Benefits of switching from a Tier 2 visa to a spouse visa

Officially known as a “family of a settled person” visa, the main advantage of the UK spouse visa is that there are no work restrictions. Unlike a Tier 2 visa, where you are only allowed to work for your sponsored employer, you may be employed by anyone.

Young couple in love

A spouse visa allows you to work and study in the UK, as well as bring dependents or family members into the country. However, it usually doesn’t allow the holder access to public funds or other benefits. As such, you will need to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.

Although there are many benefits to holding a spouse visa, you are not obliged to change from a Tier 2 to a spouse visa upon marrying a UK citizen. If you do decide to make the switch, you may apply from within the UK.

A major consideration when deciding whether or not to switch is how the change will affect you in obtaining permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Changing from a Tier 2 to a spouse visa would reset your qualifying period, starting at year zero.

Spouse visas are generally available to people who are:

  • Already in the UK
  • Not from the European Economic Area or Switzerland
  • Intending to remain with a family member or partner who is living in the UK permanently

The visa will allow you to stay in the UK for two years and six months, with the option of extending. After a five year period you may apply for ILR. If you do not meet the requirements for ILR after five years, you might be eligible to apply under the 10 year programme.

This is a more lenient route, with financial requirements lowered from £35000 to £18600. However, you might still need to take or retake an English language test, depending on your country of origin.

There are instances where you will not be allowed to switch visa categories. Applicants who are only permitted to stay in the UK for up to six months may not switch. However, an exception exists where permission was specifically given as a fiancé or proposed civil partner on the relevant visa. Prospective applicants who are in breach of immigration rules will also not be considered.

Are you considering switching to a family of a settled person visa? Find out if you’re eligible, through our free online visa assessment tool.

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  • Mchen

    Hi John,
    I’m an Indian citizen married to a British citizen. At the moment our family(my wife and our daughter) is residing in India and we are planning to visit England for a short term.

    But the problem is that I was rejected UK tourists visa thrice (2 years back). And since after we got married this will be my first try to apply for visa along with my daughter (holding Indian passport).

    Now I’m not sure if applying for tourists visa is a good idea again or I should just try for Spouse visa(my father in law is willing to sponsor my family).
    Please put your input.

    (Our family is no intension to stay in UK for long term at the moment)


    • 1st Contact

      Hi Mchen, if your intention is not to settle in the UK then I would advise that you do not apply for the UK spousal visa as this is granted with the intention to settle in the UK. I would suggest that you follow the visit visa route in this case.

  • Sam

    Hi, my partner has a tier 2 work visa and we are looking to get married, however when I enquired at the local registry office they have stated that he must get at spousal visa else we can’t get married, which doesn’t seem right, especially given your article, but I cannot find anything specific to our circumstances on the Gov sites. Please can you help. Thanks

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Sam, you would have the ability to marry in the UK when in the Country on a Tier 2 Work Permit.

  • Claire Dean

    You say that if you switch from a Tier 2 to a partner visa then your 5 year qualifiying period begins from zero? I can’t find anything on the Gvt website to support this. Can you point me in the right place please? I just got married and my Tier 2 expires in March, my 5 years will be in July 2017 so I don’t want to risk changing to a partner visa if i have to start again. I already made that mistake once with the Tier 5!

  • Jason

    I’m currently in the UK on a Tier 2 Sponsored and my wife is here on a Tier 2 Spouse. How difficult is it if I wanted to switch to the Tier 2 Spouse for greater flexibility work wise (assuming my wife’s workplace will sponsor her Tier 2 Sponsored)? Is there a steamlined process for making the change or would it require the same amount of work as getting the original visas (ie returning to Australia, re-applying etc). Many thanks!

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Jason, The application would be the same as you would have done in Australia.