As a foreign national living and working in the UK under a points-based system visa, you will need to renew your permission before your previous period of leave ends if you plan to extend your stay.
Often, you can renew your visa from within the UK, as long as this is done prior to expiry of your existing visa. In other cases, for example, where you are looking to switch your visa category, you may need to make an application for a different visa category, which could mean you have to leave the UK to apply.
The following guide looks at the visa renewal application process and considers the important question of timing and whether you can renew your UK visa before it expires?
When can I apply to extend my visa?
If you’re making an application to renew your visa from within the UK, you should always apply before your existing visa expires.
Special requirements and conditions included in certain visa categories can affect when you should apply.
For example, a Tier 2 (General) visa extension must be applied for within 3 months of your new CoS being assigned, or 60 days before any current leave expires, whichever is sooner. As a Tier 2 (General) visa holder you also cannot apply to extend your leave more than 3 months before the start date on your new CoS, which is the day after your current leave expires.
When you are applying for any visa change, whether it is an extension within the same visa category or switching to a different route, it’s always best to prepare well in advance. In this way, you will be ready to submit your application at the right time, and without any unnecessary added complications.
Once you have submitted your application you can stay in the UK until you’ve been given a decision, as long as you applied before your previous visa expired and your application is valid.
Can I renew my visa from within the UK?
The eligibility requirements for a visa renewal application will depend on the category of visa that you currently hold under the UK points-based system, and whether or not you continue to fulfil the requirements of that visa category.
For example, to qualify for an extension of a Tier 2 (General) visa as a skilled worker from outside the EEA, you must have permission to enter or stay on a Tier 2 (General) visa and still be present in the UK.
You must also meet the following requirements:
- Have the same job as when you were issued your previous leave to enter or stay in the UK
- Be working for the same employer who assigned your original Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), and
- Still be earning an appropriate salary for your particular Tier 2 category, where the salary must be at least the same, or higher, than that shown on your CoS for your previous grant of leave
For applicants that have previously been granted leave under a Tier 2 category, you will not need to prove the maintenance or English language requirement where evidence of this has already been provided to the UK Home Office. You will, however, need to be issued with a new CoS by your UK sponsor.
Can I apply from within the UK?
If your circumstances have changed since the last grant of leave, you may be eligible to switch to a different type of visa from within the UK. This could be, for example, where you came to the UK as a student and have subsequently secured a skilled job offer from a UK Tier 2 sponsor.
You can apply to switch from another visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa if you are already in the UK under any one of the following visas or schemes:
- Tier 1 visa
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa
- Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visa, where this was issued under the Immigration Rules in place before 6 April 2010 and you’re applying to change sponsor
- Tier 4 visa, where you have an eligible qualification, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and will complete your course in 3 months, or you’ve done at least 12 months of a PhD
- Start-up or Innovator visa
It is also possible to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa in-country if you’re a dependent partner of someone with a Tier 4 visa, or a representative of an overseas business. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you must leave the UK and make your Tier 2 (General) application from abroad.
What is the renewal application process?
When you apply to renew your visa from within the UK, you need to do so online, including within your application any dependants who are on your current visa.
You will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information, ie; a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photo of your face.
You will need to submit certain documentation in support of your application. This can either be done by uploading the documents into the online service or by having them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.
During your visa renewal application process, you must remain in the UK. If you travel outside of the UK, Ireland or the Channel Islands prior to receiving your decision from the Home Office, you risk your application being withdrawn.
How long do extension applications take?
The processing times of visa renewal applications can vary depending on the category of visa. For a Tier 2 (General) visa extension, decisions are typically made within 8 weeks of your application date if you use the standard service.
For an additional charge you can opt to use the priority service, where a decision will usually be made within 5 working days of your UKVCAS appointment, or by the end of the next working day if you use the super priority service.
There is, however, no guarantee that the application for an extension will be processed within this timeframe. If your circumstances are complicated, this could delay your application, for example, if your supporting documents need to be verified, you need to attend an interview or you have a criminal conviction.
Having received your decision letter, your biometric residence permit will take up to 10 working days to arrive.
What if my visa has expired?
If you fail to make a renewal application prior to the expiry of your existing visa, or an application to switch visa category, you will be classed as overstaying. This means that you will be living and working in the UK illegally.
Ensuring you renew your UK visa before the previous period of leave ends is important if you want to avoid any later problems with the Home Office. In particular, it is a criminal offence to overstay your visa without reasonable cause. Overstaying will also be taken into consideration in any future UK immigration applications that you make.
As an overstayer, you will have 30 days to voluntarily leave the country from the date your permission to be in the UK expired, before you risk being deported. You could also face a ban on re-entering the UK for between 1-10 years.
You will be allowed to submit a visa application up to 14 days after the expiry date of your previous visa, but only if can show a good reason, beyond your control, why the application could not be made in time.
Examples of good reasons to overstay include where you were receiving emergency medical treatment or you were affected by a close family bereavement. In other words, the 14-day rule for renewals or extensions can only be used in unavoidable and fairly rare situations.
It is also worth noting that the Home Office won’t remind you when your visa or leave expires. You will need to check your biometric residence permit, or any stamp or sticker in your passport. It is therefore always best to seek expert advice from an immigration law specialist in the event of any uncertainty.
Your expert legal advisor can guide you through the process of applying for a visa renewal, or what to do if you have missed the deadline. In this way, you can maximise the prospects of being granted leave to remain in the UK. You may even be eligible for indefinite leave to remain, allowing you to settle in the UK on a permanent basis without the worry of further applications in the future.
Temporary COVID-19 concessions for extensions
As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the rules relating to visa extensions have been temporarily amended.
This means that if your visa was due to expire between 24 January and 31 July 2020, and you haven’t been able to leave because of travel restrictions or self-isolation, you will be allowed to stay in the UK until 31 July 2020. You may also be able to switch to a visa that allows you to stay after this date.
In addition, the rules relating to visa extensions have been amended for health workers. This means that you and your family may be eligible for a one-year extension to your visa for free. To be eligible for a free extension, you must:
Work for the NHS or an independent healthcare provider in an eligible profession, and
Have a visa that expires between 31 March and 1 October 2020.
The extension will apply from the date your visa is due to expire. If your visa is due to expire after 1 October 2020, you will not get the free extension, where you will need to extend your visa in the normal way.
For a family member to qualify they must be included on your existing visa as a dependant, and their permission must also expire between 31 March and 1 October 2020. If, however, you are a health worker with indefinite leave to remain, your dependants will not be eligible to extend their visas for free.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. Our experienced lawyers are on hand to advise on your UK visa options and to guide you through the Home Office application process. For support with your UK visa extension application, contact us.
Extending your UK visa FAQs
How soon can I renew my visa before it expires?
How soon you can renew your visa before it expires will depend on the type of visa you are looking to extend. A Tier 2 (General) visa extension must be applied for within three months of the new Certificate of Sponsorship being assigned or 60 days before any current leave expires, whichever is sooner.
Can I renew my UK visa before it expires?
If you are looking to extend your stay from within the UK, you must apply prior to expiry of your existing visa. Making sure that you renew your UK visa before the previous period of leave ends is really important if you want to avoid being classed as an ‘overstayer’, with a risk of being deported.
How many months before UK visa expires can you travel?
If you leave the UK shortly before your visa is due to expire, the decision as to whether to grant re-entry will be made by Border Force staff based at ports of entry. If you’ve already submitted an application to renew your UK visa you must remain in the UK. If you travel outside of the UK, Ireland or the Channel Islands prior to receiving your decision, you risk your application being withdrawn.
What happens if my visa expires in UK?
If your visa expires in the UK, you will be classed as an’ overstayer’. This means that you are in the UK without permission and risk being deported. You could also face a ban on re-entry to the UK, depending on when you leave and whether you do so voluntarily.
Last updated: 29 June 2020