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.

, , , ,

  • 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.

  • lily

    Hi. I currently holding tier 2 and switch to spouse visa before my tier 2 expire date. During my spouse visa application, my tier 2 is expired now. Could i continue work in my company? My HR request a writing confirmation to prove that i allow to to work when applying new visa.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Lily,
      As long as your application has been received by the Home Office before your visa expires, you may continue to to work.

      • Yu

        Following on from this – what if I am awaiting the result of my spouse visa when I finish my employment with my Tier 2 sponsor? Will I be able to work elsewhere while I wait for my response?

        • 1st Contact

          Hi Yu, this would need to be complete before starting a new employment,.

          • Yu

            Thank you for your help!

  • margarita

    Hi I am currently holding Tier 2 and want to switch to a spouse visa (I am biased in the UK). Do I need to complete FLR (M) form or a different form?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Margarita,
      The FLR (M) form is correct

      • margarita

        Thank you!

  • Akshata Rao


    I am currently on a tier 2 visa and need to switch to a spousal visa before my tier 2 expiry date (February 13th, 2017) as the company I work for can no longer continue my sponsorship. Do I have enough time to switch to a spousal visa?
    Can I continue to work during my spousal visa application process?

    I am an Indian citizen married to a British national (we have been married for a year-and-a-half) but I have been living in the UK since 2011 – first on a student visa, then on a PSW visa and on a tier 2 work visa for the past three years.

    According to my research, if I switch from a Tier 2 to a spousal visa then my 5 year qualifying period for settlement restarts or goes back to zero. I can’t seem to find any information on the UKBA website on this. Could you point me in the right direction please?

    If I were to switch my visa, would I be eligible to apply for settlement (ILR) in 2020 on having lived in the country for ten years? I don’t want to risk changing to a partner visa if I have to start all over again.

    Any guidance you could offer would me immensely helpful.

    Thanks in advance


    • 1st Contact

      Hi Akshata,

      You will need to submit your application prior to your current visa expiry date.
      Should you switch to the UK spousal visa, your 5 year qualifying period will return back to day one.

    • Ravi Shankar Shah

      Hey, I Need your help. Very desperately .

      • 1st Contact

        Hi Ravi,

        You can email your query through to our Immigration specialists. They can be reached on,

  • Vishal

    Hi would it be possible to switch from a spouse visa to a work visa ( i already work for the company ) if the company can sponsor my visa?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Vishal,

      You are able to switch to the Tier 2 work visa once you have been issued with your certificate of sponsorship.

      • Vishal

        Oh so it’s possible to switch from a spouse visa to a Tier 2 visa whilst still in the U.K?

        • 1st Contact

          Hi Vishal, yes this would be possible as long as your Visa is valid at the time of application.

          • Vishal

            I’m sorry I keep asking the same question but just to reassured. I read that if you are currently on an unmarried partner visa and wish to switch to a Tier 2 work visa you have to leave the country first, was that wrong?

  • Vivien

    Hi. I am currently under my Tier 2 and want to switch to Spouse Visa (after getting married). However my boyfriend is still under Job Seeker Allowance from the government and doesn’t have steady income. How much exactly does he need to earn monthly to sponsor me? can we combine our income to meet the requirement? (as I would still continue my full-time job with the same employer). Thanks

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Vivien, for more specific details on this qualifying criteria I would suggest you contact our immigration team directly on

  • Vanessa

    Hi, I am considering switching from my Tier 2 visa to the spouse visa. How long is this process/change likely to take?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Vanessa,

      Should you apply via the post it could take up to 6 months, however the fast track service usually take around 2 weeks to finalise.

  • Nicole

    Hi there, I have the same query as Claire Dean, below. I’ve been on Tier 5 for two years, then was on Tier 2 (Sponsored) for about 4 years. I’ve just switched to a partnership visa as my husband is British (an application which was originally rejected, but then overturned on appeal after a year-long process) but you’re now saying I can’t combine the time spent on Tier 2 and Partnership? (I’m aware Tier 5 was never included). Can you please provide a government/Home Office source for this? I can’t believe I’m re-setting the five years from scratch when I was so close…I can’t begin to explain how frustrated I am with this entire process..

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Nicole,

      You can find information on

      Unfortunately your 5 years starts again when switching over to the partner visa.

  • Tom Andrews

    Hello, I am a British Citizen from birth but my partner is Australian. We met in the UK an started our relationship here, I then moved to Australia and live with her for 8 months. I am now back in the UK and my partner wants to join me here, is it possible to get the family of a settled person visa if you have not lived together for two years? Would the only answer to be get married? Thanks in advance.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Tom, in order for your partner to be eligible as an unmarried partner the 24 months of cohabitation would be vital in the application.

  • Steve Smith

    Hello. I am a Canadian who came over to UK in 2014 with my wife and daughter on a Tier 2 visa sponsored by my company. This Visa is now expiring (30 more days).

    I was born in Canada, but both my parents (married) were born in Northern Ireland and as such I am an Irish and British citizen by descent. I recently obtained my Irish passport and as I just found out, I am already a Brit citizen by default and that passport is on its way now. I had originally thought I had to apply for citizenship via a UKM application, which I did. Two months later, I was contacted by the Home Office to let me know that I was already a citizen and that they would go ahead and process my passport application.

    So now onto my wife and daughter. They are both Canadians and need to figure out what the best course of action is at this point. Had I not been a Brit citizen, I could have applied for an EEA Family permit based on my Irish passport, but that is no longer a possibility. That obviously would have been the cheaper solution.

    My wife – I think the only course of action here is to file for her to remain in the UK as per the below link. This would be a bit costly, but ultimately, I don’t think I have any other option.

    My daughter – Had we had more time (the Tier 2 visa expires soon), we would register her as a foreign birth via Ireland and then get her her Irish passport. As time is not on our side here, it looks like there are two options..

    1. Add her to the above application process, pay the IHS charge and renew her in 2+ years as per my wife


    2. Can you she apply for ILR right now based on my British citizenship? Application SET (F).

    Looking for a little advice here.. Are there any other options? Or do I have the process correct above?


    • 1st Contact

      Hi Steve,
      Thank you for your enquiry. Your situation is not straightforward and it would be best that you call us on 0207 759 7525

  • Mak

    Hi John,
    As a British citizen with an Australian partner (together 10 years, not yet married) we intend to settle in UK and eventually get her citizenship. We intend to be married at some point while in the UK, but we don’t want to have to switch visas and loose all of the days we spent in UK so far (counted towards citizenship).
    – Which visa would it be best for her to enter the UK on, so that we can get married and it doesn’t affect our time already spent in UK towards ILR then citizenship?
    Thank you!

  • USALadyUK

    Hi John –
    I’m an American on a Tier 2 visa – where my company is sponsoring me. It’s been about a year. However, a year and a half ago I married a British citizen in America in private ceremony, so we also had a public renewal ceremony in England two weeks ago.
    I’d like to switch to a spousal visa – so I have more flexibility in terms of work, but my husband currently lives in America with plans to move back to the UK in a year. We’re doing a long distance marriage at the moment. We see each other frequently, and definitely meet any financial requirements – but are there any requirements around co-habitation? We technically share flats both in the states and in the UK. He also spent 5 months here last summer.
    Any advice you can provide is much appreciated

  • Venkatesan Sundaram

    Hi , I have few question on Tier 2 depended visa, whether Tier 2 de[ended visa holder can do business as sole proprietor , he or she need registered as company ,VAT registration required , going to do professional service (IT Service) , Invoice will raised. Please advicce

  • Samantha

    Hi there;

    Are you able to change from a working holiday visa to a spouse visa in the UK? And is that process very easy?

    I am married and have been for 2 years but I can’t go over to the UK on a spouse visa as my husband has not yet got work to meet the income requirements.
    As I do meet the working holiday visa requirements I can see this is an easier process to get over, but I need to make sure that I can change at some point without having to leave the country.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Samantha, yes this is possible as long as the application is done from within the UK while your Tier 5 Visa is still valid.

  • Ivan

    Hi There

    As this article was written in May 2016 and at the time I’m writing this it’s June 2017, do your qualifying years still reset to zero if you change from a Tier 2 general workers visa to a family visa? Has this change at all? My office keeps telling me it doesn’t reset but I’m struggling to find anything about this on the website and I don’t want to make this mistake and lose the years I’ve been here. Any chance you know where this is and could post a link? Any help is appreciated.
    Many thanks

  • sarah wiley

    Hi, I’m on a Tier 2 work sponsored visa and plan to change to a spousal visa once I’ve lived with my British partner for two years. Someone told me that when I apply for the change, there’s a period that I am not allowed to work for. Is this the case? I plan to stay in my current job despite the visa change.

  • Laura Pickersgill Saayman

    Hi John Dunn,
    Perhaps you can help me by confirming this:
    If we are in the UK already, my husband is on tier 2 ICT and myself and the kids have BP. can we switch to the spousal visa from there for my husband, without having to leave the country? and would his salary be able to be used to meet the financial requirement as we would already be in the UK? or would it still be my salary as the sponsor?
    Thanks in advance, I have looked everywhere to try and find the answers to this.