Clients often contact us about switching visa categories from the the Skilled Worker to the spouse visa route following a change in their circumstances. Here, we summarise the immigration requirements, benefits, and key considerations.
Who can switch?
To switch from a Skilled Worker to a spouse visa, the applicant’s spouse must be:
- a British Citizen, or
- a person with settled status or indefinite leave to remain, or
- a person with refugee status, or
- a person with humanitarian protection.
This applies to civil partners also.
There are many reasons why an applicant may pursue an application to switch immigration routes from a Skilled Worker to a spouse visa. The person may have originally entered the UK as a Tier 2 (General) highly skilled worker, or now holds this visa type having entered the UK as a student. Their circumstances may have changed due to their relationship with a British or settled person, making it a good reason to switch immigration categories.
The added advantage of switching is that the applicant will no longer be tied to the terms and conditions of their Tier 2 (General( visa, now called the Skilled Worker visa. Nor will the applicant be tied to the sponsoring employer for the term of the visa. Instead, the partner will become their sponsor and the applicant will become free to take up employment with whomever they choose or free to set up a business or study. This can be attractive for applicants who are somewhat unsure of their ongoing commitment to their sponsoring employers or who feel that their sponsoring employer’s commitment to them may be waning in light of the ongoing pandemic and economic climate.
To successfully switch from a Skilled Worker to a spouse visa, the applicant must be in the UK with leave to remain. The period of leave must have originally been granted for more than six months. Therefore, a person with leave to enter for 30 months under the Tier 2 General category, will qualify. A person who entered the UK as a standard visitor or under a marriage visitor, will not.
The applicant must demonstrate that they meet the English language requirement, financial requirement, as set out in Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules and that they have sufficient accommodation without the need for State support. Full details can be found in our earlier blog post.
The applicant must also meet the suitability criteria under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules.
Yet the applicant, must not forget to evidence that that they have met their spouse in person and their spouse is a British or settled person. For one of our clients, Tess, who had successfully switched immigration categories, we had submitted a copy of her marriage certificate, a copy of her partner’s current British passport and naturalisation certificate, and evidence of their joint mortgage and living arrangements.
Our other client Jacque, a Tier 2 (General) visa holder under the previous Rules, was considering marrying his British partner so that he too may benefit from the spouse visa category. However, we were able to help him switch into the unmarried partner category, on the basis that he had been living with his partner for 2 years in a relation akin to marriage. In support, we submitted evidence of Jacque’s and his partner’s cohabitation such as documents addressed to them at the same residence, including utility bills, HMRC letters, and their employment letters.
As with many things, there is a downside. The Skilled Worker visa offers a route to settlement after 5 years of residence. The spouse visa also gives a route to settlement after 5 years. However, this cannot be combined. Therefore, the clock to settlement status will reset once the applicant switches from the Skilled Worker to a spouse visa.
Jacque, who had held a Tier 2 General visa and Skilled Worker visa for 2 years, would have been eligible for settlement in 3 years’ time. Yet Jacque was very anxious about his job security given the impact of the pandemic on his sector, and his concerns about being forced to leave the UK and his partner if his job were to come to an end and he proved unable to not find a suitable replacement within the specified time. For Jacque restarting the clock towards settlement was a price worth paying for the comfort of knowing that he could remain in the UK with his partner.
For others, this option may not be wise or feasible. The applicant, unlike the sponsoring company will likely have to bear the costs of switching immigration categories. And they may not wish to rest the close towards settlement. Discussing the options with an immigration expert before taking any action can be the next best step.
Switching from the Skilled Worker to a spouse visa has many advantages for those whose circumstances have changed. Yet, it may not be suitable for all, as there are many factors to be considered and requirements to be met. An assessment of your prospects of qualifying for a spouse visa can be greatly beneficial. We also offer professional immigration assistance with preparing a visa application, to help the process go as smoothly as possible.
Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.
Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.
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Our processes are tried and tested and have proven successful. Yet, we know that each person’s circumstances are different and requires that individual touch when assisting you and when presenting the matter to UKVI.