Expat Guide

UK Visas & Immigration

UK Immigration is pretty simple and to the point, you may not need a lawyer. You can do the paperwork yourself if it is an uncomplicated situtation (such as for fiance and spousal visas).

There are several different ways of emigrating to the UK, and finding the right one for you can get complex, so make sure you do all your research before you buy your ticket!

Being American or speaking English does not entitle anyone to live in the UK or even visit the UK. The main ways that US nationals come to the UK are as visitors, as fiancee’s/spouses/civil partners of UK or EEA nationals, or tied to studies, employment or investment.

With all of these categories, it is essential to prove that you will not need to be supported by state funds (ie welfare) once you get here, and that you have somewhere to live.

  • You can move to the UK to work if your UK employer gets you a work permit before you arrive.
  • You can move to the UK if you have family that reside in the UK, relatives, spouse, fiance(e), as long as you can prove you will not need “welfare” support when you are here.
  • Others who qualify to move may be the financially comfortable, college students, asylum seekers, and refugees.

It is important to note that not just *any* job can get you a work permit, and a casual relationship (ie one where you have not been living together and do not yet intend to marry) will not give you enough ties to emigrate. It is strongly suggested to all those considering this move to do so following the rules and not attempt to beat the system. It is already fairly straightforward to go through the application processes to enter the UK, without making things more complicated and also making it more difficult for others.

Unfortunately, American women are beginning to get a reputation for overstaying and lying to Border Control. Americans face searches, deportation and are prohibited from taking up residence or even visiting the UK ever again! Yes, it does happen to real people more often than you imagine and we hear the stories.

If you are the spouse or Civil Partner of a British Citizen you could acheive British Citizenship for yourself in a little as 3 years, but that could change. As of 9th July 2012, the new rules have changed the family migration path and the probationary period is now 5-10 years.

You may find our Family Migration Calculator and Financial Evidence Checklist useful.

The general advice on this site is not legal or professional advice, please confirm all information with the appropriate legal or government channels before taking action. Recently the immigration rules are being changed quite often and the responsibility is with you to be sure you comply with the current rules.

If you have questions for general visa advice, please register and post them on our Discussion forum.



Advocacy is an important part of the democratic process. Advocates bring attention to alternative viewpoints of issues and have influenced government policy. UK-Yankee© is in the process of forming its own advocacy group dedicated to issues concerning United States expatriates in the United Kingdom.

Visit our affiliate partner

UK Yankee is a resource and community for expatriate Americans living in or planning to move to the UK, established in 1999. Please join the discussions in our friendly expat community.