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Moving Across The Pond – Americans Seeking British Citizenship

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In 2015, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) granted 35,124 American citizen’s entry clearance into the UK. These figures exclude exit and transit visas, which means that those individuals came to the UK to work, study, invest in a business or join a UK-residing spouse or partner.

The reason Americans are seeking new opportunities in Britain are varied; however, the volatile US economy (the Atlanta Federal Reserve's forecast for first quarter growth was reduced to 0.4% recently, a massive decrease from 2.5% predicted in mid-February 2016) may be driving those with money to invest or skills to offer to seek greener pastures across the pond.

Britain has a wealth of opportunities to offer American expats including:

  • A stable, growing economy with London recently named the second most economically powerful city in the world
  • Free, open access to the European market which had a GDP of €13,920,541 million in 2014 and accounts for 20% of worldwide imports and exports
  • World-class independent schools and universities
  • A booming property market
  • A vast array of sporting, cultural and intellectual events

Obtaining a visa to work, study or invest in the UK has become more challenging in recent years. It is advisable to seek the advice of an experienced attorney when making a visa application, to ensure it is filled in correctly, you have collated all the necessary documentation and that there are no delays in receiving acceptance.

The UK Points-Based System (PBS)

Since 2010, the UK has operated a Points-Based System (PBS) for granting non-EEA citizens entry into the country.

Points are awarded under the points based system for the following:

  • Qualifications (this ranges from GCSE A-Level equivalents to PHD's);
  • Future Expected Earnings (the salary that is received by the applicant);
  • Sponsorship (the type of sponsorship you are applying under);
  • English language skills;
  • Available maintenance (funds used to support yourself).

Work Visa

If you wish to work in the UK, you will need to receive an offer of Employment from an employer who has the legal right to sponsor workers from overseas. You will also need to prove that you can support yourself without having to access the British welfare system.

There are four types of work visas you can apply for:

Your sponsor will lead your work permit application process and our lawyers will ensure that you provide the documentation required to satisfy the number of points you will need under the PBS.

student visa

Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews. If you want a chance to study in one of these legendary institutions, (or one of their more modest counter-parts), then you will need to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa.

If you are applying for a short course you may be eligible for a Student Visitor Visa which is valid for six months.

For a longer course, where a Tier 4 (General) student visa, you must ensure that the institution you plan to study at is on the UKBA list of trusted sponsors.

Your course provider may be happy to help you apply for your student visa once you have been accepted on your chosen course. If not, your lawyer can provide invaluable advice.

To be eligible for a UK student visa you will need to prove you have a good knowledge of English, provide a Conformation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your approved course provider and show that you can support yourself during your course of study without claiming welfare.

You can apply for your Tier 4 (General) student visa up to three months before the start of your course and you can apply to extend your stay after your course ends.

Spouse or Unmarried Partner Visa

If you wish to join your spouse or un-married partner in the UK you will need to apply for a Spouse or Unmarried Partner Visa.

To be eligible for Spouse or Unmarried Partner Visa, your spouse or partner must show they have an income of over £18,600 per annum to be able to sponsor you. This is quite a high salary for Britain so it is advisable to check with your attorney if you do not meet this threshold as you may be able to meet the criteria with savings.

If you are applying for an Unmarried Partner Visa, you will need to provide documentary evidence that you and your partner have lived together for two or more years in a relationship similar to marriage.

Entrepreneur Visa

With London being one of the biggest financial and IT hubs in the world and given its access to the EU market, Britain is a hotspot for entrepreneurs who wish to launch their venture and/or grow their business.

To qualify for a Tier 1 (entrepreneur) Visa, applicants must:

  • Have access to funds of £50,000 or £200,000 to invest (different criteria apply for each amount)
  • The funds must come from an approved source (such as a venture capital company recognised by the Financial Services Authority)
  • A good knowledge of English
  • Work full time on running the business they set up
  • Present a viable business plan
  • Have sufficient funds to support themselves without having to access welfare payments

Investor Visa

To qualify for a Tier 1 (investor) Visa, you must have access to £2 million in funds to invest in the UK market held in one or more regulated financial institutions. You will be able to bring your family with you and our attorneys can put you in touch with experienced wealth managers and agencies who can help you find a family home and settle your children into one of London’s excellent independent schools.

Settling in the UK

There are many American expats who come to the UK for a year and end up staying a lifetime. Although the Government has recently put further restrictions on the ability for migrants to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), if you meet the criteria you can settle indefinitely and eventually apply for British Citizenship.

From April 2016, anyone on a Tier 2 work visa who wishes to apply for ILR must be earning at least £35,000 per annum.

You can apply for ILR as a spouse or unmarried partner if you can show that you have lived in the UK on a Spouse or Unmarried Partner Visa for five or more years and you are still married or living with your partner.

As an entrepreneur, if your business is turning over £5 million or it has created 10 or more jobs, then you may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after just three years. Otherwise, you can make an application after residing in the UK for five years.

Investors can apply for permanent residence in as little as two years, depending on the amount of money invested.

Tax Considerations

The basic tax requirements of US citizens residing in the UK

Wherever you may be in the world, the IRS in America can most certainly reach you. The US has one of the worlds strictest tax regimes, and one of the basic tax requirements are that if you are an American Citizen then you pay tax to the IRS on your income, no matter where in the world it is earned.

One of the main exit route available to avoid being subject to double taxation is to renounce US citizenship. Our next article will focus heavily on this subject.

With London and New York being the financial capitals of the world, and an increasingly global economy which encourages the placement of talented staff in international offices, there is constant movement between the US and UK of high level managers and executives.

The US/UK Tax Treaty provides advantages for US citizens who move to the UK and are concerned that they will have to pay income tax in both countries.

Although the Treaty does go some way in preventing double taxation through foreign-tax credits, because of the differences in the taxation systems in the two countries, you may end up paying two tax bills.

Investors and entrepreneurs will also need to seek advice on the complex nature of paying both American and UK tax and how to reduce your liability.

Our solicitors/uk Immigration attorneys can assist you in understanding the various tax laws and treaties in place so you can plan your financial affairs to your best advantage.


Investing, working and living in the UK can provide a wealth of opportunities for Americans looking for a change of lifestyle or dynamic new business prospects. Clear, concise advice from an experienced attorney will ensure the Immigration process runs smoothly and you can focus on the move.

OTS Solicitors has a strong reputation for being one of the best Immigration law firms in the UK and we have years of experience advising US Citizens on various visas that will allow them to work and/or study in Britain. You can make an appointment with one of our experienced Immigration solicitors by phoning our London office on 0203 959 9123. We can to arrange Skype calls if you are currently based in the USA.

Our expert Immigration lawyers look forward to hearing more about how we can assist you with your application.

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