Attention sponsors! Do you need
to renew your annual
CoS allocation?

Before a foreign national can apply for a visa to work in the UK, they must be issued with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from their employer.

A CoS is an electronic record, not a physical document, containing a unique number which the worker must use to apply for their visa. Once a CoS has been assigned to a worker, they must use it to apply for their visa within three months.

There are two types of CoS:

  • A Defined Certificate of Sponsorship is for Skilled Workers applying for entry clearance from outside the UK (excluding Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route).
  • An Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship is for Skilled Workers applying for permission from within the UK, or for workers on all other routes such as the ICT route.

Sponsors must submit requests for defined Certificates of Sponsorship on a case-by-case basis using their sponsorship management system (SMS). Once approved by the Home Office, defined certificates will appear in your SMS account and you can then assign them to a worker.

On the other hand, undefined certificates can be issued to a worker immediately, as long as the sponsor has a certificate available in their annual CoS allocation.

Your annual CoS allocation

When an organisation applies for a sponsor licence, they will be asked to estimate how many undefined certificates they think they will need for Workers and Temporary Workers in the first year. You must be able to justify your request and the Home Office may ask for further information before making a decision on your allocation.

Once the Home Office has decided your CoS allocation, the certificates (if any) will be allocated to your SMS account. You will then have up to 12 months to use them. This is known as your ‘CoS year’ (or ‘allocation year’). If your business runs out of certificates during your allocation year, you can make a request for additional CoS allocation using the SMS.

Previously, annual CoS allocations for all sponsors would automatically reset in April each year, at the start of a new financial year. However due to a change in process, CoS years now run according to the date your sponsor licence was granted (or the date your CoS allocation renewal request was previously granted), and will therefore be different for all sponsors.

It is important to be aware of the date your allocation year resets, as you may need to submit a renewal request before the current year expires.

Renewing your annual CoS allocation

Any certificates that remain unused at the end of your CoS year will be removed from your SMS account and cannot be carried over to the next 12-month period.

Some sponsors are set up to receive automated renewal allocations at the start of each new CoS year. In this case, sponsors will not need to submit a renewal request and will automatically receive a further year’s allocation equal to the number of CoS assigned in the previous allocation year.

If you are not set up to receive automatic renewals, you must submit a manual request via your SMS account up to 3 months before the end of your CoS year. If you fail to apply, you may find your allocation is reset to zero, even if you had a number of certificates assigned during the previous year.

The Home Office will send you an email prior to your reset date reminding you to apply for renewal of your annual allocation. It is important not to ignore emails from the Home Office regarding your sponsor licence.

Detailed guidance on requesting a renewal of annual allocation using the SMS can be found here.

Priority service for CoS allocations

If you fail to submit a request to renew your annual allocation, it is possible to apply for a new allocation throughout the year. However, under standard processing times requests can take up to 18 weeks to be decided. This can present a significant disruption to businesses who will be unable to issue any Certificates of Sponsorship to migrant workers until an allocation has been granted.

Alternatively, the Home Office also offers a priority change of circumstances service which allows sponsors to pay a £200 fee to fast-track certain administrative changes in relation to their sponsor licence. Sponsors can use this service to request additional and annual CoS allocations, or to make changes to their key personnel and their organisation’s details.

The priority service is available to A-rated sponsors who have already submitted the request via the SMS prior to emailing the priority service mailbox. Eligible requests that have successfully made payment will be considered within 5 working days.

Don’t get caught out!

Smith Stone Walters has a dedicated sponsor licence team who are experienced in helping businesses of all sizes to manage the sponsorship process. Our immigration consultants can act as a Level 1 user on your SMS account, which allows us to monitor the status of your CoS allocation and when you need to renew, as well as other essential day to day administration relating to your licence.

To find out how we can help, please call 0208 461 6660 or email

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