When on moves to the U.K. there are the general concerns of finding the right place to live for the right price in the right location to get you to and from work and time off activities. The need for schools, or transport links, to drive or not to drive, setting up a bank account, moving monies from the US to the UK and back again, moving, shipping, shopping – all are large concerns if you’re setting up house for the first time in the U.K.
But before you get around to dealing with those issues, you have a larger obstacle in front of you, with four little initials: UKBA. The United Kingdom Border Authority is tasked with imposing the laws of the land and you’ll find yourself trying to navigate those restrictions to see if you pass muster to live in the UK.
Coming to the UK, and staying, as an American (e.g., non-EEA citizen) is harder in 2014 than previous years. The Conservative government has included “reducing immigration” as a key tenet in their platform, and neither the Lib Dems or Liberals are likely to bring a change to this any time soon. Unless the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement addresses this concern, it looks like it’s just going to get harder and harder.
If you’re coming to WORK here as an American, you’ll need either a sponsoring organization or you will be an investor, entrepreneur, or be an exceptionally talented person as recognized by the few UK bodies that recognize one that is “exceptionally talented”.
Unless you are marrying, or married to, a UK or EEA (European Economic Area) citizen or can claim UK or EEA citizenship for yourself or your partner/spouse, American’s are down to the following categories:
- Tier 1 of the points-based system – for investors, entrepreneurs, and exceptionally talented people.
- Tier 2 of the points-based system – for skilled workers who have been offered a permanent job from a sponsoring organization
- Tier 4 for going to school
- Tier 5 for temporary workers with a job offer, or participants in the Youth mobility scheme, or a domestic worker in a private household, or a representative of an overseas business
Tier 4 and Tier 5 will not lead to settlement or citizenship in the UK, so they are temporary categories. Tier 4 applicants must have an offered position at a qualified educational institution, their visa lasting only for the time needed to conclude studies and attend graduation.
All Tier 5 categories, except the youth mobility scheme that Americans don’t qualify for, require 30 points for a valid certificate of sponsorship from a licensed UK employer, and 10 points for maintenance (having enough funds to support themselves in the UK – currently £900), and you must leave at the end of 12 months.
If you’re here on Tier 2 General (for the year from 6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014) a MAXIMUM of 20,700 skilled workers are allowed to come to the UK for jobs with an annual salary below £152,100.
There is no limit on the number of workers coming to the UK to do jobs with an annual salary of £152,100 or above; so, if you have a highly paid job and can get a sponsor, you’re in!
Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) won’t accrue time for settlement or citizenship and may require some continual luck as well (e.g., keeping their job, their sponsor keeping their sponsor licence, no M&A that results in the end of a sponsor licence, etc.). You can’t stay in this category more than 6 years, at which time you have to switch categories after a 1 year cooling off period OUTSIDE of the UK and start again.
I didn’t note the Tier 2 Minister of Religion or Sports and Creative workers sub-categories, but that’s not a common entry point for most Americans, but it does happen
There’s also a list of shortage occupations that might help some of you who have something very unique to bring to the country. This one hasn’t change in just under 3 years, but when it changes then you’re out unless you’ve managed to make to settlement or citizenship within 6 years or can switch to another category that will lead you to settlement and dual citizenship.
The bottom line is that, in 2014, it’s harder to come, and stay, than it was in the past. But, many will still find ways to come and enjoy it for a time before returning home. If you can satisfy the working restrictions, are getting married to British citizen, or can establish a dual European or UK citizenship before arriving, then welcome to the U.K.! If not, please come and visit often.
Philip is an American, and European. He has adopted London, but must share it with 8 million residents and 16 million visitors each year. Philip lives in the Royal Borough of Greenwich ( Zone 3) with his wife and child, the only one in the family actually born in London. Having grown up on the beaches of Southern California, London is penance for having perfect weather most of his life. No one ever moves to London for the weather.
Disclaimer: By no means should anyone rely solely on this post for information on immigration to the UK. Smitten by Britain is largely a travel blog written for entertainment and has no connection to the UK Border Agency, and no one writing for Smitten by Britain claims to be an expert on immigration. You are urged to take this post as general advisement and not information set in stone. Immigration laws change from time to time and while the information here may have been correct when it was written, it may not be accurate weeks, months or years later. Please refer to the UK Border Agency for current rules on immigration to the UK.