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Working in the USA from UK: Visa Guide

Working in the USA from UK: Visa Guide

If you are a UK national looking to live the American dream, before you make any plans you will need to consider what visa options are available to you.

In this guide, we look at the most popular visa routes for British citizens looking to make the move Stateside.


Working in the USA from UK: Starting a business in the US

If you are considering taking the step of starting a business in the U.S., you should consider the E-2 investor visa.

The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, including the UK, and who wish to invest a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business.

To qualify, you must be going to the U.S. solely to develop and direct the operations of a bona fide enterprise in which you have invested, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.

The investment must be more than a marginal enterprise solely for earning a living for you and your family. As a general guide, you will need a minimum of US$100,000 to invest, although in exceptional cases, applications with investment amounts as low as US$50,000 may be considered.

Under the “fifty percent rule”, you will also need to show at least 50% ownership of the enterprise, or possession of operational control through, for example, a managerial position.

You can also transfer key employees to the US under the E2 route.

To apply, you will first need to write a business plan and register your business as an E2 company.

If, on the other hand, you already have established trade links with the U.S. and want to expand further in the US market, you may want to consider the E-1 trader visa. This is a non-immigrant visa that allows treaty traders, including UK citizens, to enter the U.S. for the purpose of carrying out international trade.

To qualify, you must be going to the U.S. solely to carry on substantial trade, rather than for any other purpose. There must be an actual traceable exchange of qualifying commodities, namely goods, services and/or technology between the U.S. and the UK. There must also be a sizable and continuing volume of trade based on an existing trading relationship.

There is no limit on the amount of trade that must take place, although greater emphasis is placed on the volume of transactions over the total monetary value. Further, the total volume of your international trade should be principally with the U.S, ie; over 50% of that trade.

To help ensure your success in the U.S, either as a treaty investor or treaty trader, both the E-1 and E-2 visas will also allow your senior and essentially skilled employees to come to work for you stateside. This includes employees who are destined to an executive or supervisory role, as well as those with special skills essential to the efficient operation of your new or expanding U.S. enterprise.


Working in the USA from UK: Transferring to a US office

If you’ve been asked to transfer to a US affiliated office or branch of your company, you will need to consider the necessary criteria under an L-1 visa.

The L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for an employee of an international company who is being transferred on a temporary basis to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the U.S..

If you are presently in a managerial or executive role, you will need to apply for an L-1A visa, while the L-1B visa is for those with specialized knowledge about the products, procedures or management within your organization.

The L visa classification also enables a UK company that does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.

To qualify for an L1 visa, you must have worked in your current role for at least one continuous year in the past 3 years, and have an offer to work in a similar capacity for a branch of the same company, organization or employer in the U.S..

The UK organization that you currently work for must have a qualifying relationship with a parent company, branch, affiliate or subsidiary in the United States. Here, the UK and U.S. firm must have common majority ownership or common control by the same persons or entities.

If you are being transferred to help establish a brand new affiliated U.S. office, the UK organization that you work for must demonstrate that business premises have been secured, and that the organization has the financial ability to both commence doing business in the U.S. and to remunerate you.


Working in the USA from UK: Accepting a US job offer

If you have been offered a job from a US sponsor, then either the H-1B visa or the O-1 visa are potentially the right visa options for you.

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for graduate-level workers wanting to undertake a job role in a speciality occupation that requires theoretical or technical expertise.

Any professional level job that usually requires you to have a bachelor’s degree or higher can potentially qualify as a specialty occupation. If you do not have a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to show degree equivalence through work experience and/or other qualifications.

If, on the other hand, you are exceptionally talented or have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement, you should consider the O-1A or O-1B visa.

The O-1A visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics, while the O-1B visa is for those with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, and must be coming to the U.S. to continue work in this area.

Extraordinary ability means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of a small percentage who has risen to the very top of your field. To demonstrate extraordinary achievement, you must possess a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.


Working in the USA from UK: Making a new life in the US

Once you have set up your new business or found your feet in your new job, you can turn your attention to extending your time in the States or even making your move more permanent.

Some temporary, nonimmigrant visas offer a pathway to US permanent residence. In particular, the L visa and O visa are known as ‘dual intent‘ visas. A dual intent visa will allow you to lawfully enter the U.S. on a time-limited nonimmigrant basis, albeit with immigrant intent. In other words, you can apply for your Green Card while classified in the US under a temporary work visa.

If, on the other hand, you don’t want to make the U.S. your permanent home but would still like to stay a few more years, you should be able to apply to extend your visa from within the US. With the E-1 and E-2 visas, for example, there is no maximum limit to the number of extensions you may be granted, provided you continue to meet the visa criteria.


Working in the USA FAQs

Can a British citizen work in USA?

British citizens can work in the USA provided they have permission to do the work in question. This typically means having either a valid US work visa or US Green Card.


How can I get work in USA?

Among the requirements to take up work in the USA, you will need to have a valid work visa, US permanent residence status or US citizenship.


Can I get a job from UK to USA?

It is possible to get work in the USA as a UK national. You will need to apply for the relevant work visa to allow you to travel to the US and do the job you have secured.


Can I get a job in USA as a foreigner?

Foreign nationals can get a job in the US provided they have employment authorization. This could be in the form of a valid work visa, or Green Card. You may also need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to confirm your permission to work.

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 (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

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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