USA and the UK
Moving to the UK
With an unprecedented number of Americans now looking to leave the country to the likes of Canada, Europe, and the UK, many are seeking UK immigration advice about visa and residency options, and about how to get the process started.
Essentially, moving to the UK is possible as follows:
- As temporary residents with a visa
- As permanent residents if you have a Right to Abode or a path to British citizenship.
At IAS, we have extensive experience in assisting Americans with moving to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, whether it be to work, invest in a business, study or live with family. It’s important to gain as much information about moving to England before you make the leap from the USA. As such, we’ve put together some key UK immigration information on this page.
If you’re ready to discuss your desired move to the UK from the USA with an immigration attorney, get in touch with our team.
- Can a U.S. citizen live in the UK?
- Am I eligible for a Family Visa?
- Am I eligible for a Spouse Visa?
- Am I eligible for an Unmarried Partner Visa?
- What about Student Visas for the UK?
- British citizenship by descent and double descent
- What is the Ancestry Visa?
- What is the Skilled Worker Visa
- What are the Business Visa options?
Can a US citizen live in the UK?
If you are a US citizen and thinking of moving to the UK for six months or longer, you will need to obtain the relevant visa. This needs careful consideration and the right UK immigration advice. You need to take into account your situation in its entirety in order to get the type of visa that applies most closely to your situation and your reasons for moving. This may be because of work, family, study or investment. You will need to apply for whichever visa type you legally need for the purpose of your proposed UK move.
As a general rule, you will be able to move to the UK providing you meet the visa requirements for US citizens to live in England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales within your chosen visa category. We have summarised the most common of these on this page, and there is further information on each category contained elsewhere on our website.
Am I eligible for a Family Visa?
This entitles you to move to the UK for a period of six months or more. You can actually stay for up to 33 months, at which point you can then extend your visa. The requirements for this type of UK family visa are, however, quite stringent.
They require you to be over 18, and to be able to prove that your relationship with the person you will be joining is genuine and legally recognised, that you will remain living with the person during your stay and that they have adequate space for you to live. As with the majority of UK visas, you will also have to demonstrate a solid understanding of English.
Last modified on September 21st, 2022 at 4:28 am
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Am I eligible for a Spouse Visa?
For the purposes of moving to England (or the UK), UK Spouse Visas are one of the most common visa types that we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
If your husband, wife or civil partner is a British Citizen then you can apply through this visa category and move to the UK.
The Spouse Visa allows you to stay in the UK for an initial 30-33 months. After this period of time, you can apply for a Spouse Visa extension of a further 30 months, provided that you continue to meet the requirements throughout your time in the UK.
Differing from other visa types, a Spouse Visa will also grant you the right to work in the UK during your residency. You must be able to prove that you are legally married in the UK, that you intend to live together for the duration of your living here, and be able to financially support yourself independent of any government funding.
The spouse who is a British Citizen must also meet the £18,600 per year minimum income requirement for Spouse Visa applications in order for your visa to be approved.
Am I eligible for an Unmarried Partner Visa?
If you are planning to join a boyfriend or girlfriend living in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you can apply under a Family of a Settled Person Visa or the Unmarried Partner Visa, but there are slightly different requirements when there is no blood relation to the person you’re intending to move to the UK to join.
The rules for the Unmarried Partner Visa in the UK fall under the broader Family Visa category. Note that you will need to submit a significant amount of documentation in order to apply for this visa.
An American citizen who wants to move to the UK on an Unmarried Partner Visa may do so only if they are in an existing relationship with a ‘present and settled’ citizen living in the UK.
Again, you must be over 18, as must your partner, and able to prove that your relationship is legitimate and genuine, in addition to proving that any previous relationships with others have ceased.
You will also be required to be either engaged or intending to enter into a civil partnership, and/or have been living together for a period of 2 years or more.
There are also financial requirements for an Unmarried Partner Visa. A minimum income of £18,600 per year is required.
There are also further financial requirements if you are planning to bring any children with you.
If you are planning to be married or enter into a civil partnership, you must prove that you plan to do so within the first six months of your arrival in the UK.
Applying for an Unmarried Partner Visa can be very complicated, and the Home Office rules for this visa change frequently. Any inaccurate or incomplete applications may result in a denied application, so do consider taking expert immigration advice.
What about Student Visas for the UK?
If you are a US citizen who wants to move to the UK for a period of study, then a Tier 4 Student Visa application is the right way forward. You can bring your spouse or partner, and children with you. You must already have an offer for an educational course in the UK, and have the funds available to pay for both your chosen course and your living expenses during your period of study in the UK.
When will I need my student visa?
You will need to have your student visa approved and in place prior to entering the UK, so we recommend applying three weeks prior to the start of your course to avoid disappointment. Once approved, you’ll be permitted to enter the country using your Student Visa a week prior to your course start date.
Can I extend my Student Visa?
Post-study, if you wish to stay in the UK to carry on studying or as a graduate, you can apply for a Student Visa extension and remain in the UK. As with all UK visas, requirements will need to be met to obtain an extension.
British Citizenship by Descent and Double Descent
Here is a summary of the various ways you may be eligible to claim British Citizenship by Descent or by Double Descent (grandparent).
British Citizenship by Descent
Typically, you would have been born outside the UK but have British parents.
In general, your parents must have been born in the UK and be registered British citizens or settled people in order to pass this status onto you.
You will automatically be considered for British Citizenship by Descent if you were born outside the UK on or after 1 January 1983, if one or both of your parents were a British citizen ‘otherwise than by descent’ at the time of your birth.
However, there other situations in which you may be able to claim British Citizenship by Descent, and the rules can be quite complicated. Apart from the ‘by descent’ route, there are other circumstances where you may be able to become registered as a British citizen by birth, registration, adoption or naturalisation.
British Citizenship by Double Descent
British Citizenship by Descent (grandparent), also known as double descent, is based on at least one of your grandparents being British. ‘Double Descent’ requires you to meet certain guidelines depending on when you were born, and when your grandparents were born.
There are three scenarios in which you can claim British citizenship by Double Descent (grandparent):
- Children who are under the age of 18 may be eligible for British Citizenship by Descent
- A person born before the 1st of January 1949
- A person born before the 1st of January 1949
British nationality law is extremely complex. If you do have any heritage connections to the UK through your parents or grandparents get in touch and our immigration attorneys can advise on your eligibility for moving to the UK via this route.
What is the Ancestry Visa?
As an alternative to applying for British Citizenship by Double Descent (grandparent), if you are not British but have a British grandparent and are a Commonwealth citizen, then moving to the UK can be achieved via a UK Ancestry Visa.
For the Ancestry Visa, your grandparent must have been born in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, on a British-registered ship or aircraft, or in the Republic of Ireland before 31st of March 1922.
This grandparent can be on either side of your family.
To be eligible for the Ancestry Visa, you have to be 17 years of age or older and there is no upper age limit.
Another requirement for this visa is that you will have to prove your intention and ability to work in the UK.
What is the Skilled Worker Visa?
If you intend to work in the UK you must be in possession of a job offer from a registered sponsoring employer, and the role must be at graduate level. Unfortunately, manual, clerical, or administrative roles cannot usually be sponsored.
Your prospective employer must be registered to be able to issue a
Certificate of Sponsorship. The employer must be able to show that they have advertised the position in the UK and that there are no suitable candidates. Our attorneys can assist with registering the UK business as a sponsor.
If a UK employer is able to sponsor you as a new hire for their UK business, you can obtain a Skilled Worker Visa for up to five years and be accompanied by your family including spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, and any children aged under 18.
After five years’ employment in the UK and if you meet certain other requirements, you should be will generally be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, otherwise known as permanent residence.
There are other work visas you may be eligible for such as Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, Temporary Work Visa, Sportsperson Visa and Minister of Religion Visa – please reach out to us if you wish to move to the UK but are unsure of the best work visa for your situation.
What are the Business Visa options?
There are several business-related visas you may be eligible for, including the following:
The UK Tier 1 Investor Visa is for those who wish to invest at least £2 million in an active and trading UK business.
The UK Innovator Visa is for experienced business people who would like to set up a business in the UK and who have at least £50,000 to invest in the UK.
The UK Start-up Visa replaced the old Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa in 2019 and is for entrepreneurs who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys. You will need to have an original business idea that has been endorsed by an authorized body in the UK, and be able to support yourself financially whilst in the UK.
The Business Visitor Visa allows you to enter the UK for up to six months and you can only conduct certain types of business activities under it.
This type of visa comes under the Standard Visitor Visa category and can be used if you are self-employed or working as an employee.
No, the visa process for moving to England is the same as for the rest of the UK.
No, as a US Citizen moving from the US to the UK, your visa application will not be impacted by the prospect of Britain leaving the EU, this will only have an effect on European citizens, and at the moment does not have any impact at all.
There are a number of other visas for the UK that US citizens may be eligible for, such as a Tier 1 Investor Visa or Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, which we will cover at a later date. If you require assistance on any of the visa categories above or help with your move to the UK then our expert immigration advisors can help.
Unfortunately, the retirement visa route (“Retired persons of independent means”) for the UK was abolished in 2008. As a result, the UK no longer has a retirement visa which allows self-sufficient people who do not intend to work or start a business to enter and live in the UK.
Instead, you will need to follow the pathway for a residency visa. However if you have financial means to be able to invest at least £2 million in the UK, the UK Tier 1 Investor Visa route may be suitable.