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The UK offers a good quality of life, easy access to continental Europe, and wide opportunities for professional development. The visa requirements for Americans and other foreign nationals are strict and complex. It's important to start thinking about these well in advance so they don't throw a spanner in the works.
The most obvious option for those moving to the UK for work is the employer sponsored ("Tier 2") visa. However, not all employers are able to sponsor foreign workers; it's necessary to hold an official "sponsor license".
If you have a job offer from an employer with a sponsor license you need to meet several other requirements to qualify for the visa. In particular, the employer must normally prove that they couldn't find a suitably qualified local. However, this is not the case where a) you are being transferred to the UK branch of an international business; b) the UK salary is over £150,000; or c) the job is on the Shortage Occupation List.
If your partner is a UK citizen or has "Indefinite Leave to Remain" (a permanent visa) for the UK you might qualify for a visa to live and work in the UK on this basis. This includes same sex couples and people living together in long-term relationships as well as husband and wife.
You still have to meet certain requirements. For example, you and your partner must have a minimum level of income (or savings in some cases) and, if you are not a US national, you might have to do an English language test.
Citizens of countries in the European Economic Area (which means most of Europe) are not subject to UK immigration control. This means that you can live and work in the UK if you will be going there with your European partner.
If neither of the above applies to you there might still be other options. For example, there are special visa categories for people coming to work in the UK in certain fields (e.g. interns, athletes and performers). If you are lucky enough to have one million pounds (about US$1.6 million) available, you might be able to get a visa in the Investor category. If you have a British or European parent or other family connection it might be worth checking if you qualify for citizenship of the country.
Applying for a UK visa
UK visa applications made in the USA are processed by the British Consulate General in New York. However, there are application support centres located across the country where you physically submit your application documents and fingerprints. Full details about visa requirements can be found on the website of the UK Border Agency. It can often be helpful to have professional assistance with the process. In this case it is advisable to contact either a UK solicitor (attorney) specialising in immigration law; or an immigration adviser registered with the OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner).
Dominic Higgins graduated from University College London in 2005 with a Law degree. Dominic has previously worked as a legal adviser in South Africa and the UK and has a particular expertise in international/EU law; he currently works for Contact Law. If you are looking to find a solicitor, visit Contact Law to find out how we can help you today.
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