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Moving to the USA from UK

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

Moving 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 far from impossible.

With almost 200 US visa categories, you’ll need to be sure you are applying under the most appropriate visa classification for your circumstances, that you are eligible for that visa 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.


O-1 Visa

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.


Need assistance?

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.


Moving to the USA from the UK FAQs

Can I move from UK to USA?

Before you can emigrate to the US, you will need to make sure you have the relevant permission. If you have US citizenship, perhaps through birth, you won;t need to apply to come to teh US live. If you’re a non-US resident and national you’ll need to apply for a visa. The US visa options will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you’re married to a US citizen, you could be eligible for the spouse visa and marriage Green Card. Or, if you want to invest in a new or existing companh in the US, you could look at the E-2 visa. Take advice on your circumstances to ensure you apply for the most appropriate route.


Can I live in the US as a UK citizen?

UK citizens must have permission to be able to live in the US. To move to the US on a temporary basis, you sholld apply for a nonimmigrant visa, such as an E2 visa for investors or an L1 visa for intracompany transfers. To live in the US on a permanent basis, you will need to apply for an immigrant visa, such as the marriage Green Card if your spouse is a US citizen.


Can I move to America without a job?

Whether you need a job will depend on the type of visa you’re applying for. The L1 visa, for example, is contingent on your job with the overseas employer, whereas the O-1 visa does not require proof of employment. Family-based visas also do not require you to have a job to be eligible.


How much money do you need to move to America?

Applying for a US Green Card can cost in the region of $10,000 as a ballpark figure. The exact costs will depend on factors such as the route you are applying under and whether you take professional advice with your application.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, (The Legal 500, Who's Who Legal and AILA) and an experienced and trusted advisor to large multinational corporates through to SMEs. She provides strategic immigration advice and specialist application support to corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, actors and athletes from across the globe to meet their US-bound talent mobility needs.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals.

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