How hard is it for an American to move to England/Scotland/Wales?
May 28, 2012 1:22 PM   Subscribe

How hard is it for an American to move to England/Scotland/Wales?

This isn't something I'm planning to do any time soon but I'm just curious as to what I would be up against if I did decide to move to England/Scotland/Wales (essentially anywhere in the UK except Northern Ireland). I know for non-EUers it can be a rough go.

I don't really have any special skills (other than writing for film and copywriting) nor do I have any relatives in the country.

What would I need to do to be able to live and work in the UK?
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't really have any special skills (other than writing for film and copywriting) nor do I have any relatives in the country.

Jackpot! Check out the "Creative & Sporting" visa.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:28 PM on May 28, 2012

The easiest routes are either 1) marriage or 2) any EU citizenship.

Check your parents and grandparents (or even further back), as any EU citizenship whatsoever will let you live in the UK.

Other than that, I've heard it's pretty hard, but not impossible.
posted by Jehan at 1:31 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Related previously
posted by vacapinta at 1:33 PM on May 28, 2012

Here's the UK Border Agency's visas and immigration page. It should answer your questions. The rules change frequently. It costs a lot. Good luck (not snark!).
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 2:02 PM on May 28, 2012

IMHO the advice given above are pretty much so general as to be useless.

Basically, barring ancestry or marriage, you have several options:

1) If you are rich, Nobel-Prize-class talented, David Beckham himself, or have some other exceptional qualification, there are several visas you can apply for (Tier 1 - Exceptional talent visa, Tier 2 - Sportsperson visa, etc). No offence, but very few people in the world fall into this category, so I'm not going to go into any further detail.

2) If you have a skill that is very much in demand and an employer who is willing to pay for your visa, you can apply for a Tier 2 General visa. People like doctors, pharmacists, certain scientists, engineers, etc should be able to get in. Check whether you can apply for any of the jobs on the Shortage Occupation list.

3) If you have a skill that is in demand and your American company is willing to sponsor you on an intra-company transfer, then your company will apply for you a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa.

4) If you want to work for free or at minimum wage at certain creative events, you can apply for Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa - Creative and Sporting. Alternatively you can get a Tier 5 Temporary Workers Youth Mobility scheme. This visa would be your best bet, but it'll only allow you to stay for up to 2 years and you have to be below the age of 31 to apply

The visa requirements have changed so much since 2009 (most significantly, the abolishment of Tier 1 General visa, which allows one to stay without a job offer), that the previous thread linked earlier in this thread would be out of date.
posted by moiraine at 2:26 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you have a parent or grandparent who was born in Ireland as an Irish citizen, you're eligible for Irish citizenship.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:20 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nope. Jew on one side, very very long ago English on the other.
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 4:27 PM on May 28, 2012

I have an in-demand skill as an engineer in a very specific industry for which I have been recognized (in the US) and I couldn't get companies to return my calls or emails even when my resume was basically a word for word match of a job description. Tier 2 General visas are capped at 20,000 per year and can only be issued if they can prove there's no one in the UK *OR* in the EEA who can fulfill the job. And some significant portion of the 20,000 are already reserved for big multi-nationals who want to transfer employees within their offices from country to country.

Basically I don't think the work visa is a surefire route. Even went through immigration lawyers and they couldn't come up with a good solution. So I had to get married. (Fortunately I was already planning on that so it wasn't too much skin off my back) Feel free to memail me if you want to hear the tales of woe. Did you know you can't even freelance or do contracted or salaried work for a US company remotely whilst you're here if you haven't got a visa entitling you to work in the UK? Fun stuff!

In summary: I figured I was a shoo-in and it turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. A year earlier before the 2011 changes to the visa rules I think it would have been much easier. Stupid recession. Can you become a student, even a part-time one, to get over here for some time and then work on the job thing once you're here and have a network?
posted by olinerd at 1:46 AM on May 29, 2012

I'm currently an American living and working Wales. I came over as a student, which was a good foot in the door, and the networking attached to that got me my current (extremely specialised) job. (I was also lucky enough to get the Post-Study Work visa while it was still around.)

The short answer is -- it's very difficult, and very expensive, unless you find someone to marry. Olinerd and moiraine outline the issues pretty well, and I'd add that it's probably worth your time to find an immigration lawyer and pay for an hour of firing questions at them. (I'll be doing this myself short, fwiw.) The laws change pretty regularly, but they'll know how to navigate the different statuses, and what might be the best path for you. Good luck!
posted by kalimac at 5:24 AM on May 29, 2012

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