Switching Visas within the UK: Types and Restrictions
Switching visas in the UK means holders of a valid, non-expired visa who are currently in the UK to switch to a different type of visa without needing to leave the country. However, not all visas can be switched to another within the UK. Therefore, it is important to check whether switching is an option available to you. This can be done by checking the switching criteria for the visa you wish to switch to; this will provide a list of visas you can or cannot switch from. In recent years, the rules on switching visas have been relaxed, allowing more visas to be switched to another visa type while in the UK and, hence, providing visa holders greater flexibility.
Restrictions on switching visas within the UK
Before applying to switch to a different visa within the UK, it is important to understand the restrictions that may apply to you, including:
- Not all visa types can be switched
- You may be restricted from switching based on your immigration status
- Your dependant family members will need to apply separately
- You may be subject to travel restrictions when you switch visa
Which visa types cannot be switched?
You can not switch to another visa within the UK if you currently hold one of the following visa types:
- visit visa
- short-term student visa
- parent of a child student visa
- seasonal worker visa
- domestic worker visa
Switching restrictions based on immigration status
It is also unlikely that you will be able to switch to a different visa type in the UK if you are on immigration bail or if you received permission to remain ‘outside the immigration rules’, e.g., if granted on compassionate grounds.
Dependants must apply separately to switch
If you plan to switch to a different visa type, your dependants (partner and children) can also do so before their visa expires, but they will need to apply separately. This can be done when you apply or at a later date.
Travel restrictions when switching your visa
Once you have submitted a visa switch application, you must remain within the UK, Ireland, and the common travel area (the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) until you receive a decision.
What type of visas can you switch within the UK?
Under the current immigration rules, there are several options if you wish to switch from one visa type to another, depending on your circumstances. We commonly assist those who wish to switch from a:
- Short term work visa to a long-term work visa
- Graduate visa to a work visa
- Student visa to a family visa
- Work visa to a business visa (e.g. innovator visa or start-up visa)
- Tier 4 student to skilled worker visa
- Switch from spouse visa to tier 2
- Switching from fiance visa to spouse visa
- Switching from dependant visa to tier 2
- Tier 2 dependant to tier 4 student
- Switching from tier 5 to spouse visa
We handle various types of visa switches within the UK which may not be listed above. Speak directly to one of our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to switch from one visa type to another, in all cases:
- You must be in the UK when you apply
- Your current visa must not have expired
- The immigration rules must allow the switch you wish to make
- You must meet the immigration rules for the visa you are applying for
- You must have adhered to the immigration rules and the conditions of stay for your current visa
- Not have breached the law while in the UK
- You must not be on immigration bail or have leave outside the rules (LOTR)
Switching to a student visa within UK
It is extremely common for overseas nationals in the UK to switch to a student visa, for example, from a:
- Skilled Worker visa to a student visa
- Family visa to a student visa
- Dependant family member visa to a student visa
To make a successful application to switch to a student visa, you must have an unconditional offer of a place on a course with an educational establishment with a valid sponsor licence (e.g. school, college, or university).
You may also need to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK if you have been here for less than 1 year; you will need to show evidence that you can fund yourself for at least 9 months at £1,334 per month for courses in London and £1,023 per month for courses outside London.
Those switching to a student visa must also speak English to CEFR level B2 (if studying for a degree or above) or CEFR level B1 (if studying at below degree level).
Switching to a UK work visa within UK
Many overseas nationals switch to work visas while in the UK. We commonly see people switching from the student, graduate, business, and family visas to Skilled Worker visas and other specialist work visas such as the Global Talent or High Potential Individual (HPI) visa.
To switch to a work visa in the UK, in most cases, you will need:
- An offer for a job on the list of eligible occupations from a licenced sponsoring employer in the UK
- To meet the minimum salary requirements
- To speak English to a required standard
In the case of the Global Talent visa, you will need to provide an endorsement from an approved endorsing body that you are a leader or potential leader in academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. HPI visa applicants must show they have received a degree or higher from a top international university (outside of the UK) in the last 5 years.
Switching into family visa of a British citizen/settled person
It is also extremely common for foreign nationals to switch to a family visa if their partner is a British citizen or a person who has settled in the UK, including those switching from work, student, or business visa. To switch to a spouse/partner visa under the family visa scheme, you will need to prove that:
- You are married, or in a civil partnership with a British or Irish citizen, or a person who has settled here (e.g. indefinite leave to remain), or if not married, you have been in a relationship for 2 or more years
- Meet the English language requirement (CEFR level A1)
- You and your partner have an annual income of £18,600 or more (plus an additional £3,800 a year if you have one child and a further £2,400 a year for each child after your first child)
Switching to a dependant visa in the UK
You may decide to switch to a dependant family member visa if your partner is a foreign national and they have a substantive visa to remain in the UK (e.g. work, business, or student visa). Examples of this type of visa switch include switching from a:
- Student visa to a dependant visa
- Skilled Worker visa to a dependant visa
To switch to a dependant visa in the UK, your partner must have a valid visa type that allows them to sponsor your stay in the UK. Not all visas allow holders to bring dependants to the UK. Applicants must:
- Be in a civil partnership or marriage with the main visa holder or have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years
- Prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the UK (£285 for a partner)
How to switch a visa within the UK?
The process of switching visas in the UK will depend on which visa you are applying for. For example, if switching to a UK work visa, you will need to secure a job offer and have a Certificate of Sponsorship. For a UK business visa, you may need an endorsement from an approved endorsing body. Once you have the necessary pre-requisites in place, the main steps you need to complete to switch are as follows:
- Complete and submit the relevant application form (please note, there is normally a specific application form for ‘in-country’ applications for each type of visa)
- Pay the application fee and other associated costs (e.g. immigration healthcare surcharge)
- Arrange an appointment with a UKVCAS service point to provide your biometrics (fingerprints and photo)
- Upload any documents required to support your application (e.g. passport, copies of qualifications, letter of endorsement, etc.)
- Attend your biometric appointment
How long can it take to switch a visa within UK?
The application processing time to switch your visa will depend on the type of visa you are switching to. In most cases, you can expect to receive a decision within 8 weeks of your application. This may take longer if you do not provide all of the information needed to support your application or if the Home Office require any further details before they make a decision.
How can Reiss Edwards help?
As specialists in personal and business immigration, Reiss Edwards can assist you with your visa switching needs. Our immigration solicitors can:
- Confirm your eligibility to switch visa
- Prepare and submit your visa switch application on your behalf
- Handle any queries from the Home Office regarding your application
- Manage a refusal of your visa switch application