The immigration implications of any proposed move for US nationals who wish to relocate need to be considered. There are many possible options which may be available to them, ranging from applications based on possible British ancestry, to family connections through marriage or those who may wish to work for a US employer in the UK or set up in business here. 

We look at the options open to US nationals, providing an overview as to the general requirements and examining what the applicant may need to consider before deciding to proceed.


When thinking about UK visa options for US citizens of British descent, the first thing to consider is whether they may have any claim to British nationality. Some will find that they have a claim to citizenship – especially where they were born in the UK before 1983 or perhaps in a case where a parent was born in the UK and they themselves were born in the US. If an applicant has a mother or grandmother who was born in the UK, and they were born outside the UK before 1983, one of the UK visa options for US citizens is to register as a British citizen.

Secondly, UK visa options for US citizens of British descent might include claims to residency through ancestry. This option involves a little less obvious consideration but in the event of multinational families, the point should be considered. Some US citizens may have claims to Canadian citizenship which, if combined with a UK-born grandparent, could give rise to a claim under the ancestry provisions for leave to enter and remain in the UK, subject to other conditions being fulfilled.


  • Any application will need to be supported by original or certified documentation, such as birth, marriage, and/or death certificates  – how easy will these be to obtain?
  • Timing – these applications can take a considerable amount of time to be considered: think ahead.
  • An applicant will need to persuade the authorities to exercise discretion in their favour, particularly if they are unable to provide all the supporting documentation or have no obvious reason for needing to move to the UK: consider this well ahead of making an application.
  • Citizens of Commonwealth countries who have a UK born grandparent will be able to apply to come to live and work in the UK permanently – some US citizens may be eligible for Canadian citizenship which could provide access to this UK ancestry visa route.
  • Irish Citizens or those who can obtain Irish Citizenship through an Irish grandparent are able to live and work in the UK without any restrictions.

Family options

If an applicant’s spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner is a British Citizen, a US national can apply for a settlement visa to enable them to come to the UK permanently.  There are a number of key requirements that would need to be met, including:

  • The sponsoring partner is able to meet the financial threshold which requires them to either be in employment and earning a minimum level (currently of £29,000 p.a., and due to rise to £38,700 p.a. from 2025), or have a job offer in the UK earning more than the minimum threshold.
  • Alternatively, the couple can use savings and capital at a minimum level of £88,500, which must be held in cash in the applicant and/or their partner’s own name for a minimum period of 6 months prior to the application.
  • The couple need to show that they have somewhere to live in the UK, that they will occupy it exclusively, and that they are in a genuine and subsisting relationship.
  • English language testing is a requirement for those who are not from a majority English speaking country.


  • Timing – these visas can take 6-12 weeks to be issued, and applications will need to be made outside of the UK: you cannot switch from visitor to spouse status from inside the UK, say as a visitor.
  • Children: if the applicant’s children are to come to the UK to study, and at least one child is under the age of 12, it is possible for one parent only to come under the ‘Parent of a child at school’ category.  This will not require the financial requirements set out above to be met in the same way, though the applicant will need to show that they have sufficient means to maintain and accommodate themselves and their child(ren) throughout the time they intend to spend in the UK: this amounts to sufficient fees to pay any course/school fees, and at least £1,560 per month for each month of the course, up to a maximum of 9 months.
  • Factor in any additional requirements which may apply, such as English language requirements, or TB testing which is required for nationals or residents of some countries: both of these can add considerably to the amount of time it may take for a visa to be issued.


US nationals who have completed a degree course at a UK university can apply under the Graduate route and obtain a two year visa which allows them to work in the UK without needing to be sponsored first by a UK employer. Those graduating with a PhD will be granted three years.  Note, however, that time spent in the UK under the Graduate route does not count towards five years qualifying residence for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence).

High Potential Individual route

This is a route for graduates of top non-UK universities  –  this means those which feature on the Global Universities List , many of which are in the US, so this could be a useful possible route for US citizens. If an applicant has graduated from an eligible university in the five years preceding the application, they may be eligible to come to the UK for a 2-3 year period – even without employment or a job offer: this visa enables the holder to be employed, self-employed or to look for work. It does not lead to settlement (indefinite leave to remain) but it is possible to switch into a route which does, such as Skilled Worker (see below).

Working in the UK

What are the options?


There are a number of schemes which exist to enable US nationals to undertake internships prior to starting a more full time job.  Examples include an internship under ‘Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange’ provision of the UK’s immigration system which is aimed at those currently studying at US universities or those who have graduated within the last few years. These schemes are run by authorised “overarching” sponsors who request the employer to first register with them and who then issue a work permit (known as a Certificate of Sponsorship) to cover the internship, which is usually limited to 12 months. As an example, the BUNAC scheme enables US undergraduates studying at US Universities or recent graduates from US Universities to undertake work experience in the UK for up to 6 months.  The internship must be supernumerary (in addition to normal staffing requirements of the UK employer), the intern must not fill a full time permanent role, they will need to be paid at least the UK National Minimum Wage for the internship and follow a detailed training plan which is approved by the overarching sponsor. Note however that this is not a route which will lead to permanent residence. Holders of these visas will generally need to leave the UK at the end of the visa period  as these visas cannot be switched within the UK  or extended.

Skilled Workers

The Skilled Worker route is the most commonly used UK visa option for US citizens who intend to work in the UK. To be eligible, an applicant must have a job offer from a sponsored licence holder and one which is on the eligible list of jobs. The worker must be paid according to the minimum salary requirements in the UK, which is generally levied at £38,700, or the going rate for the chosen standard occupation code – although there can be exceptions due to age and type of role in question.

The Skilled Worker visa will typically be granted for a period of up to five years, at which time a worker can obtain indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence), and they can be accompanied by their  spouse/partner and children for the duration of the visa term.


  • to become a Skilled Worker Sponsor, and hence employ a US national to take up a role in the UK,  the UK employing business needs to obtain a sponsorship licence – this involves submitting corporate documentation to show it is trading business and that it has appropriate HR systems, policies and processes in place which will enable it to comply with its compliance duties as a Sponsor. It will also need to appoint a local UK-based Director or employee as an “Authorising Officer” (the person in charge of the licence). This process typically takes around eight weeks but can be expedited.
  • whether the role qualifies: note that most manual and administrative jobs are not capable of sponsorship in the UK.

If the prospective UK employee works for a business which has no trading presence in the UK, and their employer in the US wishes to send them to the UK to set up its business, there are a number of alternative options – including applying for a UK Expansion Worker visa, which is open to those whose employer wish to establish a British footprint. The US company is required to have been trading for a period of three years and can apply to create a UK entity to enable it to apply for a sponsor licence. US applicants  who qualify for this visa will normally need to have worked for the US company for at least 12 months before applying for this visa,  and also need to hold a skilled position with an annual salary of at least £48,500.

UK visa options for US citizens applying to come under the Expansion Worker route can be obtained for an initial period of one year and extended for a maximum of one further year. Spouses/partners and children under 18 can apply as dependants od the main applicant, and they too are eligible to work. UK Expansion Worker visas do not lead to indefinite leave to remain (permanent residency) but it is possible to switch to another category that does, such as Skilled Worker.


The Senior or Specialist Worker route allows a US National to come to the UK to work in an eligible job at the UK Branch of their US employer – this replaced the Intra Company Transfer Visa route.

This route is specifically for senior managers or specialist employees (and their partner and children under 18) who are to be assigned temporarily to a UK business linked to their overseas employer. There is a 12-month minimum period of current employment with the US employer (unless applying as a high earner). The minimum salary level in most cases is £48,500 per year. The visa can be granted for a maximum of up to five or nine years if a higher earner.

Graduate Trainees

This route allows more junior workers to be assigned temporarily to a UK business linked to their US employer, as part of their graduate training course, which leads to a senior management or specialist position.

For these UK visa options for US citizens, the job must be skilled (graduate equivalent) and the salary paid will be at a minimum level of £25,410 per year and 70% of the pro-rated going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher. The visa is granted for a maximum period of 12 months with no option to extend. Those coming to the UK in this category can leave the UK and apply for a new visa but will only be allowed to stay for a maximum period of five years within any six-year period.

Setting up a business in the UK

For those entrepreneurs who wish to set up a business on their own account, the Innovator Founder visa is one of many UK visa options for US citizens available for those who wish to set up an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK. Applicants must be able to show that their business idea is new and they cannot join a business that is already trading. They must also show the business is innovative (with an original business idea different from anything else on the market), that it is viable with potential for growth, and scalable.  They must give evidence of planning that includes creating jobs and growth into national and international markets.

Applicants must be endorsed by one of the authorised UK endorsing bodies approved by the Home Office. It is possible for those on an Innovator Founder visa to obtain indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) after three years if certain criteria (job creation, intellectual property registration or significant turnover etc.) are met.

Global Talent visas

This is the best of the UK visa options for US citizens for those who are leaders or potential leaders in either academia, arts and culture, or digital technology. Those considering this route can usually only apply for a Global Talent visa if they have successfully applied for an endorsement to prove that they are a leader or potential leader in their chosen field.  The route is open to those who have already demonstrated achievement at the highest international level, and is also open to those who have already demonstrated “exceptional promise” in their international careers. There are specific eligibility criteria for each discipline.


  • Start thinking about options as early as possible, to allow all legal issues – for example those surrounding the employment law and corporate aspects – to be considered and dealt with before an application is made.
  • It can take some weeks for applications to be approved, particularly those (such as the Global Talent or Innovator Founder visa routes) for which an endorsement may be required.
  • The UK no longer has any visa category which allows applicants to come to the UK to look for a job only on the basis that they are highly skilled (with the exception of the Global Talent visa).  If a US national intends to come to the UK to work, they must have an offer of employment from a registered sponsor.  So do remember to factor in the sponsorship licence: this is a requirement for some routes, and may add considerably to the time it will take to get the worker to the UK and able to start work: there are hefty documentation requirements which it may be harder and more time consuming to meet for start ups or businesses only recently set up in the UK.
  • Ensure that the minimum salary required for the particular role is clear to the UK employer – this may depend on whether the applicant is currently in the UK already with a work permit, or whether they are making a first time application to come to the UK to work.  In any case, make sure both the applicant and employer are clear from the outset about the requirements and their obligations as regards the remuneration for the potential employee.


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