Overview of Switching from a Tier 2 Visa to a Spouse Visa
Tier 2 visas (now Skilled Worker visas) are visas that allow foreign nationals to come and work in the UK, with their employers acting as sponsors.
This may be the case if your circumstances have changed, such as if you’ve gotten married to, or entered into a civil partnership with, a settled or UK citizen since your arrival in the UK.
There are also certain benefits to switching to the Spouse visa, such as less restrictive guidelines on employment.
However, you must note that switching from your Tier 2 visa will also affect your residency requirement for indefinite leave to remain.
- Overview of Switching from a Tier 2 Visa to a Spouse Visa
- Who Can Switch From a Tier 2 to a Spouse Visa?
- What Are the Spouse Visa Eligibility Requirements?
- What Are the Advantages of Switching to a Spouse Visa?
- How Will Switching to a Spouse Visa Affect Indefinite Leave to Remain?
- How Do I Apply to Switch to a Spouse Visa?
- What Are the Fees and Processing Times?
- How Can IAS Help?
Who Can Switch From a Tier 2 to a Spouse Visa?
In order to make the switch between these two visas, you must:
- Be in the UK on a valid Tier 2 visa, such as a:
- Not have breached any of the conditions of your Tier 2 visa or broken any laws while you’ve been in the UK
- Be married to, or be in a civil partnership with someone who is any of the following:
- A British or Irish citizen
- Settled in the UK, such as through indefinite leave to remain or settled or pre-settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme (they must have started living in the UK before 1 January 2021 for this to apply)
- An individual with a Turkish Businessperson visa or Turkish Worker visa
- An individual with refugee status or someone with humanitarian protection in the UK
- Comply with all of the Spouse visa eligibility requirements
What Are the Spouse Visa Eligibility Requirements?
All Spouse visa applicants must comply with all of the following Spouse visa criteria to be eligible for the visa:
- You and your spouse must be over 18
- You must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with your spouse
- This will involve proving to the Home Office that your relationship is legitimate and lasting through a variety of documentary evidence and proof
- You and your spouse must intend to live together permanently in the UK with adequate accommodation that doesn’t require access to public funds
- You must meet the minimum income requirement
- In most cases this will be £18,600 between you and your spouse, unless you have children, in which case it may be more
- You must meet the minimum language requirements
- If you already had to meet minimum language requirements for your Tier 2 visa, such as by taking an English language test, you may be able to reuse this for your Spouse visa
What Are the Advantages of Switching to a Spouse Visa?
The main advantage of switching from a Tier 2 visa to a Spouse visa is the additional freedom granted in terms of employment prospects.
Tier 2 visas are only granted on the basis of you having a suitable sponsor in the form of a Home Office-licensed employer. The job offer must also meet minimum salary and skill levels, as well as usually having to be within a shortage occupation.
However, switching to a Spouse visa will mean that all of these restrictions on employment will be removed. You will be free to take up any kind of short-term or long-term employment you like, with any kind of employer.
You will also be free to become self-employed if you wish, or start up your own business, study, or not work at all (as long as your spouse continues to meet the minimum income threshold).
This is because your spouse will become your visa sponsor rather than your employer.
The prospect of being able to take up any work available may be an attractive proposition if you feel constrained by the restrictions of the Tier 2 visa, or if you wish to have more freedom in being able to browse employment opportunities in the UK.
How Will Switching to a Spouse Visa Affect Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Both Tier 2 visas and Spouse visas normally offer a 5 year route to indefinite leave to remain (ILR), after which you will have the option to apply to become a British citizen.
However, note that if you switch to a Spouse visa from a Tier 2 visa, you may find yourself having to wait longer than 5 years to become eligible for ILR.
This is because the 5-year routes to ILR are only eligible when staying within a single visa category.
This means that you will have to either complete 5 years’ worth of qualifying residence on a Tier 2 visa, or on a Spouse visa to apply. You will not be able to combine time spent on both a Tier 2 visa and a Spouse visa to meet the 5 year minimum.
As a result, your qualifying residence period will reset when switching visa categories and you will have to wait another 5 years from the date of your Spouse visa being approved to become eligible for ILR.
You may wish to consider if it may be worth switching to a Spouse visa if you’re already close to fulfilling the 5 year residency requirement on your Tier 2 visa.
How Do I Apply to Switch to a Spouse Visa?
If you wish to switch to a Spouse visa from a Tier 2 visa, you must apply online through the Gov.uk website while still in the UK.
Note that if your current Tier 2 visa expires while your Spouse visa application is being processed, you will still be able to remain in the UK while you wait for your decision.
Note that if your current visa expires while your Spouse visa application is being processed, you will still be able to remain in the UK while you wait for your decision.
If you have any dependent children in the UK with you, they will also have to apply for a new visa separately.
What Are the Fees and Processing Times?
It will cost £1,048 to switch to the Spouse visa from a Tier 2 visa.
If you haven’t done so already, you will also have to pay the immigration health surcharge in order for you to keep accessing NHS services. This costs £624 for every year you’ll be in the UK.
Note that you may also have to pay some additional costs for your Spouse visa application, such as fees for the following:
- An English language test, if you need to prove your English language proficiency again
- Certified translations for any supporting documents
- Using the Home Office’s super priority service if you need a decision on your Spouse visa application quickly
It should normally take no longer than 8 weeks for your Spouse visa application to be processed when applying to switch to it from inside the UK.
However, note that this may take slightly longer at times, depending on how busy the service is or if the Home Office needs to contact you for further information about your application.
How Can IAS Help?
The Spouse visa can offer a range of benefits that may be preferable to a Tier 2 visa, such as greater levels of freedom when choosing employment, and being able to instate your spouse as a visa sponsor instead of an employer.
However, the Spouse visa also comes with a host of specific requirements and eligibility criteria that must be met, some of which may be difficult or taxing to try and meet sufficiently.
If you require assistance with the process of switching to a Spouse visa, or are unsure if switching would be the best option for you, IAS can help.
We are professional, specialist immigration lawyers who have decades’ worth of experience working in the UK immigration sector. We work closely with each and every one of our clients to ensure that they are given the right advice and support they need for their immigration issues.
Whether you need advice on how to switch from your Tier 2 visa to a Spouse visa, are unsure about how to meet the eligibility requirements or stay within the UK immigration rules, or have any questions about how your eligibility for indefinite leave to remain would be affected, we can help.
Last modified on September 8th, 2022 at 5:39 pm
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