Switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1? What you need to know.
We’re often asked about ‘switching’ visa categories while in the UK. One of the more common requests from individuals is for switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1.
The need to switch from a Tier 2 visa can arise for many reasons. Where an individual who already holds a Tier 2 visa can no longer rely on sponsored employment before the end of their existing Tier 2 visa, or perhaps a skilled individual has ambitions to set up their own business or make substantial investment in the UK.
Under the current UK immigration rules, it is possible to switch from Tier 2 to Tier 1 – provided the relevant eligibility criteria are met.
There are a number of Tier 1 visas available, each designed to attract foreign individuals with desirable resources – talent, wealth – to the benefit of the UK economy. Through the process of switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1, you will have to demonstrate that you meet these requirements.
We take a look at some of the key criteria for switching to the main Tier 1 visas, but it’s important to note this guidance is are far from exhaustive, and much will depend on your particular circumstances and whether you can sufficiently evidence your Tier 1 case.
The application processes and requirements for switching visa category are stringent and complex, and you are advised to seek advice to avoid any issues which may result in delay or even possible rejection of your application.
Switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1 Entrepreneur
Under a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, you are will be permitted to stay in the UK for up to 3 years to set up and run your own business.
You can apply to switch to this visa if you meet the eligibility requirements and you’re already in the UK under a Tier 2 visa. You will need to demonstrate as part of the application process that:
- You have at least £200,000 investment funds to apply.
- You have the skills, qualifications and experience necessary to establish a viable business in the UK.
- You have an acceptable command of the English language.
You will be required to collate and submit extensive documentation in support of your application. You must also provide – along with a fee – your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) and you’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge.
A decision will be made on your application within 8 weeks. You will be contacted if your application is complex and will take longer. This could be because:
- your supporting documents need to be verified;
- of your personal circumstances, for example you have a criminal conviction.
Switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1 Investor
With a Tier 1 Investor visa, you are permitted (but not obliged) to work, study or engage in business activities in the UK. You can stay a maximum of three years after switching to a Tier 1 (Investor) visa. You can also extend your visa if you continue to meet the criteria.
You can apply to switch to this visa if you meet the eligibility requirements and you’re already in the UK under a Tier 2.
The key criteria include:
- You have £2,000,000 or more to invest in UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
- The money is held in one or more regulated financial institutions and is available to be transferred to and invested in the UK.
- The investment funds belong to you, your spouse or civil partner.
- Restrictions on the type of investment you make. You are not allowed to invest in companies mainly engaged in property investment, property management or property development, or work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach, or claim UK public funds.
Again, you will be required to evidence your application with supporting documentation.
Each person applying must also provide biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) along with a fee, and you will have to pay the healthcare surcharge.
You should hear a decision on your visa within 8 weeks if you apply online or by post, or usually on the same day if you use the super premium service.
You’ll be contacted if your application is complex and will take longer, for example because:
- your supporting documents need to be verified;
- you need to attend an interview;
- of your personal circumstances, for example if you have a criminal conviction.
Switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1 Exceptional Talent
The Tier 1 Exceptional Visa is designed for individuals deemed outstanding in their professional field.
Tier 2 visa holders are permitted to switch to Tier 1 Exceptional visa while remaining in the UK. You must however make your application before your existing leave expires.
The first step in applying for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa is to seek endorsement for your field of expertise. You can be endorsed as exceptional either as a leader or as an emerging leader (under the exceptional promise rules).
Endorsement must be sought from a nominated institution of repute for your respective field. Once you have received your letter of endorsement, you may apply to the Home Office to switch to the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa.
The visa can last up to 5 years. You must also provide your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) and pay the fee, and pay the healthcare surcharge for the amount of time you choose to stay. How much you pay depends on your situation, what you’re applying for and how you apply. The cost for ‘stage 1’ (endorsement) is currently £292 (at September 2017). Stage 2 (applying to switch) costs £293 if you apply online or by post, or £883 if you apply in person.
How much you pay for the application depends on your situation. The cost for ‘stage 1’ (endorsement) is currently £292 (at September 2017). Stage 2 (applying to switch) costs £293 if you apply online or by post, or £883 if you apply in person.
Provided there are no issues or queries regarding your application, you should expect to hear a decision in 8 weeks.