How easy is it to emigrate to the US from the EU
November 25, 2005 4:18 PM   Subscribe

How difficult would it be for a married couple (1 german, 1 english) currently living in london - to move to live and work in US - for example to san francisco

what steps can be taken? what obstacles are in place? anyone have any xperiences they could share? there must be some advantages tot he US-UK 'special relationship' right?
posted by Svea to Work & Money (23 answers total)
I'm afraid there is no "special relationship" as far as immigration is concerned. There are loads of information on the net, a good place to start is the UCIS web page.

I'm afraid it is not easy - the best bet is to have a job either with an American employer that really needs you or a UK/European employer that will send you there. Even then, there will be difficulties since it is both of you that will need to stay.

Good luck anyway!
posted by keijo at 4:28 PM on November 25, 2005

San Francisco (and the bay area in general) is a very expensive place to live, so it partly depends on what your careers would be. I'd recommend looking up areas were employment opportunities are decent and the cost of living is manageable.

I can't say much about anything else, though. Good luck!
posted by spiderskull at 4:28 PM on November 25, 2005

there must be some advantages tot he US-UK 'special relationship' right?

No. Not unless you count the Visa Waiver Program that people from lots of (mostly Western) countries can use for < 3 month visits without>
IANAL but from what I know your only option is a work visa of some kind. You wouldn't be eligible for the Diversity Lottery, and you're already married so no K Visas. Unless you want to come over as a student (very limited on time and ability to work), or you have A LOT of money to invest and want to start a business, your best bet is something like the H1B (I think I have that right).

And that depends on whether what you do is marketable enough that a US employer would sponsor you.

I'm sure someone else will come along with more exact knowledge of this, and clever links to useful stuff, but I think that's basically right...
posted by crabintheocean at 4:31 PM on November 25, 2005

argh, sorry about that.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:32 PM on November 25, 2005

i just got back from a long sunny weekend in SF ... i had forgotten what a great city it is .. despite the somewhat heavy smog (relatively rare) and the population density - aside from the high rents for apartments - i did not find the prices on most things much higher than here in middle america at all - and often less expensive.

find a way to work on projects in your native country via the web, use the exchange rate to your advantage, and enjoy the hell out of yourselves in a great great city.
posted by specialk420 at 4:32 PM on November 25, 2005

Sure, they will qualify for the Visa Waiver Program but working under that visa or even looking for work during those 3 months is a big no-no.
posted by keijo at 4:47 PM on November 25, 2005

I'm British and live & work in LA on an H-1B visa, which is for people doing specialist jobs: to get it, your employer must prove that they can't get an American to do the job they're advertising for.
From experience I've found that there's a hard way and an easy way to get this visa - the hard way is doing it yourself, the easy way is getting a company transfer.
The H-1B visa is for a max of 6 yrs, and has to be renewed after 3. Feel free to email me direct if you want more info.
posted by forallmankind at 5:07 PM on November 25, 2005

What sectors are these individuals employed in, and do they hold advanced degrees?
posted by cmonkey at 5:11 PM on November 25, 2005

H-1B visa, which is for people doing specialist jobs: to get it, your employer must prove that they can't get an American to do the job they're advertising for.

IANAL, but actually that is incorrect. You don't have to prove that you can't get an Amerrican to do the job. (that is more like the test to sponsor a green-card) The big requirements for the H-1B is that the work is in a "specialty occupation", and that the employer pay the prevailing wage for the specialty occupation. (also, usually this requires the worker to have a 4-year degree in a related field)
posted by reverendX at 5:14 PM on November 25, 2005

Also, H-1B's don't allow the spouse to work, if they come in under derivitive status.
posted by reverendX at 5:15 PM on November 25, 2005

On both occasions of applying for and renewing my H-1B visa, my employer had to advertise my position online and in the relevant press, "to prove that they couldn't find an American to do my job." This was a requirement as specified by my employer's immigration lawyer, and I also remember that when I was trying to get the visa myself (before I managed to transfer), I was advised by another immigration lawyer that this would be a requirement for any prospective employer.

It's up to you though whether you believe my 2 lawyers or the self-confessed not-a-lawyer reverendX....
posted by forallmankind at 6:28 PM on November 25, 2005

It's very difficult to "prove" that you can't get an American for a specific job. A company I know used to have a bunch of Indians here on H1-B's as programmers. Of course there were Americans who could do the job, but it would be more costly and difficult to find and hire them than bringing the Indians over.

So, while technically the H1-B applicant has to have unique skills to come over, what it amounts to in reality is that companies have to take measures to cover their asses in the unlikely event the government takes any interest in their H1-B hires.

Of course, many of these same Indians lost jobs to their fellow countrymen after the company started opening offices in India, thus cutting costs even further, but that's a different story.
posted by lackutrol at 8:26 PM on November 25, 2005

For a H1-B, you DON'T have to prove that there's no americans that could do the job, but you have to be willing to show (if audited) that you (the employer) acted in good faith (giving americans the opportunity to apply) before accepting a noncitizen for the position. And that you hired the most qualified person.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:29 PM on November 25, 2005

I'm on an H1-B and it's correct that employers do not have to do the whole advertising thing to prove no Americans could do the job. But when my company sponsored a superior for a greencard, they had to advertise her job.
posted by edlundart at 11:28 PM on November 25, 2005

But Svea, I don't recommend getting an H1-B... it is a really limiting visa that makes it hard to plan your life. I don't really think there is a good way for you two to move to the US.
posted by edlundart at 11:33 PM on November 25, 2005

You could invest in a US business - or indeed form a US business yourself - but depending on the area I think you're looking at between USD $100,000 and $200,000 to make use of that kind of visa.

There's another kind of visa which journalists and artists sometimes use. You'd have to prove that you won't get your paid work from the States and that you're living off income earned in Europe.

And on the subject of San Francisco, it is not a more expensive city than London. If anything it is cheaper because the exchange rate is so favourable. Which is why, if the couple has any way of earning money from London (say, if they are freelancers who get employed by UK people though work remotely over the internet), they will actually benefit financially from living in the States.
posted by skylar at 4:43 AM on November 26, 2005

Anecdotally, the best way is to get a job with a finance multinational in London.

All the finance multinationals freely transfer personnel between the U.S. and Europe, and you can count on having the opportunity to make a move within a few years, and stay in the U.S. pretty much as long as you like.

Pretty much every work visa permits you to bring a spouse over, but most of them don't let the spouse work. However, once here, the spouse can seek his or her own sponsoring employer more easily.
posted by MattD at 4:51 AM on November 26, 2005

the spouse can seek his or her own sponsoring employer more easily.

this is not from experience in the usa, but in chile (and may possibly be due to special diplomatic requirements) - at least here, the spouse is pretty much screwed. no paying job, none-negotiable.

so i'd double check that is not the case for the usa if you go that route.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:09 AM on November 26, 2005

If either of you have relatives in the States, you could wait in line for family-based immigration. Probably take years, but then you (usually) walk straight into a green card.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 AM on November 26, 2005

As I understand it under the current political climate, it is very difficult to get a green card. Try the Green Card Lottery for the best chance to get in. Unfortunately, people from the UK are inelgible but Germans seems to be eligible. And if you are married then the brit will get in as well.

Getting a job might be difficult as well unless you have some good experience. I would advise that you start looking pretty hard while working on the process. A good strong company who likes you may be able to extradite things.
posted by JJ86 at 7:03 AM on November 26, 2005

What's your English heritage? If you have any Irish ancestors (single largest English ethnic group) within two generations then you can apply for Irish citizenship. Irish get access to the diversity visa lottery system. Worked well for me!
posted by meehawl at 8:40 AM on November 26, 2005

Response by poster: "What sectors are these individuals employed in, and do they hold advanced degrees?"

both architects.
both holding postgraduate degrees.
both really nice people - honest :D

London is nigh on the 3rd most expensive city to live in the world so no shock change likely to SF - but NY would be another target destination
posted by Svea at 10:33 AM on November 26, 2005

You could set up your own architecture practice in the US?
posted by badlydubbedboy at 8:41 AM on November 29, 2005

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