08 March 2015

How to Get a UK Work Visa (as an American) ● by Jess

I've received a bunch of emails from people in the past month asking for information on UK work visas. Sooo, I thought I'd first share our story, the give you all some creative ideas on how to get here yourself.

non-EU work visa for Americans


Let me just start off by stating that getting a UK work visa, when you're American, is hard. There is currently a bit of an immigration battle happening in the UK, so it's tough for any non-EU citizen to work here.

[UPDATE: Brexit has, and will continue to make this process even more difficult.]

Here's what we did:

Jon works for a large financial services firm. When we first had the idea to move here, we learned that Jon's employer had a Global Deployment Program (GDP-- referred to as secondments here). You can kind of think of this like a work-exchange-student program and they are pretty common in large multinational companies. They basically send you abroad for 18-36 months and pay for EVERYTHING (moving, housing, kids private school, flights there, back and a trip to see the family once a year, plus a salary). The only catch is that you return to your original office after your time abroad.

Unfortunately, Jon hadn't been with his company long enough to qualify for said program. So, what to do?

 Jon decided to pull out his mad Linkedin skills. He truly knows how to network better than anyone I've ever met. He contacted everyone he could think to connect with over in London. It took a couple of months (two or three), but just when we were about to give up, a miracle happened and his exact position was offered at Deloitte UK. He applied and after a couple of interviews they gave him an informal offer. But this is where it can get a bit tricky...

This sort of hiring is considered a "local hire," meaning they consider us locals and that we'll be here indefinitely. This would provide us with a Tier 2 visa. Legally, the company has to advertise the position in England for 30 days before they can give the formal offer. Once they do, they notify the visa office that they are willing to provide a certificate of sponsorship (which can be a little pricey). I received a Tier 2 spousal visa. Jon is only allowed to work for Deloitte (unless Jon were to get a new job with a company that was willing to provide a new visa sponsorship); I, however, am allowed to work basically anywhere I want.

For a general overview of the different kinds of visas, you check out Upcounsel (which gives a very basic overview of each kind) or the official UK work visa website (which is more in-depth).

I feel pretty confident that 90% of the Americans interested in this will need to get a Tier 2 visa. Unfortunately, the UK only offers 20,700 of these per year.

For those that can't get a tier 2 visa, here's a helpful list:

Creative Ways to Work in the UK:

  1. Work as a nanny/au pair or other domestic help [B-1 Visa]
  2. Get your degree at a UK university, you are allowed to work 20 hours/wk [Student Visa], then:
    1. Come up with a fab business idea (as far as I can see, you don't need to prove you have capital to invest if you have a UK degree) [Tier 1 Graduate Visa]
    2. Try to get a job once your here, which will be easier because the company will only have to worry about visa sponsorship and not relocation expenses [Tier 2 Visa]
  3. Come over as a volunteer, fall in love with your team lead, then elope [Tier 5 Visa, followed by Family Visa] (sidenote: the Youth Mobility Program does not apply to Americans, in case you stumble upon that)
  4. Become world famous with your insane skills [Tier 1 Visa]
  5. Come over without a visa (you'll be able to stay up to 6 months), and once you've spent your savings, you can roll on back home, happy as a clam. 
If you have any more creative ideas, be sure to share them below-- everyone loves a good brainstorm.

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