How to Move to the USA from the UK
If you have plans or ambitions to move to the US, at the top of your list of things to consider will be your visa options.
Getting a visa to move to the USA from the UK can be challenging but it’s not impossible. You will need to be sure you are pursuing the most appropriate visa classification, that you are eligible and that you follow the application process to the letter. Errors or omissions in your petition can result in delays and even denials, impacting your plans and any opportunities you have lined up in the US.
For those who are eligible and who have the drive and commitment to see the application process through, the US remains a land of opportunity. Here are some of the visa options to consider if you are looking to relocate from the UK to the US.
Relocating permanently to the US
For a long-term move, you would need to secure a Green Card, most likely through a family member or through a job. The application process will differ depending on whether you are applying from within the US as an adjustment of status, or applying from overseas, which requires Consular processing.
Green Card through family
US citizens are permitted to make a request for non-US national relatives to join them to live permanently in the US. This could be on the basis of being an immediate relative, which includes the spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age or parent of a US citizen who is 21 years old or older, or under one of the family preference categories, which include:
- Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21
- Married children of any age
- Brothers and sisters if they are over 21
Fiancé(e)s of a permanent US citizen may want to consider the K visa as a fast track for you and any children to gain residence.
Green Card through employment
The other most common way to be granted a Green Card is through a job. This category involves many options which include:
- First preference (EB-1) – priority workers
- Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics;
- Outstanding professors and researchers; or
- Certain multinational managers and executives.
- Second preference (EB-2) – foreign nationals who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability (including requests for national interest waivers).
- Third preference (EB-3) – skilled workers, professionals, or other workers.
These are just some of the options that may be available. Taking professional advice on your circumstances can ensure you understand all of the options that could be open to you before making a decision on which is most suitable for your needs.
Temporary US visas
If you are considering a shorter-term move, there are a range of US visas to explore.
E-Visas for entrepreneurs and investors
If you are intending to stay on a temporary basis for business reasons, one of the E visas may suit your needs. E visas are not intended as a pathway to a Green Card, so if your ultimate goal is US permanent residence, you would usually need to consider a different visa.
E visas are valid for up to 5 years, but may be extended as many times as you like, provided you continue to meet the visa eligibility requirements.
Dependents (e.g. spouse and children under the age of 21) can apply to join you to the USA on an E visa, by applying for a derivative E visa.
The E-1 visa is a nonimmigrant trader visa for an individual who wishes to conduct a substantial amount of trade in the USA.
An owner or essential employee of the company can apply for an E-1 visa providing they meet the set criteria.
As an owner you must firstly be a national of the treaty trader country and also own a minimum of 50% of the business. Your trade in the US needs to amount to a minimum of 50% of the overall business trading.
To qualify as an employee of the company, you need to be an essential part of the business and have an executive/supervisory role.
The E-2 Treaty investor visa is for an individual who wishes to invest substantial amounts in the US, creating jobs for US citizens.
You must be a citizen or permanent resident of the Treaty country. You need to be able to demonstrate that you are investing a substantial amount relative to you investment venture.
Your sole purpose for entering the USA must be to develop or run the enterprise. You should have either a minimum of 50% invested in the business or be working in an executive or managerial role.
H-1B Visa for specialized workers
The H-1B visa is for an individual who has secured an offer of employment to perform a highly specialized role with a qualifying US sponsor. This visa is temporary allowing an initial stay of 3 years with the possibility of extending in increments up to a total of 6 years, at which point you may become eligible to apply for US permanent residence.
To qualify for the H-1B visa you will need to have a bachelors, equivalent or higher degree relevant to the specific speciality for the employment in question.
This route is however subject to a visa cap and highly oversubscribed. An offer of employment and meeting all the H-1B requirements are therefore no guarantee that you will be successful in the H-1B visa lottery.
You may bring dependents to the US with you as a H-1B visa holder. They will need to apply under the H-4 visa category.
L-1 Visa for intracompany transfers
The L-1 visa is designed to facilitate intra-company transfers for non-US workers to a US branch or subsidiary. Permission under the L1 visa is temporary, for a maximum of 12 months. Extensions can be granted for up to a total of 7 years in 2-year increments. L-1 visa holders may also become eligible for Green Card.
The L-1A visa enables a US employer to transfer an executive or manager from an affiliated foreign office to its US offices.
The L-1B visa enables a US employer to transfer a professional employee who has specialized knowledge essential to the business.
As an L visa holder you may take your spouse and children under the age of 21 with you. Family members will need to file an L-2 dependent visa application. A spouse who is in the US on an L-2 dependent visa may apply for an Employment Authorisation Document which will allow them to legally work in the USA.
To apply for non-resident status as a person who demonstrates extraordinary ability in their field, you would need an O-1 visa. These visas are normally valid for up to 3 years, however if you are continuing with the same position or activity you may extend the visa in 1 year increments for an unlimited period of time. If you change employer, however, you will need to apply for a new O-1 visa.
O-1A visas are for individuals with extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics. To have extraordinary ability means that you must have national or international acclaim in your field and be in the top percentage in your chosen endeavour.
O-1B visas are for individuals who have extraordinary ability in the arts including motion picture and television industry. To qualify as having extraordinary ability in the arts you must be able to demonstrate that you have a high level of achievement and are prominent, leading or well-known in your field. Extraordinary ability in the motion picture or television industry is evidenced by you be recognised as having a degree of skill and are notable or leading in the motion picture/television industry.
Key personnel can join O-1 visa holders under the O-2 visa, while spouses and children under the age of 21 may accompany an O-1 visa holder and will need to apply for an O-3 visa. O-3 visa holders may not work in the US, but may engage in full or part-time study.
The O-1 visas are not statutorily recognised as dual intent visas, but have the unusual status of not requiring the holder to maintain a residence in their home country and can in some circumstances lead to eligibility for an Extraordinary Ability Green Card.
NNU Immigration specialize in advising UK nationals on their options to work or relocate to the USA, whether that is for your job, to start up a new business, make investments or to be reunited with loved ones.
Contact us for help with your US work immigration options to make the move from the UK to the USA.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.