If you are currently in the UK with limited leave to remain, what do you need to do to be able to stay in the country for longer?
This guide for visa-holders looks at the rules relating to UK visa extensions, from what type of visa can be extended to what happens if your visa expires.
Can you extend your visa to stay in the UK?
The option to extend your visa and for how long will very much depend on the type of visa that you currently hold. For example, if you are in the UK with a standard visitor visa, unless your visa is for less than 6 months, you cannot usually extend your stay. This is because, in most cases, you can only remain in the UK as a visitor for a maximum 6-month period, where you would need to re-apply for a new visa from outside the UK.
There are also visas that cannot be extended under any circumstances. For example, if you are in the UK on a graduate visa, this will allow you to remain in the UK for a maximum of 2 years having successfully completed a UK-based degree course, or 3 years if you qualified with a PHD or other doctoral qualification. The various temporary work routes are also time-limited, where these can only be extended up to their maximum and limited length of stay, such as the creative worker or charity worker visa. However, you may be able to apply to switch to a different type of visa to stay longer, for example, the skilled worker visa.
In addition to the skilled worker visa, there are plenty of other visas where you can apply to extend your UK stay, provided you meet the eligibility requirements for a visa extension. Eventually, you may even be allowed to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) with certain visas. ILR is the opportunity to settle in the UK permanently. After a period of 12 months with ILR status, you can also apply to naturalise as a British citizen, entitling you to live in the UK for the rest of your life, with full civic rights, and to hold a British passport.
When can you extend your UK visa?
Below we set out some of the different types of visa that can be extended from inside the UK, including the number of extensions that can be made on any given route. However, this list is not exhaustive, where you should always seek expert advice from an immigration specialist before applying for an extension, not only to ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements, but also to explore all available options and the best way forward for you:
Skilled worker visa
This type of visa can last for as long as 5 years before you need to extend it. You can apply to extend a skilled worker visa if you are working in the same job role as when you were last granted leave, your job is within the same occupation code, you have the same sponsor who assigned your existing sponsorship certificate and that employer is still licensed to sponsor skilled workers. You can apply to extend this visa as many times as you like, provided you still meet the relevant requirements. After 5 years, you may also be able to apply for ILR, allowing you to settle permanently in the UK.
You can initially stay in the UK under a spouse visa for 2 years and 9 months. You can also apply to extend your stay if you continue to meet the requirements. For example, if you are applying as the spouse of a person present and settled in the UK, or someone in the UK as a refugee or with humanitarian protection, you must show that your relationship is genuine and that you intend to continue to live together. A financial and English language requirement must also be met. If you are applying as the spouse of a British national or someone settled in the UK on the basis of your family or private life, you must also meet an accommodation requirement. If you extend your family visa, or switch into this visa route, you can remain in the UK for an additional 2.5 years. You can then apply to settle in the UK after either 5 or 10 years, depending on your specific route.
If you are in the UK under an ancestry visa, for example, as a British overseas citizen or Commonwealth citizen, with a UK-born grandparent, you can apply to extend your visa and remain in the UK for another 5 years. You can also extend this visa as many times as you want, provided you still meet the eligibility requirements. This means that you must have enough money without access to public funds to support yourself and any dependants, and you can and plan to work in the UK. You can go on to apply for settlement once you have lived in the UK on an ancestry visa for 5 years.
Even though applicants are no longer able to apply for a new Tier 1 (Investor) visa, if you are living in the UK on this route, you can still apply to extend your stay. However, you must have at least £2 million in the UK under your control, have invested those funds in share or loan capital in active UK-based companies, and invested this sum within a period of 3 months of your investor start date. The rules are slightly different if you applied for an investor visa before 6 November 2014. However, regardless of when you were first granted leave under an investor visa, you can apply to extend your UK stay for 2 years. You can also apply for ILR to settle permanently in the UK.
Importantly, if you cannot meet the relevant eligibility requirements for a visa extension UK, you may be eligible for a different type of visa under the immigration rules. It is possible to switch into another visa route from inside the UK from most types of visa.
How much does a UK visa extension cost?
The cost of a UK visa extension can vary, depending on the type of visa sought and even the length of your stay. For example, to extend a skilled worker visa, the fee is £719 for a 3-year extension or £1,423 for more than 3 years. For a spouse visa, the fee is £1,048, whilst an investor visa is £1638 and an ancestry visa £1,048. You will also be liable to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 for each additional year added on to your stay.
In the limited circumstances in which an extension to a visitor visa can be sought, the cost is £1,000. This could be where your initial visa was for less than 6 months and you apply to stay for the maximum 6-month period. Alternatively, you can apply to extend your visa for more than 6 months if you are either a patient receiving ongoing medical treatment, an academic and you still meet the relevant requirements, or a graduate retaking the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board test or doing a clinical attachment. The visitor visa is, however, one of those visas where you cannot switch into another visa category.
How long does a UK visa extension take?
When applying for a UK visa extension, you should normally get a decision from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) within approximately 8 weeks of your application date, although UKVI often have a backlog. For example, at the time of writing, it is taking on average 16 weeks to get a decision on skilled worker visas. Your extension application may also take longer if further information is needed. You may be contacted by UKVI if:
- your documents in support of your extension application need to be verified
- you are being asked to attend an in-person interview, or
- because of personal circumstances, such as a recent criminal conviction.
How to extend your UK visa
To obtain a visa extension UK, you must apply online using the appropriate form. For example, if you are applying as the spouse of someone settled in the UK, you should use Form FLR(M), where FLR(M) stands for ‘further leave to remain in the marriage category’. If you are applying on the basis of your family or private life, you will need to use Form FLR(FP), where FP refers to the family/private life provisions under UK immigration law.
As part of your extension application you will need to prove your identity, although how you do this will depend on where you are from and your passport type. You will either use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your ID document, or provide your biometrics at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. In most cases, you will also need to submit documentation in support of your application, where this can either be uploaded through your UKVI account or provided at your UKVCAS appointment.
When applying for an extension to stay, you must apply before your current visa expires. You must also remain in the UK pending your decision. If you travel outside of the Common Travel Area (the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands) prior to receiving your decision from UKVI, you will risk your extension application being withdrawn.
What if your UK visa has expired?
When applying for a UK visa extension, you must do so in time, prior to expiry of your existing visa. Even if your current grant of leave expires pending a decision from UKVI on your application, under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 you will still have the right to stay in the UK until you have been notified of the outcome. Section 3C leave will also continue pending any appeal or administrative review. The purpose of this statutory provision is to prevent anyone who has made an in-time extension application while awaiting a decision, or exhausting their appeal/review rights, from becoming an overstayer.
Where applicable, section 3C leave will usually remain subject to the conditions attached to your extant leave. This means, for example, if you were previously permitted to undertake work as a skilled worker, you may continue in your job as before, subject to any restrictions.
However, if you are late in applying for a visa extension, and your visa has already expired, your application may be refused. The provisions of section 3C will not be triggered where an application is made after your current grant of leave has run out, and you may be treated as an overstayer. This could negatively impact any future applications, even those made from outside the UK. It is also a criminal offence under section 24 of the 1971 Act to overstay your visa without reasonable cause, and unless you voluntarily leave the UK within 30 days at your own expense, you may face a ban on re-entry. Importantly, it is entirely your responsibility to ensure that you make an in-time application to extend your visa.
There is a 14-day exception for late applications, where UKVI will disregard a period of overstaying provided you apply for renewal of your existing visa, or to switch to a new visa, within 14 days of your previous visa expiring. You must also be able to show that there was a good reason beyond your control why your application could not be made in time. Each case will be decided on its own merits, but examples of exceptional circumstances that might be considered beyond your control include where you were admitted to hospital for emergency treatment or you have suffered a close family bereavement. However, you must provide evidence to back up your claim, like an official letter verifying the dates of any hospital admission and discharge, as well as the nature of your medical treatment.
Finally, if you apply within the 14-day consideration period of overstaying, your previous leave will not be re-instated or temporarily extended pending a decision on your extension application. You can remain in the UK until you have been notified by UKVI of the outcome, but you will be without valid leave during that time. This means that whilst waiting for a decision on your visa extension, you will have not have permission to undertake any work.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. Our experienced lawyers are on hand to advise on your UK options to remain in the UK and to guide you through the Home Office application process. For support with your UK visa extension application, contact us.
UK visa extension FAQs
Can I get an extension on my UK visa?
You can apply for a visa extension UK, provided you continue to meet the eligibility requirements and make an application prior to expiry of your existing visa. However, some visas cannot usually be extended, like the visitor visa.
How long does visa extension take UK?
When applying for a visa extension, you should normally get a decision within 8 weeks of your application date, although there’s a backlog. For example, it’s currently taking around 16 weeks to get a decision on skilled worker visas.
How much is UK visa extension fee?
The cost of a UK visa extension can vary, depending on the visa and even length of stay. For example, to extend a skilled worker visa, the fee is £719 for 3 years or £1,423 for more than 3 years.
Last updated: 20 November 2022