Visitors are generally not permitted to change to other visa when in the UK
If you arrive in the UK as a visitor, in general you are not permitted to change to a different UK visa category whilst in the UK. This is a strict rule with only few exceptions that we mention further below.
The rationale behind the visit visa is that the visitor comes to the UK for a short time only with the intention to return to their home country after the visit. For this reason, the UK immigration rules require that a visitor should travel back o their home country and apply for another UK visa category from there.
It may be tempting to apply from the UK to save time and costs relating to travel, however, in the vast majority of cases such application will be refused.
Exceptions when visitor may change to other visa in the UK
The exception when a visitor status holder may be able to change their visa status whilst in the UK is under the EU Settlement Scheme.
The other possible exception is where an application is made by a visitor to remain in the UK, where there are exceptional circumstances that may allow a person here as a visitor to remain on the basis of their family life on a 10-year route.
Visitor may change visitor visa status under EU Settlement Scheme
If you are a family member of EU national who holds status under the EU Settlement Scheme or you were in the UK before December 2020 and acquired rights under EUSS, you may be able to apply from inside the UK.
The EU Settlement Scheme guidance specifically explains that a visitor may be able to apply from the UK . This is, however, a complex scenario and we recommend to seek legal advice from immigration lawyer in such circumstances.
Can you change from visitor to spouse visa from inside the UK
The general rule is that visitor cannot change to spouse visa when in the UK. This is confirmed in the Immigration rules Appendix FM, which we copy below for ease of reference.
Immigration status requirements
E-LTRP.2.1. The applicant must not be in the UK
- as a visitor; (…)
Visitor applying under family life route
The other exception is where an application is made by a visitor to remain in the UK, it is only where there are exceptional circumstances, that a person here as a visitor can remain on the basis of their family life on a 10-year route. The immigration rules in this area are complex and advice from immigration lawyers is recommended.
Can you apply for work visa when in the UK as a visitor
As a visitor you are not permitted to apply for any UK work visa from inside the UK. You must return to your home country to apply for a work visa from there. This is called an entry clearance application.
If you decide to make your application from inside the UK when you are a visitor, your application will be refused and you will lose the fees paid for the visa.
Conclusions and recommendation
The conclusion is that visitors to the UK should not apply for any other visa when they are in the UK. They should return to their home country to apply from there.
There are only few exceptions to the above rule to apply from outside the UK. However, if you think about changing your visa from visitor when you are in the UK, we do recommend to first seek an advice from immigration lawyer.