those who those who first obtained a Tier 2 visa before 6 April 2011, who will be able to continue to extend their Tier 2 visa (subject to meeting the eligibility criteria for extension applications in place at the time) and are not subject to a maximum period on a Tier 2 visa.

Please note that those applying for a Tier 2 visa, and their dependants, will have to pay the NHS Surcharge in addition to the relevant visa application fees when submitting their visa applications. As the NHS Surcharge is based on the duration of the visa and can be a significant addition to the visa fees this may affect the decision of the length of visa applied for. You may wish to draw the applicant's attention to this issue.