Working in the USA from UK (What you need to know!)
US Work Visa Options
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 to make the move Stateside.
Working in the USA from UK: Starting a business in the US
If you are considering taking the bold 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.
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 U.S. office
If, on the other hand, your current boss has recently asked you to consider transferring to an affiliated office in the U.S, 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 to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the U.S, albeit on a temporary basis.
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 of you with specialised knowledge about the products, procedures or management within your organisation.
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.
In fact, for those of you working in an executive or supervisory capacity, you might even want to push the pros of expanding into the US market at the next board meeting, with you at the helm of course.
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, organisation or employer in the U.S.
The UK company or organisation 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 company or organisation that you work for must demonstrate that premises to house the new office have been secured, and that it has the financial ability to both commence doing business in the U.S. and to remunerate you. Needless to say, you will need a suitable income to be able to enjoy your new life in the States.
Working in the USA from UK: Accepting a U.S. job offer
If you have been lucky enough to be offered a job from a U.S. 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 bachelors degree or higher can potentially qualify as a specialty occupation. If you do not have a bachelors degree, however, 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 U.S.
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.
Although a nonimmigrant visa is, by its very nature, temporary, in some cases these types of visa can still provide a pathway to permanent residence. By way of example, the L visa and O visa are what’s 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 U.S. 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, potentially leaving you to live the American dream indefinitely!
Do you have a question about a US visa application?
As specialists in US immigration, NNU’s London-based attorneys can advise on the immigration options open to you and guide you through your US visa application process.
US visa applications across all classifications are facing increasing scrutiny by adjudicators. Taking expert advice will help ensure you compile a robust application and avoid evidentiary or process issues which can result in a delayed or even refused application.
Contact us for guidance on your specific circumstances.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.