The differences between Restricted CoS and Unrestricted CoS

If a UK company or a British institution wishes to employ an overseas migrant/worker, apart from holding a Tier 2 sponsorship licence, they also need to assign a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ to that individual. This article intends to clarify the different categories of Certificate or Sponsorship.

The Home Office issues an annual limit of 20,700 CoS to sponsors, with a proportion released each month. The Certificates of Sponsorship can be divided into two main categories based on whether they are subject to the annual limit or not: “Unrestricted” Certificate of Sponsorship and “Restricted” Certificate of Sponsorship.

Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship

An overseas migrant who meets one of the requirements listed below is not going to be subject to the annual limit:

  • Applying from outside of the UK, with a gross annual salary of £159,600 and above;
  • Working  in the UK and applying to extend his/her leave under the same SoC Code with the same employer;
  • Working in the UK and applying to change to different SoC Code with the same employer;
  • Working in the UK and changing the employer;
  • Switching in-country from other eligible immigration categories (Please note that not all visa categories can switch to Tier 2 General in-country);
  • Croatian nationals.


Employers can apply, at any time in a year, for a Certificate of Sponsorship to the Home Office before employing the prospective migrant. The Home Office will make a decision within 4-8 weeks. However, there is an option to expedite this process with additional fees. Once the Unrestricted CoS application is approved, the certificate can be assigned to the employee by making a correct and valid application. Please note that in certain circumstances, the application requires a Residence Labor Market Test.

Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship

All other migrants are subject to restricted Certificate of Sponsorship.

UK employers need to submit applications for restricted Certificate of Sponsorship before or on 5th of each month. Additional documents might be required if the employee’s annual salary is less than £75,000, for example, evidence that the  Residence Labour Market Test has been carried out for 28 days, or personal details of the migrant, etc. Normally, all applications will be considered on or around the 11th of the same month. If the Home Office does not have sufficient time to review all the applications before the 11th, the results will be postponed to around 15th of the same month.

A successful restricted CoS application not only depends on the genuine nature of the vacancy but also on how many points the job can scores. Points are calculated based on the salary and type of jobs. For example, a job with a gross annual salary of £36,000 and passed the Residence Labor Market Test can score 36 points; however, a job can score at least 130 points even if the gross annual salary is lower than £36,000 if it is in the list of shortage occupation.

As the monthly allocation is set, the decisions will be made based on the points from higher to lower. The minimum point threshold for each month will be published on the UKVI website around 20th of the same month. If there are certificates available from the previous month, they can be reallocated to the next month.

As of December 2017, the minimum points for each month have been as high as 46 and above. If you would like to sponsor an overseas migrant and are having problems with obtaining a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship, please contact us at [email protected] or via phone 0203 384 3075.

The content of this article is for general use and information only. Since each case should be prepared on its own merit and in light of the constant amendments to the Immigration Rules, it is important to note that the information provided must not be relied upon unless Migra & Co has either given written consent or has been officially engaged in relation to a specific immigration matter. As a result, Migra & Co will take no responsibility for any damage, cost or loss resulting from relying on the information contained in this article, blog and website.

We remain open for business and can arrange meetings by phone call or video conferencing to advise and assist with any UK immigration matters.
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