Moving to the UK from the USA

The UK is a popular location for people from the USA moving overseas.

In fact, it’s estimated that around 150,000 Americans live in the UK. This is not surprising considering the long history between the two countries and a shared language.

But how can people move to the UK from the USA?

There are typically three visa routes for Americans wanting to start a new life in the UK:

Let’s find out how it all works and take a quick look at the cultural differences between the two countries.

Working in the UK

The most common way for people to move to the UK for work is with a Tier 2 Skilled Worker Visa. This visa allows companies to fill positions in skilled occupations like healthcare, accounting and teaching that cannot be taken up by the workforce already living in the UK.

There are four categories in the Tier 2 Skilled Worker Visa:

  • General Visa – the most common route
  • Intra-company Transfer Visa – for multinational companies with a UK branch
  • Sportsperson Visa – for high level sports professionals
  • Minister of Religion – for preaching, pastoral work and missionaries

To apply for the Tier 2 Skilled Worker Visa, you will need a valid job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a Tier 2 sponsor licence.

Studying in the UK

Last year, more than 276,000 Tier 4 Student Visas were granted to international students. That makes the UK a popular location for people studying overseas, including Americans.

But how does the application process work? First, it’s split into four categories:

The General Student Visa is aimed at long-term students, like those studying at university. Whereas the Short-term Study option is for people that want to study in the UK for up to six months, or up to 11 months for an English language course.

The Child Student Visa is for children aged four to 17 that want to study at an independent British school. As long as they have a letter of consent from a parent or guardian.

For all student visa categories, you need to have a place on a course, plus enough money to support yourself and pay tuition fees.

As you can see, the right student visa will depend on your personal circumstances and the amount of time you intend to spend studying in the UK.

Joining family in the UK

A Partner Visa is the most common type of visa granted to people wanting to move to the UK to join family. This is followed by visa applications from children and other dependents.

To apply for a Partner Visa, you have to be in a genuine relationship with either a British citizen, a permanent resident, someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK.

This visa class is open for applications from people that are married, engaged, in a civil partnership or a long-term relationship.

Then there is the Parent Visa, which is for parents seeking to care for a child in the UK. For example, when there is shared parental responsibility following the breakdown of a relationship with the child’s other parent who is a British citizen or settled in the UK.

The Child Visa category is for when a child wants to join a parent who is already living in the UK. For this you will need proof that the parent has sole responsibility for the child’s upbringing.

And finally, there is the Dependent Adult Relative category. This is aimed at people already based in the UK that want to bring relatives from overseas to live with them.

To apply for this visa, you need evidence that the family member requires long-term care and support for everyday tasks due to illness, age or disability, that can’t be provided in their home country. Plus, proof of funds to financially support the family member.

Getting to know British culture

Applying for a visa is just the first step in starting a new life in the UK. Once the visa is granted, the adventure starts, which means getting to know British culture and the way of life.

Thankfully, the language is not a problem for Americans in the UK.

As you’re probably aware, English is the national language. Although it’s spoken in many different accents around the country. With accents sometimes changing from town to town.

The only real difference with the language is when it’s written, with slight differences in spellings. For example, ‘color’ is ‘colour’. And ‘specialize’ is ‘specialise’. Most British and Americans are aware of these language nuances though.

Next, the currency is British pound. It’s also often stronger than the dollar, which means the conversion rate is not always in favour of the US$.

Then there is a strong pub culture in the UK and many people drink alcohol on a regular basis. However, British people are becoming more health conscious and there are more alcohol-free options in the pubs today. Instead of just orange juice or coke.

And finally, good manners and a sense of humour go a long way in the UK. The British generally aren’t boastful people, and don’t like it in others. But a strong work ethic is highly valued.

So, if you’re moving from the USA to the UK, keep in mind the cultural differences above. That way, you’ll be able to embrace British life as you adjust to a new culture.


Article Created By Hayley Maguire

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