For many visa types, it is possible to ‘switch’ to another visa type while in the UK. It is not, however, possible to switch from and to any visa of your choosing. There must be an option to switch provided within the immigration rules, and you must also be eligible for the visa you wish to switch into. By making the switch, you are essentially submitting a new visa application, but you are not required to leave the UK to do so. In the case of the Tier 2 dependant visa, which is granted to the dependant family members of Tier 2 (general) visa holders, it is not possible to make the switch to a Tier 2 (general) visa from within the UK. The only visa types which can be switched are:
It is notable that Tier 4 dependants can make this switch, but Tier 2 dependants cannot.
For those who do wish to move from a Tier 2 dependant visa, perhaps due to separation, a preference to rely on their own immigration status rather than that of someone else, or for any other reason, what are the options available?
If you are already close to reaching the five-year point required to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), one option is to stay on your current visa. Of course, this will only apply if your circumstances are such that you are still in a relationship with the Tier 2 visa holder, and the reason to change is not due to a change in circumstances between you and your partner.
As a dependant of a Tier 2 visa holder, you can work freely in the UK, as long as you are not applying for a role as a professional sportsperson, or as a doctor or dentist in training.
If you have already reached the five years of continuous residence in the UK under your current visa, you will then be able to apply for ILR, and, hence, not be reliant on your partner’s Tier 2 visa. In addition, you will as a settled person with ILR, you will no longer be subject to immigration control. You will be able to work, live, study, and travel without restriction, and you will no longer be required to pay for further visa extensions or for the healthcare surcharge.
In order to meet the five-year continuous residence requirement, you will need to show that you have not been out of the country for more than 180 days in any consecutive year in the past five years.
If you are set on applying for a Tier 2 (general) work visa immediately, your only option is to apply from outside the UK. In doing so, you will need to secure a job with a UK based employer who is also a sponsor licence holder. Only sponsor license holders are able to employ staff from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). Once you have found a suitable job, if the role title you are applying for is not on the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List, then your prospective employer will need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to check that no settled worker can do the job. This alone takes 30 days if the job has not already been advertised. You will also need to meet the salary requirement for a Tier 2 visa; this is usually a minimum of £30,000 but will be based on the job being offered. You will also need to provide evidence of savings of at least £945 in your bank account at least 90 days before you apply. As an alternative to the savings requirement, if you can find an A-rated sponsor who is prepared to make a written undertaking that they will cover this cost if needed, this will also satisfy the Home Office.
Another option that may be available is to apply for a family visa as a partner of a British citizen or person settled in the UK. One of the key advantages is that with a spouse or partner visa, you will be able to work in the UK without restrictions. To be granted a spouse/partner visa, you will need to provide evidence that:
You may also be able to apply for a family visa on the basis of your private life by showing that you are:
The options and guidance provided in this article are by no means exhaustive, and hence it is recommended that you speak to immigration Solicitors to explain your immediate aims and situation. Based on this information, they will be able to explain your options, and then represent you in making an application for your preferred route. As with any aspect of immigration law, it pays to have experts on your side.
Temporary changes to switching visas and extensions in the UK – COVID-19
Switching into Tier 2: What visas are allowed switching into this visa category?
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