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Can I Change Visitor Visa to Student or Work Visa UK?

Regrettably, it is not possible to apply to switch to a Student or Work visa from a Visitor visa in the UK. However, there may be other options afforded to you if you are hoping to stay in the UK on a long-term basis depending on the applicability of certain special circumstances.

If you need expert assistance in acquiring the ideal visa for your personal situation, IAS is here to be contacted online or by phone on 0333 305 9375.


Changing Visitor Visa to a Worker Visa

With the purpose of the Visitor visa being that of temporary visitation, UK immigration law does not allow one to switch from a Visitor visa to a Worker visa as this could potentially enable bypassing the strict purpose of the Visitor visa. This also includes preventing visa fraud.

As such, those hoping to reside in the UK for work should understand that the Visitor visa does not provide a ‘route’ or pathway to a visa that will allow work due to its intended purpose. Despite this, you may conduct up to 30 days of voluntary service for a charity, as well as attend business meetings and conferences, though you cannot operate a business.

Short-term work may be undertaken should one acquire a special Temporary Worker visa such as the Religious or Creative Worker visa that differs from the more common Standard Visitor visa in allowing you to conduct the relevant type of work. These must be applied for from outside the UK, with holders potentially being able to later apply for a Family visa, as well as a Skilled Worker visa, should the eligibility requirements be met.

Those wanting to work for a longer-term who feel they may be able to acquire a certificate of sponsorship from a prospective employer should inquire about such Worker visas as the Skilled Worker visa. Generally this must be applied for from outside the UK unless specific immigration permissions authorise switching to these visas from inside the UK.

Contact IAS by phone on 0333 305 9375 or visit our webpage on work in the UK for further guidance on the different types of temporary and permanent UK Worker visas and which one may be the most applicable to your own personal circumstances.

People walking on street in London.

Changing Visitor Visa to a Student Visa

Likewise, as with those hoping to change to a Worker visa, it isn’t possible to switch to a Student visa from a Visitor visa: you must typically apply from outside the UK up to 6 months before the beginning of your course.

You also may not switch to a Student visa from a Short-term Study visa, which can be applied for outside the UK in order to enroll in an English Language course for up to 11 months.

Despite not allowing long-term courses of study like a full 3-year degree course, there are many activities the Standard Visitor visa allows such as short-term study at an accredited institution or conducting research as long as this does not exceed the 6-month term of stay.

As you cannot ordinarily extend this visa, it does not offer a pathway to study long-term, and as such those who wish to should apply for the Student visa from outside of the UK.

What Visas Can I Switch to from a Visitor Visa?

Unfortunately, if you are in the UK on a Standard Visitor visa your options of which visa you may stay on are extremely limited unless you can meet specific requirements.

Switching to a UK Family visa from inside the UK could potentially be an option if granted permission should a family court case or divorce proceedings oblige you to stay or you have exceptional circumstances which might qualify you to remain on the basis of your family life on a 10-year route.

The cost for a Family visa depends on who you are joining, how many dependents are being added to the application, the duration of stay, and if you are applying from inside or outside the UK.

There are options to also extend the Standard Visitor visa, such as for medical reasons if you are receiving treatment for more than 6 months. This can last up to 11 months and you would be able to extend this an indefinite amount of times as long as you are still eligible.

This exception likewise exists for academics who may potentially extend their Standard Visitor visa to a total of 12 months should they be considered highly qualified in their field and are involved with a relevant occupation at an overseas academic institution.

It typically costs £1000 for each time extending the Standard Visitor visa, but can be much cheaper if applied for in advance before arriving in the UK. The partner or children of the visa holder are also entitled to extend or apply for these special-requirement temporary visas.

Side-view of the London Eye from the Thames.

Applying for the Standard Visitor Visa

The Standard Visitor visa, the most common visa under this umbrella of temporary visas, must be applied for online up to 3 months before your visit and requires paying a £100 fee as well as attending a meeting at a visa application centre. This will allow up to 6 months of stay and is usually intended for purposes of tourism, family visits, travel, or short-term study.

As such, you are heavily restricted on what activities you can do while in the UK on a Visitor visa, including being precluded from paid or unpaid work (including self-employment), long-term study, receiving state benefits, and as mentioned, switching to most other types of visa.

Get in touch with our immigration experts for the best paths in navigating UK visas.

How Can IAS Help?

Unique situations require nuanced pathways that can be very difficult to navigate alone without specialist assistance. IAS is available to offer guidance through understanding the precise steps required for your exact situation, regardless of complexity.

It can be extremely complicated knowing which exact visas you can apply for and if any of the myriad of possible rule exceptions may apply to you, but our experienced team of reliable and committed immigration lawyers and advisors will be right there with you every step of the way.

If you believe your circumstances may exempt you from the usual rule of not being able to extend or switch your UK Visitor visa, if you need legal help due to potentially violating the terms of your visa, or if you just need guidance through immigration interviews including ensuring you have all of the correct supporting documentation, IAS is able to be contacted online or on 0333 305 9375.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

A UK Standard Visitor visa typically allows up to 6 months of stay, permitting most activities conducted on a short-term of stay, such as tourism, family visits, or travel. The Student visa, on the other hand, is intended for those planning to study on a long-term degree course, that being a requirement in order to apply for the visa. It is important to know it is impossible to switch from a Visitor visa to a Student visa in the UK.

Those who have recently completed a degree course in the UK on a Student visa should be aware of the Graduate visa, which allows for at least another 2 years of stay and reduced restrictions on the amount of work one can undertake, as well as the eligibility to apply for the Skilled Worker visa if a job offer has been received from an employer able to offer sponsorship.

You may only switch to a Graduate visa if you held a Student visa upon the completion of your course of study in the UK, as such it is not possible to switch from a Visitor visa if you do not meet this requirement.

For those whom it might be relevant to, upon graduation there is also the Health and Care Worker visa available for healthcare workers, the Innovator Founder visa for those looking to start a business, and the Scale-up Worker visa for those able to be sponsored to work for a fast-growing company.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but you may contact IAS on 0333 305 9375 or visit the rest of our site for further guidance.

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