Sponsorship certificates

You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.

Certificates must be used within 3 months from when they’re assigned.

Unrestricted certificates

When you apply for your licence you’ll be asked to estimate how many Tier 2 and Tier 5 certificates you’ll need.

These are called unrestricted certificates because you can get as many as your business needs. You’ll need to give evidence that you need the amount of certificates that you’ve asked for.

Restricted certificates

These are for:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who’ll be paid less than £159,600 a year and are not in an inward investment post
  • family members (dependants) of Tier 4 migrants who are switching to a Tier 2 visa

You must apply for restricted certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS). You’ll get access to this when you get your licence.

There’s a limited number of restricted certificates available each month. Each application is assessed using a points system - you can see how the system works in the Immigration Rules appendix A.

When you get the certificate

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 the 5th day of the month then your application will be held until the next month’s allocation date.

Your application may also be held until the next month’s allocation date so that the details of your application can be checked.

Your restricted certificate will appear in your SMS account on the allocation date if your application has been approved. You can then assign a certificate to a worker.

You can apply again if your application is not approved.

Urgent applications

A restricted certificate can be issued before the next allocation date in exceptional circumstances. This does not include applications which have been delayed for reasons which you could have avoided.

Use your SMS account to make the application and then email Tier2Limits@homeoffice.gov.uk explaining why it’s urgent.

Certificate costs

You need to pay for each certificate of sponsorship. Certificates are free for citizens of Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey.

Type of certificate Cost per certificate
Tier 2 £199
Tier 5 £21

If you assign a certificate of sponsorship to a worker with a Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) visa, you might also need to pay the immigration skills charge.