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How Do I Convert A Tier 2 Dependent Visa To Tier 2 / Skilled Worker Visa?

Being a dependant on Tier 2 / Skilled Worker visa holder has its advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps rather oddly, the dependant has more flexibility when it comes to work. Whereas the main work visa holder is restricted to working for a particular employer, dependants do not have the same restriction. The downside of being a dependant, however, is that it is only possible to stay in the UK as long as the main applicant remains and holds their work visa. It is common for dependants of Tier 2 (now called the Skilled Worker visa – which came into force on 1st December 2020) holders to decide to apply for a work visa in their own right. This may be because they have gained employment and would prefer the security of knowing they control their own immigration status, or it may be that they need to apply for a work visa because their partner or spouse has lost their status or has left the UK. In this article, we will explain how Skilled Worker visa dependants can switch to a Skilled Worker visa in their own right.

What Is Meant By ‘Switching’?

‘Switching’ a visa means that an applicant is allowed to change from one valid visa type to another without needing to leave the UK to do so. Each visa has its own rules as to who is eligible to switch, hence why it is important to check before making the assumption that this is possible.

Can I Switch From A Skilled Worker Dependant Visa To A Skilled Worker Visa?

There is some good news for Skilled Worker dependants who wish to apply for a Skilled Worker visa in their own right from within the UK. Previously, the Tier 2 switching rules stated that only migrants holding one of the following visas could apply:

This meant that, under the old rules, dependants had to leave the UK and apply for a Tier 2 visa from outside of the country.

The new Skilled Worker rules, section SW 1.5, which outlines who can switch to a Skilled Worker visa, states,

“An applicant who is applying for permission to stay must be in the UK on the date of application and must not have, or have last been granted, permission:

(a) as a Visitor; or

(b) as a Short-term student; or

(c) as a Parent of a Child Student; or

(d) as a Seasonal Worker; or

(e) as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or

(f) outside the Immigration Rules”.

As such, the new rules only explain who cannot switch, not who can switch, meaning that a wider range of visa holders can apply within the UK. If you are dependant on a Skilled Worker visa and you wish to apply for a Skilled Worker while still in the UK on a dependant visa, you can now do so.

What Are The Eligibility Rules For The Skilled Worker Visa?

There are several eligibility criteria for the Skilled Worker visa, which you will need to satisfy, as follows:

  • You will need to have a job offer from a UK employer who is licensed to sponsor foreign nationals. There are in the region of 39,000 sponsors in the UK – the list is available on the Home Office website.
  • The job offer you have must be eligible under this visa type. To do this, you will need to ask your employer for the 4-digit occupation code and compare this to the list of eligible jobs. If there is a match, you can apply.
  • The salary for the role must be at least £25,600, or the ‘going rate’ for the job. The list of ‘going rates’ can be found on the Home Office website. Different salary rules apply if you are in healthcare or education, see here for more details. There are some circumstances in which you may be eligible if your salary is lower (but no lower than £20,480), these include if:
    • your job is in a shortage occupation
    • you’re under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training
    • you have a science, technology, engineering, or maths (STEM) Ph.D. level qualification that’s relevant to your job (if you have a relevant Ph.D. level qualification in any other subject your salary must be at least £23,040)
    • you have a postdoctoral position in science or higher education
  • You can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale – this can be met by:
    • passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
    • having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English

    • having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English
    • being from an English speaking country; Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, or the USA.

Wrapping Up

The new Skilled Worker switching rules provide an opportunity for dependant visa holders that were not previously available; the ability to switch to a Skilled Worker visa in their own right from within the UK. While they will still need to satisfy all of the requirements of the visa, it does mean that they can secure their immigration status, and hence future in the UK without undergoing considerable upheaval for themselves and their children. Before applying for a Skilled Worker visa, it is recommended that you speak to an immigration Solicitor, as you may be eligible under other routes to secure your immigration status depending on your personal circumstances and length of time already in the UK.

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