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What is the Difference between Restricted and Unrestricted CoS

There are two types of certificate of sponsorship: restricted and unrestricted.

When a company apply for a sponsorship licence, the authorising officer will be asked to estimate how many Tier 2/Tier 5 certificates the company needs. These are called unrestricted certificates because there is no limit on how many the company can get. Unrestricted certificates only applies if:

  • The job is in the shortage occupation list;
  • The worker is paid more than £155,300;
  • The worker is allowed to switch in country (with the exception of Tier 4 dependant switchers).

The company must apply for restricted certificates through SMS for the following types of workers:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who will be paid less than £155,300 a year;
  • Family members (dependants) of Tier 4 migrants.

There are a limited number of restricted certificates available each month. Applications are considered on the first working day after the 10th day of the month. This is called the "allocation date". If you apply after 5th day of the month then your application will be held until the next month's allocation dated. All COS, restricted or unrestricted must be assigned within six months of the date the vacancy was first advertised.

The company can sponsor a non-EU national if the Tier 2 (applies to some parts of Tier 5 as well) job they are going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level (NQF Level 6 and above). The description of the job and the skill level for each occupation must fall under one of the standard occupational classification codes (SOC) and the company/employer must pay the minimum respective salary levels.

The company must advertise the job if (known as the "Resident Labour Market Test"):

  • The migrant is applying for Tier 2 (General) outside the UK;
  • The migrant is applying for Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) or Tier 5 (Religious Workers) unless it is a non-essential position or involves living with a religious order (for example, as a monk or nun);
  • The migrant is applying for Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) in the creative and entertainment sector, unless the employer can explain why the job cannot be done by a settled worker.

When can a company not undertake an RLMT?

The company does not need to undertake the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) in the following cases:

  • The job is on the shortage occupation list;
  • The job has a gross annual salary of at least £155,300;
  • The migrant is an existing worker having already been employed by the company at for at least 6 months at the time of their application and is a holder of Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) visa;
  • The migrant is an existing worker and is a holder of Tier 2 (General) and applying to extend his/her Tier 2 (General) leave to remain provided all other requirements are satisfied;
  • The migrant is an existing employee overseas and the UK branch of that overseas company is willing to sponsor him/her to come and work for them in the UK. This type of Entry Clearance known as Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer);
  • The migrant is a Postgraduate Doctor/Dentist who needs further permission to stay under Tier 2 (General).

The advert must run in the UK for 28 days and is valid for 6 months from the start date of the advertisement. Once the RLMT is over and no suitable settled worker found, the sponsor is free to offer the job to the migrant worker and assign a COS.

The advert makes sure that there are no suitable workers already living permanently in the UK. It must be a genuine vacancy. There are certain requirements in respect of the advertisements which have to be met.

How we can help

Our immigration lawyers can advise you each step of the way on everything you need to do to ensure a successful sponsor licence and Tier 2 visa application. We also offer a full immigration audit of HR systems and internal processes to ensure that you are compliant. Contact us today on 02037442797 or send us an email on if you need our assistance.

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