Often in life, our planshttps://immigrationlawyers-london.com/admin/entries/blog/100289-switiching-visas-uk?draftId=1119# change. Perhaps we enter one profession only to realise it is completely unsuitable and change to another in later life. The same applies to those who migrate to another country such as the UK. Some people move to the UK for one purpose, but over time they change their plans. This may be from a student to a worker, a worker to a spouse or parent, or from an investor to a start-up business person, or any other combination. Historically, from the perspective of immigration, there were several restrictions in place regarding which visas could be switched to another visa, but in recent years these have been relaxed, making it easier to change visa type. In this article, we will explain how to switch from one visa type to another.
What does it mean to switch a UK visa?
It used to be the case that to apply for a different visa, migrants were sometimes expected to leave the country and apply from outside, but with the relaxing of these rules, it is now commonplace to apply within the UK. Switching a visa means that you already have a valid (i.e., non-expired) visa and you are in the UK, and you wish to apply for a different visa without leaving the country to do so.
Can I switch my visa to another visa type in the UK?
Not all visas can be used to switch to another. The best way to check is by using the Home Office website and searching for the visa you are interested in. For most visas, there is a page entitled, ‘switch to this visa’ which will list the visas it is not possible to switch from (the assumption is if you are on a different visa, you can switch from it).
In most cases, you will be able to switch to a visa as long as you do not currently hold one of the following types of leave:
- a visit visas
- a short-term student visas
- a Parent of a Child Student visa
- a seasonal worker visas
- a domestic worker in a private household visa
- on immigration bail
- leave outside the immigration rules
If you are currently on a valid visa that allows switching to another, you will be able to switch as long as you meet the eligibility criteria to do so. Here are some examples of the eligibility criteria for switching visas:
Switching to a student visa
Under the current student visa switching rules, it is possible to switch to a student visa if you are in the UK and have an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed sponsor (a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) is needed to prove this). If you have been in the UK for less than one year, you will also need to provide evidence that you have enough money to support yourself here; this equates to:
- £1,334 per month (for up to nine months) for courses in London
- £1,023 per month (for up to nine months) for courses outside London
Switching to a Skilled Worker visa
The Skilled Worker visa is the most popular UK work visa type for and it enables migrants with a job offer in a skilled occupation list (at least skill level RQF level three) that meets the minimum income requirements to gain employment here. You will also need to meet the English language requirements, which means you must be able to read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.
Switching to a family visa
It is common for migrants to come to the UK, perhaps to work or study, and later decide to apply for a family visa to live with their spouse or another family member. The immigration rules state that if you are currently living in the UK on a different visa, you might be able to switch to a family visa. The family visa scheme allows foreign nationals to live with their spouse or partner, child, or parent in the UK. It is possible to make a switch to this visa as long as your current visa expiry date has not been reached.
How can I apply to switch my visa?
The first step is to check that you can switch to your desired visa type. If you are unsure, check with an immigration lawyer who will be able to confirm whether this is possible and if you have any other options available. Applications to switch to a different visa are made within the UK and online (on the Home Office website). The process for switching to a new visa type is the same as if you are applying for the visa, it is just that you will be already physically in the UK. For example, to switch to a Skilled Worker visa, you will need to:
- fill in the online application form
- pay for the visa fee online – the fee is different from the standard application fee (£704 to switch for up to three years compared to £610).
- book and attend an appointment at a visa application centre in the UK
- pay the health surcharge (£624 per year)
- have your biometrics taken (fingerprints and photo) for a biometric residence permit
One of the benefits of switching to a different visa type is that you can stay in the UK while waiting for your application to be approved. This removes the inconvenience, cost, and uncertainty involved in needing to leave the UK and then make arrangements to return. If you need any assistance to switch from one visa type to another, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to explain your options and, if you require, can complete the whole process for you, including completing the application form, collating the evidence needed, and answering any questions raised by the Home Office.