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How to Move to the UK from the US

As a US citizen, if you plan to visit the UK for less than 6 months you will not require a visa for UK entry clearance. However, if you plan to move to the UK from the US, you will need a visa for a long-term stay.

If you are looking into how to move to the UK from the US, there are many types of work, family, and entrepreneurial business visa options available for you to consider. You can select the one that best meets your goals as not all UK visas lead to settlement in the UK (also known as permanent residence). For more about settling in the UK, please check our article: UK Settlement Visa

In this article, we look at immigration to the UK from the US visa options for those contemplating migrating.

UK work visas

UK work visas allow a US citizen to come to the UK for employment. The main work visa schemes are the:

Skilled worker visa

If you are moving to the UK from the US and require a work visa the skilled worker visa is the most popular work visa.

To obtain a skilled worker visa you need to find a UK employer with a sponsor licence to sponsor your employment. In addition, you need to:

  • Have a job offer from a sponsoring employer that meets the minimum skill threshold set at RQF level 3, which is the equivalent of A-level qualifications in the UK.
  • Have a certificate of sponsorship from your sponsoring employer with a job on a list of government-approved eligible skilled jobs with a standard occupation code.
  • Have a job with an annual salary of at least £25,600 per year or a specified percentage of the going rate for the job. The going rate is set by the government. The minimum salary threshold is reduced if your job qualifies as being on the UK shortage occupation list or if you qualify as a new entrant.
  • Meet the English language and maintenance requirements.

The skilled worker visa allows you to bring family members with you on dependant visas. Your skilled worker visa lasts up to 5 years and can be extended or, if you meet the eligibility criteria, you can settle in the UK by applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

The senior or specialist worker visa

The senior or specialist worker route is under the umbrella of the global mobility visa and replaced the intra-company transfer visa (ICT), allowing a US-based employee to transfer their employment to the UK provided you are:

  • Aged 18 years or over.
  • Working for a business linked to the UK sponsoring employer through common ownership or control or by a joint venture.
  • Working overseas for the linked business for at least 12 months unless you are earning at least £73,900. If so, the 12-month rule does not apply.
  • Allocated a certificate of sponsorship for a job at an appropriate skill level and the salary is at least £42,400 per year or the going rate for the job.
  • Meet the maintenance requirement.

The senior or specialist worker visa lasts for up to 5 years and you can bring family members who qualify for the dependant visa. However, whilst the senior or specialist worker visa is ideal if you are transferring employment from the US to the UK, the visa does not lead to UK settlement, and time spent on the visa does not count towards the residence requirement for your indefinite leave to remain application.

If your move from the US to the UK is a long-term move you may be able to switch to the skilled worker visa.

High potential individual visa

If you graduated within the last 5 years from a top international university you may be able to use your academic qualifications to help you apply for the High Potential Individual Visa. Whilst you do not need a job offer from a sponsoring employer you do need to have qualified in the equivalent of a UK bachelor’s degree, UK postgraduate degree, or a UK Ph.D. or doctorate. For more information about the requirement of this visa, please check our page: UK High Potential Individual visa

Whilst this visa route does not lead to UK settlement, it can be a useful temporary option if you want to move from the US to the UK without a job and look around for employment that meets your skill set once you are in the UK.

If you wish to settle permanently in the UK then you can switch to the skilled worker visa or other work or business visa once you are in the UK.

Scale-up visa

The scale-up visa launched in August 2022, which may be the right US to UK work visa route if you:

  • Are aged 18 years or over
  • Have a job offer and certificate of sponsorship from a UK scale-up business (high growth business) that has offered you a salary of at least £33,000 a year or the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher

For more information about the new Scale-up visa, please check our page: Scale-up visa requirements

Scale-up businesses are defined as having achieved 3 years of annual average revenue or employment growth of 20%. At the start of the 3 years, the business must have had at least 10 employees.

One of the uniqueness of the scale-up visa is you can leave the sponsored role after 6 months and switch to an unsponsored role. Furthermore, the scale-up visa can lead to settlement in the UK from the US without having to switch to a different visa category before applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Moving to the UK without a job

You can move to the UK from the US without a job with a UK family visa or business visa apart from the aforementioned High Potential Individual Visa. There are a wide variety of family and business visas to choose from, so we have highlighted below some of the most popular for those interested in immigration from the US to the UK.

UK family visas

Out of the range of family visas, two key ones of interest to those moving from the US to the UK are spouse visas and UK ancestry visa.

UK spouse visa

The essential spouse visa requirements are:

  • You are in a genuine and eligible relationship British citizen spouse, or partner partner with settled or ILR status.
  • You meet the financial requirement. You or your sponsor normally need to have an income of at least £18,600 a year.
  • You have suitable UK accommodation.
  • You meet the English language requirement – if you are from the US, you automatically meet this requirement as the US is on a list of majority-speaking English countries.
  • Spouse visa immigration rules and evidential requirements can become more complicated if you are in an unmarried relationship or if your sponsoring British citizen spouse is relying on the self-employed income to meet the financial requirement.
  • Entry clearance on a UK spouse visa means you will qualify to settle in the UK after 5 years through an ILR application.

You can check our UK Spouse Visa page for more information about the requirements.

UK ancestry visa

Although US citizens are not eligible, you can apply for a UK ancestry visa if you are a Commonwealth citizen living in the US and want to move to the UK. The key eligibility requirements are Commonwealth citizenship and:

  • Aged 17 years or over.
  • Having a British grandparent who was born in the UK, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man.
  • Able or planning to work in the UK.
  • Able to support yourself financially in the UK without recourse to public funds.

You can check our UK Ancestry Visa page for more information about the requirements.

UK business visas

Whilst there have been changes to UK business visas, such as the closing of the Investor Visa and Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa routes to new applicants. As well as the renaming of the sole representative visa to the UK expansion worker visa with eligibility criteria tweaks, the UK does still want to attract entrepreneurs interested in UK immigration from the US.

For entrepreneurs looking to set up business in the UK there are two key business visa options:

Start-up visa – is for new entrepreneurs. This business visa does not lead to direct settlement in the UK but you do not need investment funds to qualify and you can switch to the innovator visa

Innovator visa – is for more experienced entrepreneurs looking to create an innovative, viable, and scalable UK business and who have at least £50,000 available to invest in their business.

Both business visas involve a 2-stage application process, endorsement by an industry body, and a Home Office application. Obtaining a UK start-up or innovator business visa is all about having an innovative business idea packaged into a business plan to secure the endorsement.

For assistance in applying for UK visas, please speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk.

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