Switching Immigration Category While Present in the UK
Switching immigration category from inside the UK is not always straightforward. Certain routes allow you to stay in the UK under the Immigration Rules by switching visa category, while others do not. The updated Points-Based System (PBS), introduced at the end of 2020, has opened more visa categories to in-country switching.
Switching visas within the UK can be a complicated process, often more complex than an initial application, and it is important to get this right. While restrictions in many categories have eased with the new system, others continue to be strict on who is permitted to switch.
Applying to switch your visa under a category where switching is not permitted from inside the UK leads to mandatory refusal. In cases where you cannot switch from your current visa status to another from inside the UK, you are required to leave the UK and apply for UK Entry Clearance from your country of nationality or usual residence.
Below is a summary of who can and cannot switch, and into which categories. This is not exhaustive of all scenarios under the Immigration Rules; if you would like to speak to an expert about your specific circumstances, you can call us on 0161 234 68007 (Manchester) or 0203 752 6620 (London).
Which visa categories can’t you switch from?
For many routes, it is not possible to switch in-country from the following visa categories:
- Short-term Student
- Parent of a Child Student
- Seasonal Worker or Domestic Worker
Which visa categories can you switch to or from?
The updated PBS has made switching in-country easier in many cases.
Economic Categories (highly skilled, global business mobility routes, workers, and students)
For most economic routes, it is possible to switch from any visa, other than those listed above, as long as you are able to meet all other requirements for the particular visa you want. However, some categories are stricter.
New rules also allow senior or specialist workers (formerly intra-company transferees) to switch into the Skilled Worker route from inside the UK, as the cooling-off period has now been abolished.
This could give individuals a possible route to settlement if they wished to remain in the UK. Note that cooling-off still applies to religious or charity workers.
Individuals here on a student visa are permitted to switch to other economic categories, e.g. Skilled Worker. The new Graduate route, which went live in July 2021, also offers students the opportunity to continue their stay in the UK and to work post-studying.
You are only able to apply to this route from inside the UK; however, it does not lead to settlement.
Family Categories (partners, children, parents, adult dependent relatives)
It is possible to switch among family routes. For example, an applicant who enters as a partner could secure an extension as a parent if the marriage breaks down but there is an ongoing relationship with a child. It is also possible to secure permission to stay in the UK based on private life rather than family life where the specific private life requirements are met.
Applicants in these categories are now also able to switch to economic categories (e.g. Skilled Worker or Innovator) from inside the UK. Only individuals who are currently living in the UK as a parent of a Child Student are not permitted to switch to these categories; a fresh overseas application would be required instead.
Religious Categories (minister of religion, religious worker)
Under the new system, it is easier for individuals to switch into the Minister of Religion category. Inexperienced religious workers could potentially secure entry clearance as Religious Workers, and then switch into the Minister of Religion category from inside the UK.
This may be possible once the individual undertakes a leading role within their faith-based organisation or religious order, and once their English language skills have reached the required level.
Frequently asked questions
My spouse lives in the UK, how can I acquire a visa to live with them?
If you are married to a UK citizen, currently holding a UK visa for working, education, or other purposes, and are worried about what to do when it runs out, you can apply for a switch to Spouse Visa.
Please note: if you hold a Visitor Visa, you will not be able to switch to a Spouse Visa in the UK, or any other type of visa. You will have to apply for entry clearance from abroad.
For a more detailed breakdown of all the requirements, you will need for visa-switching, contact our expert immigration solicitors now.
Can you switch from a Visitor Visa to a Spouse Visa (UK)?
No. If you currently hold a Visitor Visa, you will not be able to switch to any other type of visa and must leave the UK to apply for a new one.
For more information about this, contact our expert immigration category solicitors.
I can’t make my arrival window, how can I change this?
When you apply for a visa, you will have a window in which you must arrive in the country, called an entry vignette, and it lasts for 90 days at present (previously it was 30 days, but this was extended due to COVID travel restrictions).
If you cannot make the necessary travel within this window, you can postpone it by filing for a transfer of conditions, or reapply for your visa another time. Obviously, there are costs implications in doing either.
For information on exactly what you will need to provide to apply for a vignette change, contact our expert immigration solicitors now.
If you have any further questions in relation to switching immigration category or need assistance on your current immigration situation, please contact our specialist immigration team 0161 234 68007 (Manchester) or 0203 752 6620 (London)., or complete our online contact form below.