Moving to the UK

What Options do Americans Have to Retire in the UK?

So you’ve decided you’d like to retire in the UK!  What are the options available for an American to retire here. Is it a realistic goal?

I’ve done the research for you. Find out if it’s possible to move here as a citizen or with “indefinite leave to remain”. Indefinite Leave to Remain means you have the legal right to “settle” here to live, work and study as long as you like. You can use ILR to apply for British citizenship.

As an American citizen who’s considering whether or not to retire in the UK, I’ve used research from the official site to help guide you. Below I’ve outlined the main paths to citizenship or retiring here.

Your Best Options to Retire in the UK

  1. As a family member or partner of British citizen
  2. As a family member or partner of a settled resident
  3. You already have a retired person visa
  4. You’ve settled in the UK before
  5. You’ve been in the UK legally for 10 years
  6. You’re in the UK on a UK ancestry visa
  7. You’re eligible for an Investor Tier 1 visa (see update below)
  8. You’re eligible for an Innovator Founder visa

Unfortunately, the UK recently retired it’s “Retired Persons” visa. The Retired Persons visa was an affordable way to live in the UK with reasonable income requirements (a minimum income of £25,000 per year) and gain permanent settled status as a Retired Person of Independent Means but is no longer offered.

Eligibility required a close connection to the UK either through family ties, business or residence so it wasn’t suitable for everyone. If you’re already in the UK under this visa, you still have the option of extending it.

retire in the uk

The lovely seaside town of Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast.

Exploring Your Options to Retire in the UK

Unless you have family connections, have lived in the UK for a long period or are currently in the UK on an existing visa, your options to retire here as a permanent resident are limited. 

Check to see if these options to retire in the UK may apply to your situation:

Option 1

Are you the family member or partner of a British citizen? You may be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if you have a family member settled here either as a citizen of with ILR. Learn more here.

Option 2

You’re the family member or partner of someone who has settled in the UK. You may be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if you have a family member settled here with ILR. Learn more here.

Option 3

You previously had a retired person visa. Unfortunately this visa is no longer open to new applicants.

Option 4

You’ve been settled in the UK before. You may be able to return to the UK to live permanently if you have lived here before. The rules differ depending on whether you have been gone for more or less than 2 years. Learn more here.

Option 5 

You’ve been in the UK legally for 10 years and are eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Learn more here.

Option 6

You’re in the UK on a UK ancestry visa. If you’ve spent 5 years in the UK on an Ancestry Visa you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Learn more here.

Option 7

The Investor (Tier 1) visa is no longer available. If you already have this visa (or had one in the last 12 months and it was your most recent visa), you may still apply.

This type of  Tier 1 Visa can be extended and a Tier 1 Visa holder’s family members are eligible to also apply for a visa.

Option 8

Innovator Founder Visa  Are you thinking of setting up a new and innovative business in “retirement”? You may be eligible for an Innovator Founder visa (formerly known as the Innovator visa) if:

  • you want to set up and run a unique business in the UK that’s different from any other business currently operating
  • your business idea will need to be endorsed by an approved endorsing body
  • you meet eligibility requirements such as the English language requirement, are 18 or older and have enough money to support yourself while you’re in the UK
  • you may need to show enough funds to operate your business (unless it’s already established)
  • you can stay for 3 years on this visa and apply to extend by 3 years with no limit
  • find out more about the Innovator Founder visa

Learn More about UK visas:

Can Americans retire to the UK?

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Options to Retire in the UK

Most of these options are open to non US citizens as well. In fact if you’re from a commonwealth country like Canada or some EU countries you may have different options to settle in the UK that aren’t open to Americans. 

Before you get too discouraged, I recommend visiting or staying for up to 6 months. You can stay in the UK for up to 6 months at a time with no limit if you are simply a visitor or tourist.

Try life in the UK on for size. Be sure this is where you want to retire. Even with the common language and culture, the lifestyle and amenities may be very different than what you’re used to. You may find that having the best of both worlds – a home here in England a home in the US – is the best way to retire. You can open a bank account and buy a home here without citizenship. Unfortunately that doesn’t entitle you to live here full time but it’s a start!


Live in England for 6 Months Guide

This information comes from the official website and will remain as up to date as the official source. During my research I found articles that weren’t entirely accurate or were out of date due to the UK government discontinuing some visa options. I’m not a lawyer nor am I offering legal advice, so please do your research and good luck!


  • Michele
    July 9, 2022 at 12:23 AM

    Just found your site last week after our return from the UK, it has been so informational and helpful, thank you. But now so very discouraged. Without the retiree visa (we still have ten years to go) there does not seem to be any way to move to the UK. Zero. Our teenage daughter is interested in going to college there, so if she secured a job after or married a citizen, she could stay. Like Ellen, I would love to learn if parents can become residents if their adult children move to the UK. I would also love to learn more about job search options for those of us still working, such as an international company or special organizations that employ US citizens. Many thanks!

    • Tessa
      July 9, 2022 at 3:40 PM

      Hi Michele – I’d say if you still have 10 years to go before retiring, you have options. Keep an eye on the visa situation as this is subject to change – just as our current PM is!
      I’ll continue to write about options for visas etc. As for employers, I don’t have a list of US companies that hire to place employees here, but of course if I find out anything I’ll post it here or on Instagram. Hang in there, you have time to make this happen!

  • Raf
    July 5, 2022 at 3:51 AM

    I’m 70, with a sizeable pension and a respectable net worth…I have dual citizenship and was born in the UK, came to the US as a child and have a British birth certificate and a valid UK passport. Both of my parents were British citizens, my father by birth my mother through immigration… My wife is a US citizen…We have visited countless times and we now wish to permanently retire in the UK. Is there an issue with our plans. Can my wife reside in the UK as permanent resident?

    • Tessa
      July 5, 2022 at 9:54 AM

      Hello Raf, while it’s nice to have assets to live here (!) it’s not necessary for you or your wife to live here under your British citizenship. I see no issue with your plans as stated.
      Your wife would need to apply for a spousal visa prior to moving to the UK. She can do that from the US. Here is a link to the page. Best of luck with your plans.

      • Raf
        July 5, 2022 at 10:26 PM

        Hi Tessa…thank you for your quick reply…would you please clarify your comment ” it’s not necessary for you or your wife to live here under your British citizenship.” I’m not sure what you mean by this…Also, When i was born I received a NHS number that my parents paid into for a relatively short period of time (6 months). I actually still have the NHS card…I know this is a stretch, but since I was registered with the NHS as a baby can I renew my participation with the NHS?.

      • Tessa
        July 6, 2022 at 9:40 AM

        Hi Raf – I meant that you don’t need to prove income/assets as you already have British citizenship. When I came back several years ago I had British citizenship (as I was born here) but I had to apply for a British passport. At no time was I asked to verify my income.
        However there are some minimal financial requirements for your wife’s Spousal visa -I’ll write a follow up article!
        Same with the NHS. I too was assigned an NHS# at birth apparently and it was in the system so I was able to register with a local GP without problem. I don’t think it’s necessary to “pay into” it if you’re a natural citizen.
        Hope that helps!

  • David
    July 1, 2022 at 11:32 PM

    I just applied for my British passport. I was born in UK, to a British mother and an American Father. So, I am confident I will be able to get my passport.

    • Tessa
      July 4, 2022 at 9:37 AM

      Yes you shouldn’t have any problem -I still had to go into the “home” office to confirm my identity though! Best wishes, Tessa

  • Paul
    January 31, 2022 at 8:11 PM

    I went through the steps of applying for British Citizenship with the UK Government. I sent all the documents required and payments but got snagged on the minor detail that I apparently overlooked or misunderstood that only the fathers citizenship is taken into consideration, not the mothers. My mom was a UK immigrant to the US after WWII and married my father who was a Maltese immigrant from prior to WWII. And even though Malta was a UK possession at that time it still doesn’t count.

    I keep checking and I hope I live long enough to be able to move to the UK in the future, as I lox do not have the price of admission per the UK requirements.

    • Tessa
      February 1, 2022 at 10:05 AM

      Hello Paul – It must be frustrating not to be able to move forward with your plans to move to the UK. I can certainly understand that!

      What I can tell you is that within the past 10 years, my son who was born in the US, was able to get a British passport on my birth record. So that means it’s possible to obtain citizenship through a mother who was born here. You didn’t mention whether or not your mother was born in the UK.

      Obviously I’m not an immigration lawyer or expert so I can only point to the official information available. As each case is highly individual it’s difficult to give blanket recommendations, but usually having a family member born or resident in the UK is a path to citizenship.

      Hopefully you can find that loophole or advice that will allow you to move back to the UK!

      • Paul
        February 12, 2022 at 12:45 AM

        I’ve been remiss with responding to your answer.

        My mother was born in the UK in 1919. Unfortunately, due to laws in existence at that time and for too long afterward, women didn’t really count for the claim to citizenship. While the rules and laws were changed, say there were no arrangements for people from prior to that date. (I think it was women born after 1977 but I’m not positive. I went through the immigration process, using the UK website and sending all the requests documents and payments needed. The spoiler was that due to the inane laws, my mothers citizenship doesn’t count! And I am very aware that inane laws exist in every country, especially the US where I am a citizen. I never lived in the UK, just visited family whenever I could.

      • Tessa
        February 14, 2022 at 10:00 AM

        That’s difficult and I’m sure frustrating for you to find out that your mothers birth record doesn’t entitle you to citizenship. In fact having a British born parent isn’t a slam dunk to a child gaining citizenship. This is what I found on the site. Eligibility may depend on birth date.

        “British citizenship is normally automatically passed down one generation to children born outside the UK.

        For example, you might automatically become a citizen if you’re born outside the UK to a British parent. But your children will not automatically be citizens if they’re born outside the UK.

        If you’re not automatically a citizen, you may be eligible to apply to ‘register’ as one.

        Check your eligibility if you were born:

        on or after 1 July 2006
        between 1983 and June 2006
        before 1983″

  • Carol
    December 19, 2021 at 4:16 PM

    So much for my moving to England. I’ve visited it many times, and I am in fact a direct descendant for Edward I. I have a decent US pension as well. But it doesn’t sound like I can ever move there, as ai’m not a billionaire. What a shame.

    • Tessa
      December 20, 2021 at 9:48 AM

      I understand your frustration Carol. It’s a shame the UK govt have retired the “Retired Persons” visa and made it more difficult for the average person of means to live here full time. I plan on doing an article on possible options for gaining residency status with familial or relationship ties. Look for it in the new year!

      • Ellen Hudson
        January 22, 2022 at 1:15 AM

        My daughter (US citizen) married a British Citizen 11 years ago. I’d love to move there to retire and live near the grand kids. I look forward to reading any information to see if this is possible in the future.
        Thanks for your articles and research!

      • Tessa
        January 26, 2022 at 11:03 AM

        Hi Ellen – thanks for letting me know this has been helpful! I hope you get a chance to live closer to family too, it was one of my main motivators. I’m going to try and do some more research into how family ties can work towards residency.
        all the best, Tessa

  • Sue-Anne
    September 18, 2021 at 11:46 AM

    What a shame some of those previous schemes have now finished. Nonetheless, I like your idea of living here for 6 months first off to see if it’s really of long-term interest. I think my ideal retirement would be several months at a time in a variety of different places!

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