How Can I Move to The USA Permanently from the UK?
The United States has been a popular destination for Brits looking for a new life for hundreds of years. Ever since 1607 when the first permanent British colony was established in Jamestown, Virginia, nationals of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have journeyed across the Atlantic in search of the ‘American Dream’. As of today, there are thought to be around 678,000 British nationals living in the US. While this is undoubtedly a large number, this is less than the 761,000 ‘ex-pats’ in Spain, and the 1.3m in Australia. If you have a dream to move to the United States, you will need to understand how to navigate the American immigration system. In this article, we will explain how UK nationals can make a permanent move to the United States.
What Is A Green Card?
A Green Card is formally referred to as a US Permanent Residence Card, allowing holders to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. There are several Green Card routes, including through:
- Victims of human trafficking and crime
- Victims of abuse
There are a range of other special routes including for religious workers, international broadcasters, and NATO employees.
Am I Eligible To Apply For A Green Card?
Under the family route, you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card if you are the:
- Immediate relative of a US citizen
- Other relative of a US citizen or relative of a lawful permanent resident under the family-based preference categories
- Fiancé(e) of a US citizen or the fiancé(e)’s child
- Widow(er) of a US citizen
Under the employment route, you can apply for a Green Card under if you qualify under one of three routes; either as an immigrant worker, a physician who agrees to work full-time in clinical practice in a designated underserved area for a set period of time, or as an investor (with at least $1 million, or $500,000 in a targeted employment area). The most popular employment route for British nationals is through the immigration worker scheme; to qualify you will need to be:
- A first preference immigrant worker (EB-1) (Priority worker) – this means you have “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or are an outstanding professor or researcher, or are a multinational manager or executive who meets certain criteria, or;
- a second preference immigrant worker (EB-2) – this means you are in a profession that requires an advanced degree, or you have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or you are seeking a national interest waiver, or;
- a third preference immigrant worker – this means you are a skilled worker (i.e. your job requires a minimum of two years training or work experience), or a professional (i.e. your job requires at least a US bachelor's degree or a foreign equivalent and you are a member of the profession), or an unskilled worker (i.e. you will perform unskilled labour requiring less than two years training or experience).
How Can I Apply For A Green Card As A British National?
There are several steps involved in applying for a Green Card. For the purposes of clarity, we will assume that you are applying from your home country, and not inside the US. As a prospective migrant, applying from your home country, you will need to follow the consular process. The steps are as follows:
Step 1: Based on the range of Green Card routes listed above, determine which one best suit your needs.
Step 2: Have a person in the US file an immigrant petition on your behalf. If you are applying under the family route, your relative (who must be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident) can file a Form I-130 ‘Petition for Alien Relative’ for you. If you are using the employment route, then your US employer will file a Form I-140, ‘Petition for Alien Worker’ for you. If you intend to invest significant amounts of money into a business venture in the US, you can file a Form I-526 ‘Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur’ yourself.
Step 3: Await the outcome of your petition application – US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will advise the person who filed the petition of the decision made. If your petition is approved, the USCIS will forward the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Centre. If the petition is not approved, then the decision letter will explain why and how you can appeal.
Step 4: Wait to be contacted by the US National Visa Centre (NVC). They will write to you when your visa petition is received, when an immigrant visa number becomes available, and when you need to pay the visa fee and provide your supporting documents.
Step 5: Attend an interview with the US consular service
Step 6: Wait for your final decision
Step 7: Receive your Green Card
How Long Will It Take To Receive My Green Card As A British National?
The USCIS publishes historical processing times for each of its immigration application types. As of 2020, the processing time for the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is 10.1 months, for the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker is 1.4 months, and for the I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur the waiting time is 13.7 months. These are only averages, however, and some applications can take considerably longer, especially where the case is particularly complex, or incorrect information has been provided.
Applying for a Green Card to live and work in the US can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Given the time and money invested in the process, it is always recommended to engage an international immigration Solicitor in the UK to handle your application. They will ensure that the process is managed carefully from the outset, that you meet all of the eligibility criteria, and that all of the supporting documents and information needed by the USCIS is provided. If you do proceed with your move to the US, we wish you and your family all the very best.