Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) – how the hospital supports your visa application

  • March 17, 2022

For overseas doctors, a Certificate of Sponsorship forms an integral part of a successful Tier 2 Visa application.

In this article we focus on the process for an NHS hospital as they apply for your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) and look specifically at the following:

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

A CoS is a digital reference number that the Home Office will issue a Certified Sponsor (i.e. an NHS hospital) to allow a doctor to complete their Tier 2 visa application and work in the UK.

You cannot submit your visa application without one.

What is the difference between a restricted CoS and an unrestricted CoS?

It is important to note that both a restricted CoS and un-restricted CoS will carry equal weight when completing your visa application process. For you as an individual, neither CoS is better than the other in terms of your application being a success. 

However, for the hospital, an un-restricted CoS is easier and quicker to process with no monthly cap on how many each hospital can apply for.

Restricted CoS: These apply to all applications made by people who live outside of the UK and are planning to work in a role paying less than £159,600 per annum.

These are included in the permanent limit, which is an annual restriction on the number of migrant workers admitted to the UK from outside the EEA.

For a restricted CoS the application must be submitted by the 5th of each month to be reviewed on 11th.

Unrestricted CoS: These apply to any workers looking to switch to a Tier 2 visa that are already in the UK, or the worker is based outside of the UK but in a role that pays upwards of £159,600 per annum. 

These are not included in the permanent limit, an annual restriction on the number of migrant workers admitted to the UK from outside the EEA

Importantly, an unrestricted CoS can be automatically allocated to a doctor.

Have the rules recently changed regarding visa allocations for unrestricted CoS?

Yes, in June 2018 the Home Office announced they were exempting all Doctors and Nurses from the Tier 2 cap on a temporary basis. Those specialties that were not on the Shortage List would be able to obtain an Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship under Tier 2.

In brief, any doctor or nurse can be automatically allocated a un-restricted CoS by a hospital.

The Independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is currently reviewing the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List and will be reporting their findings imminently.

What is the Resident Labour Market test?

When sponsoring an individual under Tier 2, for both a restricted and unrestricted CoS, the trust must first complete a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).

Only if your post is on the shortage occupation list is there an exemption to this. The list of shortage occupations can be found here.

The RLMT requires that vacancies are subject to a four-week advertising period (28 days) though this period does not have to be continuous.

If no suitable resident labour worker is identified throughout this period, a trust can then appoint a Tier 2 applicant.

Your IMG Connect consultant will ensure the trust has run the RLMT before engaging with an international recruitment process, thus not wasting time.

Does this process require my input?

As an overseas doctor you do not actually need to do anything to apply for a CoS. 

The hospital and IMG Connect will handle this process in its entirety, ensuring you are provided with your CoS reference number once complete.

However, at IMG Connect we advise you spend this time ensuring your documentation for the rest of your Tier 2 visa application is ready for submission. 

See our article on the Tier 2 Visa application process for more information.

How long does the process take?

An unrestricted CoS can be approved in a matter of days. 

A restricted CoS can take a number of weeks to be processed.

Unrestricted Certificates: As all doctors and nurses are exempt from the Tier 2 Cap, we strongly advise trusts to apply for unrestricted CoS to save them time and paperwork.

Restricted Certificates: There are a limited number available each month. Applications must be made by the 5th day of each month to be considered by the ‘allocation date’ – the first working day after the 10th of each month. 

Where a trust need apply for a restricted CoS, we urge them not to miss the strict deadlines in place. Missing these deadlines will cause delays to appointing suitable candidates in a timely manner, potentially missing out on the doctors they want to hire.

The RLMT: Running the RLMT test immediately on hard to fill vacancies. Many hospitals have numerous vacancies that they have been unsuccessful in recruiting to for a number of years. IMG Connect advises a hospital to run the RLMT as soon as possible, so they can act swiftly once they have identified a Tier 2 candidate suitable for hire.

Once I have my CoS – what happens next?

The trust will issue you your CoS in the form of a digital reference number – not a physical document.

This reference number will form part of your Tier 2 visa online application.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your IMG Consultant to discuss finalising your Tier 2 visa application and putting into action your UK relocation checklist including accommodation, travel, bank accounts and schooling.

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