How Long Before My UK Visa Expires Can I Apply For a New One?
As the founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. When it comes to applying for a new visa before your current leave expires, planning ahead is part of the recipe for success. Indeed, most migrants in the UK are extremely diligent and want to submit their application for a new visa or visa renewal as early as possible. By applying too early, there is a risk that an application may be considered invalid, and by applying too late, you risk becoming an overstayer and potentially having your visa application refused. In this article, we will explain the earliest you can apply to renew your visa in the UK.
How soon can I apply to renew my visa in the UK?
In an ideal world, there would be one answer to this question, in practice, however, there the earliest point at which you can apply for a new visa to replace your existing one depends on the type of visa you are applying for. We recommend checking the Home Office website to check the timeframe which applies to your intended visa category. The most important point to remember is to always apply before your visa expires. Doing so will ensure that you qualify for section 3c leave under the immigration rules, which means that as long as your application is valid, you will be able to remain in the UK on the same terms as your current visa (even if it expires after you apply) until you receive a decision from the Home Office.
If you wish to apply for your visa extension as early as possible, we recommend adhering to the following guidance:
- Skilled Worker visa – There are two points to bear in mind with a Skilled Worker extension application. Firstly, you will need to ensure you submit your application no more than three months after being issued a new Certificate of Sponsorship by your employer. Secondly, the earliest you can submit your application is up to 60 days before your current Skilled Worker visa expires.
- Student visa – the very earliest you can apply to extend your student visa in the UK is three months before your course starts (e.g., if you have decided to do a master’s degree after your undergraduate degree). As such, if you plan to start your new course in September, you will be able to apply in June. This will also depend on when you get your exam results and when you are offered a place on your new course. Remember, if you wish to extend your study visa, you will need to show academic progression; e.g., by joining a higher-level course than your current one.
- Family visa – There is no set timescale for when you can apply to extend your family visa (e.g., your spouse, dependent child, parent, or adult dependant relative visa). The Home Office guidance states, “you can extend at any time before your current permission to stay in the UK expires. If you’re extending to stay with the same family member, you’ll only get up to 28 days left on your current stay added to your new visa”.
- Entrepreneur visa – it is not possible to extend an entrepreneur visa, however, you can switch to an innovator visa if you are eligible. The guidance states, “You may be able to switch to an Innovator visa if you set up a business while on a Start-up visa and your endorsing body assessed and agreed to it, it is active, trading and sustainable, and you have day to day involvement in it”.
- Graduate visa – student visa holders in the UK can apply for a graduate visa as soon as they have officially completed their studies. The guidance on these states, “You can apply as soon as your education provider (such as your university or college) has told you that you’ve successfully completed the course you took with your student or Tier 4 (General) student visa. You do not have to wait until you’ve graduated or have been given a certificate”. Given it can take several weeks to receive a graduation certificate or official transcript, being able to apply for a graduate visa as soon as you know you have passed your course will enable you to stay in the UK and secure employment as soon as possible.
- Visitor visa – given the short-term nature of the visitor visa, there is no defined earliest date you can apply for an extension. The rules just advise that you can apply to extend your visitor visa if your visa was for less than six months and you wish to extend your stay up to the maximum six-month duration; “You may be able to extend your stay if you have permission to be in the UK for less than six months. You can extend your stay up to a total of 6 months. You can only apply to stay in the UK for longer than six months if you’re: a patient receiving medical treatment; an academic and you still meet the eligibility requirements; or a graduate retaking the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test or doing a clinical attachment”.
Just as important as submitting your application on time is planning ahead to ensure you have all of the information and documents you require. While it is advantageous to apply early, this is not the case if the application is poorly prepared or incomplete. To plan for success, it is always advisable to have your application form and accompanying evidence reviewed by an immigration lawyer before submission; this will give you the best overall chance of securing a positive decision on your case as quickly as possible.