Switching immigration status

The Home Office has strict rules on which groups can apply to change their immigration status while in the UK. The most common scenarios within the University setting are detailed below.

PLEASE NOTE: that those applying for a EEA Residence Card on the basis that they are the non-EEA family member of an EEA national are applying for a document to evidence their existing rights, rather than making a visa application. As a result, EEA Residence Card applications can always be made from within the UK as switching rules do not apply.

Switching into Dependant of Tier 1, 2, or 5 visa holder

The family member of a Tier 1, 2, or 5 visa holder can apply to switch into Dependant status whilst remaining in the UK as long as they hold a valid visa, however, this does not apply to those in any of the 'Visitor' visa categories (general/ tourist visitor, business visitor, academic visitor etc.) and those on temporary admission (for example those seeking asylum in the UK) or temporary release from detention.

Switching into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

Only the following may apply to switch into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) status whilst remaining in the UK but must submit their application before their existing visa expires:

  • Tier 1;
  • Tier 2;
  • Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange - Sponsored Researcher).

If they are not in any of these categories they must leave the United Kingdom and apply from their home country, or one where they have permission to live for at least 6 months.

Switching out of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa holders may switch into the following categories whilst remaining in the UK as long as they submit their application before their existing visa expires:

  • Tier 2;
  • Dependant of Tier 1, 2, or 5 visa holder.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa holders may not switch to a Tier 5, tourist, business, academic or other visitor visa from within the UK. Instead, they must leave the United Kingdom and apply from their home country, or one where they have permission to live (work or study, for example) for at least 6 months.

Switching into Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Worker)

The Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Worker), also referred to as Tier 1 (General), route was closed with effect from 6 April 2015. Those who already hold Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Worker) visas will need to switch out of this category into a permitted category (see below) or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), also referred to as settlement, before their visa expires.

Switching out of Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Worker)

Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Worker) visa holders may switch into one of the following categories whilst remaining in the UK as long as they submit their application before their existing visa expires:

  • Tier 4;
  • Tier 2;
  • Dependant of Tier 1, 2, or 5 visa holder.

Tier 1 (Highly Skilled Worker) visa holders may not switch to a Tier 5, tourist , business, academic or other visitor visa from within the UK. Instead, they must leave the United Kingdom and apply from their home country, or one where they have permission to live (work or study, for example) for at least 6 months.

Switching into Tier 1 (Post-Study Worker)

The Tier 1 (Post-Study Worker) route was closed with effect from 6 April 2012. Tier 1 (Post-Study Worker) visa holders should already have switched into another category.

Switching out of Tier 1 (Post-Study Worker)

The Tier 1 (Post-Study Worker) route was closed with effect from 6 April 2012. Tier 1 (Post-Study Worker) visa holders should already have switched into another category.

Switching into Tier 2 (General)

Only the following may apply to switch into Tier 2 (General) employment without leaving the UK:

  • Tier 1;
  • Tier 4;
  • student;
  • dependant partners of student visa holders;
  • student nurse, but only if your certificate of sponsorship shows that you are being sponsored to work as a nurse, doctor, or dentist;
  • student re-sitting an examination;
  • person writing up a thesis;
  • overseas qualified nurse or midwife;
  • postgraduate doctor or dentist, but only if your certificate of sponsorship shows that you have been sponsored to work as a nurse, doctor or dentist;
  • student union sabbatical officer;
  • qualifying work permit holder;
  • Highly Skilled Worker;
  • a participant in the International Graduate Scheme (formerly known as the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme).

If the visa holder is not in any of these categories, they must leave the United Kingdom and make a new visa application at their local entry clearance post in their resident country.

Please note that under the Tier 2 'Cooling Off Period' rules those applying from within the UK who have held a Tier 2 visa within the past twelve months but switched out of Tier 2 into a different immigration category (e.g. Tier 1 or Tier 4) will not be eligible to switch back into Tier 2 (General) for at least twelve months after they switched out of Tier 2.

The resident labour market test (advertising requirements) will not need to be met for those switching into Tier 2 (General) from within the UK who hold either a Tier 4/ student visa (and have successfully completed and passed a UK recognised bachelor or postgraduate degree or completed a minimum of 12 months study in the UK towards a UK PhD during their current period of leave or a period of continuous leave which includes the last grant of leave), a Tier 1 (Post-Study Worker) visa, or a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.

Dependants of work permit holders or students, tourist visitors, or academic visitors may not switch into Tier 2 employment without leaving the UK.

Switching out of Tier 2 (General)

Tier 2 visa holders may switch into one of the following categories whilst remaining in the UK as long as they submit their application before their existing visa expires:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent);
  • Tier 4;
  • Dependant of Tier 1, 2, or 5 visa holder.

Tier 2 visa holders may not switch to a Tier 5, tourist , business, academic or other visitor visa from within the UK. Instead, they must leave the United Kingdom and apply from their home country, or one where they have permission to live (work or study, for example) for at least 6 months.

Switching into Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange)

Only the following may apply to switch into Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) status whilst remaining in the UK but must submit their application before their existing visa expires:

  • Tier 4 visa holder who has
    • completed their studies and obtained a UK bachelors, masters degree, PGCE or PGDE; and
    • are being sponsored to undertake an internship for up to 12 months which is directly related to the qualification above, or postgraduate professional training/ work experience for up to 12 months which is required to obtain a professional qualification or registration in the same professional field as their qualification above; and
    • their employer does not intend to employ them at the end of the period in question (switching into Tier 2 from within the UK is not permitted at the end of such a period)

Switching into Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) from any other immigration category is not permitted whilst in the UK. Those in any other immigration category wishing to switch into the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) category must return to their home country, or one where they have permission to live (work or study, for example) for at least 6 months, and make a new visa application.

Switching out of Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange)

Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange - Sponsored Researcher) visa holders may switch into the following category whilst remaining in the UK as long as they submit their application before their existing visa expires:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent);
  • Dependant of Tier 1, 2, or 5 visa holder;
  • Dependant of Tier 4 visa holder.

Switching out of Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) into any other immigration category is not permitted whilst in the UK and to do so they must return to their home country, or one where they have permission to live (work or study, for example) for at least 6 months, and make a new visa application.

Brexit

There is currently no requirement for EU nationals to register for any documentation to confirm their status in the UK, however, in light of the uncertainties about Brexit those who want to apply for documentation confirming their status could consider the following options:

  • Those who have worked in the UK for less than 5 years can apply for a Registration Certificate
  • Those who have worked in the UK for at least 5 years have a permanent right to reside and can apply for a Permanent Residence Certificate
  • Those who have worked in the UK for at least 6 years are eligible to apply for British citizenship (but must obtain a Permanent Residence Certificate first), as are children born in the UK whose parent(s) have Permanent Residence.

Years spent carrying out other activities in the UK can also be relied on, such as those spent as a student as long as comprehensive medical cover was held. Family members of EU nationals who have been working and/or studying here should also be eligible to apply under these routes.

Croatian, Bulgarian and Romanian, and other EU nationals can rely on time in the UK before their countries joined the European Union.

For more information see the University’s Oxford and Brexit dedicated site for Brexit news, information and academic analysis, and Information for EU staff page which provides a video podcast of an information session along with the presentation slides and a Q&A.

The Staff Immigration Team provide guidance on the requirements, and application process, for EEA Registration Certificates and Permanent Residence but are not in a position to check applications.