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Switching a Tier 5 Visa to a Spouse Visa

If you are currently in the UK on a short-term Tier 5 work visa, you may be able to switch to a Spouse Visa if you have married or entered into a civil partnership with someone who is settled in the UK or a UK national.

This applies to any of the Tier 5 temporary worker Visa sub-categories:

Charity Worker visa
• Creative and Sporting visa
• Government Authorised Exchange visa
• International Agreement visa
• Religious Worker visa
• Seasonal Worker Visa
• Youth Mobility Scheme visa

Can I switch from a Tier 5 Visa to a Spouse Visa?

Assuming you are eligible (see the eligibility criteria below), you can switch from a Tier 5 temporary work Visa to a Spouse Visa from within the UK (i.e. you will not need to leave the country). That said, because your time in the UK on a Tier 5 Visa counts towards indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under the 10-year long residence route, for some people it will be advantageous to remain on their existing Visa category as it may lead to ILR faster.

If you are granted a Spouse Visa, it will last for a period of 30 months, after which you can then apply for an extension for a further 30 months. This will then give you a total of five years in the UK, at which point, under current immigration rules, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), meaning you can stay permanently without needing further immigration clearance.

One of the key benefits of a Spouse Visa is that your right to work will be unrestricted. This means you can work in any sector, full-time or part-time, and you can change employers as you wish.

What are the eligibility criteria for a Spouse Visa?

In order to apply, you will need to satisfy the following requirements:

• Both you and your partner must be 18 years old or over
• You must both be in a civil partnership or marriage recognised in the UK
• You must have been living together in a relationship for at least two years prior to applying.
• Have the required knowledge of the English language
• Meet the financial requirements

Your UK partner must:

• Be a British citizen, or;
• Have settled in the UK – i.e. they have indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or have settled status in the UK as an EU national, or;
• Have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

The Home Office will also want to be satisfied that you and your partner intend to live permanently together in the UK.

Satisfying the Home Office you meet the minimum income rules

In order to satisfy the Home Office that you meet the financial requirements, you will need to submit proof as part of your application that you and your partner have a combined annual income of £18,600 or more. In addition, if you have children, you will need to show proof of an additional £3,800 per year for your first child and £2,400 for each child after your first child.

This income requirement can be met by a combination of you and your partner’s income, in addition to savings (if over £16,000).

Proving you are in a genuine relationship

When applying for a Spouse Visa, you will need to demonstrate that you are in a 'genuine and subsisting' relationship with your UK partner - as defined in Appendix FM paragraphs E-EC.2.6. and ELTRP.1.7. To assess if you are in a ‘genuine and subsisting relationship’ the Home Office will look at a range of factors including whether:

• You and your partner are in a current, long-term relationship
• You are co-habiting with your partner
• You have children together (biological, adopted or step-children) and shared responsibility for them
• You have shared financial responsibilities

Proving you meet the English language requirements

If you have an academic qualification or degree taught in English recognised by UK Naric as equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or higher, you may not need to undertake an English language test. The Home Office will require a statement of comparability or a visa and nationality statement. If you cannot meet the English language requirement through your qualifications, then you will need to prove your English language proficiency. To do so, you will need to sit and pass a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level A1 test in English speaking and writing.

When submitting your spouse application, you may be exempt from proving your knowledge of English if you are over 65 years old, you have a specific physical or mental condition which prevents you from meeting the language requirement, or if you are a national of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, or the USA.

Can I remain in the UK while switching to a Spouse Visa from a Tier 5 Visa?

Yes, as long as you apply for your Spouse Visa before your current Tier 5 visa expires, you can remain in the UK subject to your existing Visa conditions. Even if your Visa expires, you can stay until a decision is made on your application. As such, you can continue to work as you have been.

Final words

If you are considering switching from a Tier 5 Visa to a Spouse Visa, it is recommended that you do so in good time. You can expect to receive a decision on your application within two months of submission; if your case is more complex (e.g. if you don’t meet one of the requirements or you cannot provide sufficient evidence), it may take longer. As an alternative, for an extra fee, you may consider using the super-priority service whereby a decision is usually made within 24 hours (assuming your interview is on a weekday). While this service does cost £800 extra, the peace of mind of having your immigration status confirmed can be invaluable

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