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Switching Visa Category

The UK has implemented what is known as Points-Based System (PBS). It is a system that categorises applicants into ‘Tiers’, and requires an applicant to pass a points-based assessment in order to be eligible to apply for a category (i.e. you should reach a minimum point score for your application to be successful).

When applying for a visa, you should first decide what category you will be applying for. Generally speaking, there are 4 categories (each Tier has its own sub-Tiers).

Provisions have been made to allow, in limited circumstances, an applicant with one type of leave to remain or immigration status in the UK to request leave to remain under another category. The process is known as “Switching”- as the name suggests the applicant would essentially be switching from one status category to another.

The provisions for switching are limited, to set categories. Below are a list and explanation of the most common category switches permitted by the Immigration Rules, provided that the relevant eligibility criteria are met.

Tier 2 to Tier 1:

One of the more common requests from individuals is for switching from Tier 2 to Tier 1.

Tier 2: For skilled foreign workers with a job offer in an area where there are skill shortages. It covers religious ministers and sports people.

Tier 1: Covers categories of entrepreneurs and investors. It also covers people who fall under the category of ‘exceptional talent’ and migrants with large financial assets.

The rules allow for an applicant to make this category switch, subject to meeting the criteria for this. Remember, there are a number of Tier 1 sub-categories, and so each sub category has its own criteria to be met.

Switching into Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur:

You can apply to change (‘switch’) from another visa to a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, if you are already in the UK as one of the following:

  • student
  • student nurse
  • student re-sitting an examination
  • student writing up a thesis
  • Tier 4 (General) visa holder
  • postgraduate doctor or dentist
  • Tier 2 (General) migrant working as a post-doctoral researcher

Switching into Tier 1 Entrepreneur:

A Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category allows non-EEA nationals to set up, takeover or become a director of a business in the UK. An entrepreneur must either have access to £200,000 from a variety of sources or £50,000 from very specific sources.

You may be able to switch to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa.

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 (General)
  • Tier 1 (Investor)
  • Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur)
  • Highly Skilled Migrant Programme
  • Tier 2
  • a visitor who has been carrying out permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur

Switching into Tier 1 (Investor ) Visa Category:

The Tier 1 Investor Visa Category: This visa category applies to non-EEA and Switzerland who wish to invest £2,000,000 or more into UK economy. There is no English Language requirement for this category or maintenance requirement. If the application is successful, the person is eligible to work, study and engage into business activities.

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 (General)
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 1 (Post-study work)
  • any Tier 2 category

You must leave the UK and make your application from abroad if you’re in another category.

You can stay a maximum of 3 years after switching to a Tier 1 (Investor) visa. You can also extend your visa if you’re eligible.

Switching into Tier 2 (General)

A Tier 2 category visa applies to those who are skilled foreign workers with a job offer in an area where there are skill shortages. It also covers religious ministers and sports people.

In order to switch from another visa category into a tier 2 category, the applicant must already be in the UK under any of the following visas or schemes:

  • Tier 1 visa
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa
  • Tier 2 (Minister of religion) visa
  • Tier 2 (Intra company Transfer) visa under the Immigration Rules in place before 6 April 2010 and you’re applying to change sponsor
  • Tier 4 visa – if you have an eligible qualification or you’ve done at least 12 months of a PhD

You can also switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa if you’re:

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

Switching into a Spouse visa

A person who is in the UK with leave to remain which was originally granted for period of more than six months can apply to switch into spouse visa from inside the UK if they are married to a person who is:

  • A British Citizen
  • A person with ILR
  • A person with refugee status or humanitarian protection

Further, all the relevant requirements of the Immigration Rules should be met .An application for switching into spouse visa from inside the UK is submitted to the Home Office by completing application form FLR (M).

How we can help:

For more information about the specific requirements of switching your visa category, you can get in touch with us today:

T: 020 8935 5205

M:+44 7710987064

E: a.s@master-legal-services.com

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About us

Master Legal Services is a company Registered in England & Wales No.10309474. We are authorised to provide immigration advice and services by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).


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020 8935 5205