Moving abroad / Moving to the UK

Can You Qualify for a Move from the USA to UK?

Updated November 9, 2023

Are you an American citizen who wants to make a full time move from the USA to the UK?

Here are the details on how you can qualify.

Unless you qualify for citizenship through your birth parents or ancestry, you’ll need a specific visa. If you’ve already done some research you’ll know that getting a UK visa is not a simple process! But if your dream is to live here full time, it’s well worth the effort.

Qualifying for a visa can be difficult, time consuming and the fees are expensive, (around £5,000 or $6200. depending on the visa). 

Don’t be discouraged! But be aware of the practical realities when considering a move to the UK.

move from us to uk

The town of Sidmouth on the Dorset coast

Move from the US to UK – Qualifying for a UK Visa

UK Visa Options – Can You Qualify?

  • Studying as an undergrad or grad in the UK. You can’t get a visa for continuing ed courses. You can get a visa for certain trade schools
  • Studying as a high school or grade school student. One parent can come too!
  • Exceptional Talent – You’re a superstar in your field e.g. Science, art, tech, Think Oscar or Emmy nominated, Nobel prize etc.
  • High Potential Ivy league graduate educated within 5 years (see list of schools) which allows you to work for 2-3 years. This visa does not lead to permanent residency
  • Skilled worker- see skills shortage list
  • Spousal Visa – Marriage or Civil Partnership includes LGBT+
  • Non-Spousal Visa– Couples who co-habitate for 2 years plus, includes LGBT+
  • Fiancé Visa – (6-month visa) Includes LGBT+, you must convert to spousal via when married.
  • Parent of a Child– When your child is British but you’re no longer in a relationship with the child’s other parent
  • Parent of a Child – when the child is attending school in the UK
  • Work visas – list of UK short term and long term work visas.

Move from the US to UK with a Work Visa

If you’re considered a skilled worker, your path to getting a visa may be much easier than a traditional work visa. However you can still look for a job in the UK to take advantage of the Short or Long Term work visa path (see above).

Can I Search for a Job While in the UK?

Whether you’re coming to the UK as a Standard Visitor (no visa required) or on another type of short term visa , these aren’t meant to be used as a vehicle to find work in the UK, however visitors are not expressly prohibited from searching for work while they’re in the UK. Searching for work from inside UK may be more effective than trying to find a job from overseas. However, if you do choose to search for work while you’re on a visitor visa, you should keep the following in mind:

Never conceal or falsify your reason for visiting the UK from an immigration officer. This may be catch-22 because once you state that you are looking for work you may be denied entry.

You will be expected to prove your intention to return to your country when your visitor visa expires irrespective of the outcome of your search for work.

Move from the US to UK Residency – Other Options


If you have at least one British parent who was born in the UK, you might be a citizen and not need a visa. Find out if you qualify.

Rare double-descent cases regarding historic sexism. For example your grandmother was born in the UK, your mother couldn’t register as a British Citizen and you were born before 1983. Other qualifications may also exist for you here too. Find out if you qualify.


You have Canadian citizenship and you have one grandparent born in the UK then you can qualify through ancestry. Unfortunately Americans can’t qualify through this ancestry loophole unless they’re also Canadian citizens. Find out if you qualify.

Historic Racism

Windrush cases – Applies to those who settled in the UK from the Carribbean. Find out if you qualify.

Although some have hoped they may have rights to citizenship through family members or owning property here in the UK, unfortunately that isn’t an option unless you also qualify for one of the above exceptions.

move from us to uk

Montacute house in Somerset.

What Does NOT Qualify You to Move to the UK

  • Having a grandparent from the UK
  • Having a great-grandparent from the UK
  • Retirement visa – this is no longer an option
  • Owning property in the UK. You can buy property but you may not be able to live in it unless you have the right to remain.
  • Having an EU Passport – no longer an option after Brexit became law.
  • Being a digital nomad – work from anywhere / WFH. There is no specific UK digital nomad visa for remote work 

I hope you find a way to make your move from the US to the UK dream come true. You can calculate the cost of getting a UK visa here.

For more information on UK visas:

Why not come to the UK for six months to discover if this move is right for you? Here’s how.

Most of this information was obtained via a post by Angela (with consent) in the Facebook group, Americans in the United Kingdom. If you need further guidance, I recommend joining!

About Author

With over 30 years in a creative role in advertising and publishing, and a lifetime of journeys between the US and UK, I've created Hipoverfifty for you. I hope my journey and perspective will guide you on yours.