Switching Rules

‘Switching’ is where an applicant with one type of leave or immigration status under the Immigration Rules applies for leave to remain, i.e. inside the UK, in another immigration category.  The UK Home Office is usually clear about any new immigration rules and policies but confusion can sometimes arise in respect of the effects of new rules or policies on the current and future circumstances of migrants residing in the UK. This confusion can lead to a migrant making an incorrect application for further leave to remain in the UK in a new category which is likely to result in the application being refused.  It is therefore important to understand the switching rules.

1. Tier 1 (Investor)

You can apply to switch to this visa if you meet the eligibility requirements and you’re already in the UK under one of the following categories:

  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • any previously Tier 2 category
  • student previously Tier 4
  • graduate visa

2. Innovator Visa

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to an Innovator visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, with the exception of:

  • a visit visa
  • a short-term student visa
  • a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • a seasonal worker visa
  • a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • immigration bail
  • permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

3. Start-up Visa

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to a Start-up visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, with the exception of:

  • a visit visa
  • a short-term student visa
  • a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • a seasonal worker visa
  • a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • immigration bail
  • permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

4. Global Talent Visa

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to a Global Talent visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, with the exception of:

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

5. Skilled Worker Visa (previously Tier 2 General)

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to a Skilled Worker visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, with the exception of:

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • because you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

6. Minister of Religion Visa (previously Tier 2)

You must already be in the UK under any of the following visas:

  • Tier 1 visa
  • previously Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa
  • previously Tier 2 (General) visa
  • previously Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa under the Immigration Rules in place before 6 April 2010 and you’re applying to change sponsor
  • previously Tier 4 visa - if you have an eligible qualification
  • start-up visa
  • innovator visa
  • graduate visa

You can also switch to this visa if you meet the eligibility requirements and you’re:

  • a dependent partner of someone with a Tier 4 visa
  • a representative of an overseas business

To discuss your visa application

Please contact with one of our immigration lawyers by phone +44 (0) 207 907 1460 (London), +971 509 265 140 (Dubai) or complete our enquiry

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7. International Sportsperson Visa (previously Tier 2 Sportsperson)

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to an International Sportsperson visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, with the exception of:

  • on a visit visa - unless you’ve been doing permitted activities as a sportsperson
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • because you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

8. Intra-Company Transfer Visa (previously Tier 2 ICT)

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to an Intra-company Transfer visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, with the exception of:

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • because you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

9. Health and Care Worker Visa (previously Tier 2)

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to a Health and Care Worker visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, unless you are in the UK:

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • because you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

10. Student Visa (previously Tier 4)

You may be able to switch to a Student visa if you already have permission to be in the UK.

You cannot switch to this visa if you have one of the following visas:

  • a visit visa
  • a short-term student visa
  • a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • a seasonal worker visa
  • a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • leave outside the immigration rules

11. Temporary Work - Creative Worker visa (previously Tier 5)

You can switch to a Temporary Work - Creative Worker visa if all of the following apply:

  • you’re in the UK as a Standard Visitor or for a Permitted Paid Engagement
  • you’ve been doing permitted activities in the creative sector
  • your sponsor gave you a Certificate of Sponsorship before you came to the UK

12. Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa (previously Tier 5)

You can apply to change (‘switch’) to a Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa.

You can apply via switching if you are a:

  • student (or previous Tier 4)
  • sponsored researcher who came to the UK on a previously issued Tier 2 General Visa or Skilled Worker Visa and you want to continue in the same job with your sponsor

You must have completed a UK bachelor’s or master’s degree during your last grant of leave.

13. Temporary Work – International Agreement visa (previously Tier 5)

You can apply to switch into a Temporary Work – International Agreement visa while you are in the UK if you want to continue working for your current employer and you:

  • have a previously issued Tier 2 General Visa or Skilled Worker Visa
  • work for an overseas government or international organisation

14. Spouse Visa

a) Spouse or civil partner of a person present and settled in the UK

Almost any person (above 18 years of age) who has initially been given entry clearance or leave to remain in any capacity for more than 6 months is able to switch into being a spouse of a person present and settled in the UK (provided they are already married).  It is important to note the leave of more than 6 months has to be leave given under the Immigration Rules to enable an applicant to switch.  (English language student visitors are granted leave of more than 6 months outside the Rules, on a concessionary basis, and so cannot switch into a spouse visa.)  The only exception to this rule is a person having limited leave as a fiancée or proposed civil partner, who can switch into a spouse or civil partner visa after getting married in the UK.  Visitors (although they might have a multiple entry visa valid for more than 6 months) are given leave to enter/remain in the UK for only 6 months and they cannot therefore switch into a spouse or civil partner visa whilst remaining in the UK.

b) Spouse of a person having limited leave to remain in the UK (Skilled Worker visa, Temporary Worker visa or some other leave allowing dependants to join the migrant)

c) Spouse (Family member) of an EEA national exercising his/her EU Settlement Scheme in the UK

15. Unmarried Partner Visa

a) Unmarried Partner of a person present and settled in the UK

Any person (above 18 years of age) who has resided for at least 2 years with a person present and settled in the UK in a relationship akin to marriage may apply for leave to remain in the UK as an unmarried partner. It is however necessary for that person to have valid leave to remain in the UK of more than six months. There are also other relevant requirements in this type of application that must be fulfilled and again it is advisable to seek professional advice when making this sort of application.

b) Unmarried Partners of a person having limited leave to remain in the UK (Skilled Worker visa, Temporary Worker visa or some other leave allowing dependants to join the migrant)

The switching rules are the same for unmarried partners as they are for spouses except they must also meet the following requirements:

(i) any previous marriage or civil partnership or similar relationship by the applicant or the Relevant Points Based System Migrant with another person must have permanently broken down,

(ii) the applicant and the Relevant Points Based System Migrant must not be so closely related that they would be prohibited from marrying each other in the UK, and

(iii) the applicant and the Relevant Points Based System Migrant must have been living together in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership for a period of at least 2 years.

c) Unmarried Partners of an EEA national exercising his/her EU Settlement Scheme in the UK

What services can we offer?

Switching (transferring) to another immigration category may be very straightforward but could also be very complex depending on the individual`s circumstances and the sponsor`s immigration status. It is therefore strongly advised to seek professional advice and services when seeking to change or vary one’s status inside the UK.  We can fully assist with any application. 

  • We advise on the procedure of making applications on behalf of our clients to switch to the desired immigration category.
  • We can assess the circumstances and advise on the likelihood of the application being approved.
  • We can advise applicants on the supporting documents and evidence required for switching and settlement applications.
  • We can prepare applications and represent clients throughout the application process.
  • We can lodge an appeal in cases of refusal of an application and represent our clients at the Home Office and immigration courts.

Whatever the case, we are here to help, assist, advise and represent our clients in relation to any aspect of the immigration matters.

Still have questions?

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