UK Border UK Border. Photo © Dannyman

A Guide to UK Visas: Making the Move
By Teni Shahiean

Moving to the UK can leave American expats grappling with a sea of paperwork and conflicting rules and regulations. From the type of UK entry visa to apply for, to tax considerations; many applicants find themselves bamboozled before they even leave their home town.

The trick to understanding UK Immigration law as it applies to American citizens is to deal with it in bite size chunks, by working out what type of visa to apply for and what your tax obligations will be.

Types of UK Entry Visas

American citizens usually enter the UK on work, student, entrepreneur or family visas. Britain operates a points-based visa system. Applicants earn a certain number of points towards obtaining their visa depending on factors such as their:
• Amount of financial investment
• Job role
• Expected salary
• English language skills
• Ability to support themselves financially
• UK Work Visa

For skilled workers offered a job in the UK, the Tier 2 visa is the most common entry route for American citizens. The Tier 2 visa has four sub-categories:
• General – for skilled workers who are offered a job by a UK employer
• Minister of Religion — for those to be employed in a faith community
• Sportsperson - for those employed at a high level in sports
• Intra Company Transfer — for those being transferred to their employer’s UK branch of operations

The most popular of these is the Tier 2 (General) visa. To successfully apply you will need to show you have a job offer from an employer who has a license to sponsor employees from abroad, an appropriate salary for an appropriate position and at least £945 in savings.

Students

Britain boasts some of the world’s most famous universities and exemplary state-of-the-art academic programmes. Eligibility for a UK Student Visa rests on proving you have a good knowledge of English; providing a Conformation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your approved course provider and showing that you can support yourself during your course of study.

Entrepreneur Visa

London is one of the biggest financial and IT hubs in the world and given its access to the EU market, Britain provides a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs who wish to launch their venture and/or grow their business.

Requirements for qualifying for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa are stiff and include:
• Have access to funds of £50,000 or £200,000 to invest (different criteria apply for each amount)
• Ensuring funds originate from an approved source (such as a venture capital company recognised by the Financial Services Authority)
• Applicants having a good knowledge of English
• Entrepreneurs must work full time on their venture
• Presentation of a viable business plan

Bringing your Family to the UK

You can bring dependent family members with you to the UK if you enter on one of the above visas. You must show you can support your spouse and any children without having to use public funds. For example, American citizens entering the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa will need to show UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI is responsible for the UK Visa System) that they have £630 for each family member in addition to the £945 required to support themselves.

Family members of students will need to show they have access to funds required to support themselves while you study. The amount required will depend on the length of your course and the location of the educational institution you are attending (this is because London is far costlier to live in than for example, Durham).

Tax Issues

The IRS has long arms which can reach American citizens anywhere in the world. The starting point for expat Americans as far as the IRS is concerned is – if you are an American Citizen then you pay tax to the IRS on your income, no matter where in the world it is earned.

There may be advantages for US citizens who move to the UK due to US/UK agreements. Entrepreneurs will need to seek professional advice on the complex nature of American tax laws as it applies to expats and how to plan to reduce tax liability.

A Land of Opportunities

America and Britain have always enjoyed close business relations. Shifting to the UK can be simple, as long as applicants have a clear understanding of the administrative and tax requirements relating to making the leap across the pond.

Teni Shahiean is the Principal solicitor at OTS Solicitors, specialists in immigration, employment and civil litigation law www.otssolicitors.co.uk

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