Moving to the USA from the UK – Guide for expats

UK to USA removals will be an unforgettable experience, that’s for sure. Complex and demanding as the whole undertaking may seem, it will be well worth it in the end.

Whatever the reason behind your relocation to the USA, you are bound to find what you are looking for. Have you been thinking of employment opportunities? Well, a good choice then. After all, we are thinking here the land of the free and home of the brave, where equal opportunities are the foundation of all social interaction. Work-wise, there is a lot to choose from.

How to move to USAThe USA is a vast land, too. Populated by nearly 323 million people, the country is the epitome of a melting pot of cultures from around the world. There is literally a place for everyone in America both physically and in terms of cultural identity. From Seattle to Jacksonville and from New York to Los Angeles, you name it, America’s got it. Its cultural tapestry is without a shadow of a doubt the most diversified phenomenon you can think of.

America is also land. Vast and geographically diversified. Some of its pristine landscapes are not to be found anywhere else in the world. America is home to a number of UNESCO world heritage sites. A drive across the States takes six 8-hour days and the impression you get is one of travelling through different parallel worlds. Never a dull moment.

If America has been on your mind and you are looking to settle down there, our guide for expats will have lots of interesting information on how to tackle the operation of moving to the USA from the UK. Let’s begin by examining what options UK citizens have when it comes to entering the United States of America legally.

Things to know when moving to the USA

That America is a land of practically unlimited possibilities is known all around the world. Its appeal to those looking to fulfil their vision of the American dream provides the country with a constant influx of ambitious people with concrete plans for the development of their professional career. Some come to the USA years before taking their first steps on their career path.

The USA welcomes students from all over the world, offering advanced educational programmes at its prestigious universities. Although studying abroad does not necessarily mean securing employment on graduation day, a majority of foreign students do stay on to pursue their careers, making their individual contributions to the country’s economy. Likewise, the country is open to skilled workers willing to relocate in search of even better employment opportunities. And America is bound to deliver.

A good deal of immigration into the country is motivated by its rich cultural make-up. America of 2022 is the epitome of multiculturalism. That cultural diversity is reflected in every American city and town, ranging from all sorts of world’s traditional cuisines to folk traditions wrought into the fabric of life. The living cultures of America have greatly enriched the very language, making a lot of room for hilarious cross-cultural jokes explored by many talented stand-up comedians across the country.

A great many people come to the USA for tourism. The geographical diversity of Northern America is undebatable. The country offers a multitude of dramatic landscapes. From dense forests of the North West to the sandy beaches of the South East and everything in between. It takes some time to see it all.

However, it is a long way between the decision to relocate and taking that first walk in the park across the street from your new place. Let’s learn something about the American visa system.

Types of Visas for UK citizens

Visa applicationAmerica has by far the most complex visa system in the whole world. That complexity can sometimes be a source of confusion as to what type of visa is best suited for a given individual. Therefore, thorough research is needed before taking any specific steps. It isn't uncommon that entry into the country is denied to individuals whose immigration conditions do not match those specified by their visa. To make matters worse, a lot of criteria for different visas overlap, adding to the confusion. If your research leaves you puzzled, you may need to consider getting professional assistance or clarification from a dedicated immigration lawyer. In the case of some visas, the processing time can span even twelve months. It would be pathetic to get turned back at the border on account of a wrong visa.

Let’s take a quick look at the basic division of American visas. You can travel to the USA on:

  • Non-immigrants visas – short-term stay for tourism or family visit
  • Immigrant visas – long-term stay related to employment of education

But do you need a visa as a UK citizen?

Visa Waiver Programme & ESTA approval

It is common practice to allow select foreign nationals short-term visits to the USA. That is done through the Visa Waiver Programme which allows visa-free, short-term stays in the USA for up to 90 days. Along with a number of other nations, UK citizens qualify for a visa-free entry into the US. Additionally, travelling to the USA for a short period of time under the Visa Waiver Programme is limited to a selection of situations and requires approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
In order to comply with the requirements specified under the visa waiver programme, your visit to the USA must be for one of the following reasons:

  • Tourism
  • Family visit
  • Business activities:
    • Job hunt
    • Business consultations
    • Business conferences
  • Scientific purposes
  • Educational purposes

It is crucial to understand that no economic activities can be pursued by those travelling to the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme. Likewise, you will not be legally allowed to undertake courses of education and will have to arrive by air.

Non-immigrant visas to the USA

B-1 business visitor visa

With a validity period of six months, this type of visa allows short-term visits to the USA on business-related purposes. As is the case with non-immigrant visas, individuals travelling on B-1 visa will not be allowed to work or receive any type of income from business entities registered in the USA. Travelling on B1 visa allows:

  • Participation in business activities
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Business consultation
  • Litigation
  • Educational and scientific conventions
  • Conferences and seminars

The scope of business-related activities allowed under B-1 includes all activities needed for establishing businesses in the USA. Whether it is setting up the premises for further operations of your business or taking part in promotional meetings where the commercial offer of your overseas company is advertised, including taking orders for its specific products and services, you will be legally allowed to perform such activities under the stipulations of the B-1 visa.

So long as there is no US funding of your activities involved, you will be allowed to attend and speak during scientific and business conferences and carry out research.
Interestingly, there are a number of situations where receiving financial gratification is allowed for individuals travelling on the B-1 visa. These are:

  • Athletes competing for prizes either as professionals or amateurs
  • Domestic employees
  • Nannies

B-2 tourist visa

Another type of non-immigrant visa for short-term stay in the USA is the B-2 visa. It allows travelling for the purpose of tourism and receiving medical treatment. Additionally, participation in short-term educational courses is allowed, providing it does not lead to a degree and exceed 18 hours a week. The courses must not be vocational.

The B-2 visa is a very popular choice among entertainers wanting to perform in the USA. However, no income from their performance can be made other than claiming basic expenses related to the visit. In short, you will not be allowed to receive any direct payment for your entertainment services from your audience. The same conditions obtain for amateur athletes competing in amateur sporting events without the aim of gaining financial gratification.

H visas

As a UK citizen, you are allowed to pursue economic activities in the USA. TO be able to do that, you will have to apply for an H type visa. It is a temporary document for non-US citizens employed by American companies that are filling a specific skilled labour gap on the market. Before employing you on a temporary basis, the company will have to obtain the relevant certification from the Department of Labour that confirms the necessity to employ a foreign national for want of an American specialist to fill the specific labour gap.
To apply for H visa, you will have to:

  • secure in advance a valid offer of employment
  • have a bachelor’s degree or a higher degree
  • have specialised training in the relevant field

The American H visa system has all the hallmarks of a typical skilled migration government programme to address any current skilled labour shortages. It is also limited, with yearly quotas of H visas. Consequently, if this has anything to do with your situation, consider an early application, as H visas are fairly popular with foreigners and the program is regularly oversubscribed. This means rejections. On a side note, once your H visa becomes invalid, you will be allowed to apply for permanent residency through the green card program.

Immigrant visas

Family visa

Family VisaSay you have family living in the United States and want to rejoin them on a permanent basis. Moving to the USA will be quite easy, as your family can request a family visa for you. Any American citizen aged above 21 or a lawful permanent resident in the US can apply on your behalf for one of the two family visas available to non-US citizens willing to live permanently in the USA. These are:

  • Immediate Relative – close family relations, such as a spouse, child, parent or sibling
  • Family Preference – more distant family relations with a US citizen of a lawful permanent resident

While US citizens can apply for green cards on behalf of their spouses, children, parents and siblings, US lawful permanent residents can only petition for their spouses or unmarried children. Immediate Relative visas have no yearly limits. Family Preference visas, on the other hand, do have yearly quotas.

Exchange visitor visa

Exchange visitor visas are best suited for those looking to study in the USA on a temporary basis. Although of limited validity, these visas offer short-term residency to exchange visitors, thus granting them the possibility of employment and study.

How to send private items to the USA?

There are many reasons why people emigrate overseas. Those decisions often have an influence on the size of the removal. Some choose to declutter completely, others will enjoy their belongings after arrival back from the USA and there will be those looking to ship nearly all their belongings overseas.

Whether it’s a partial or a full household removal, managing it single handedly will verge on the impossible. The paperwork alone can be a massive deterrent, to say nothing of organising and managing the logistics of it. This is where professional international removal companies come in handy. An experienced removal company will:

  • Pack your belongings
  • Organise the sea logistics
  • Manage the paperwork
  • Insurance and tracking of your consignment
  • Shipping furniture to USA and household effects
  • Ship your vehicle
  • Deliver and unpack your goods

As your trusted removal partner, we offer ready made, tested solutions to managing complex international removal operations. Regardless of the size of your shipment, we guarantee a smooth door-to-door service, including:

  • Dismantling of furniture
  • Professional export packing
  • sending goods to USA
  • Supplying of packing materials
  • Reassembling of furniture at destination

Contact us today to request your free shipping quote to USA. Compare rates and services and book our services.

Employment opportunities in the USA

While there is no shortage of job openings in the USA, securing employment will depend on the visa type you have. The fastest and most reliable way to employment is finding a job offer before leaving the UK. But that will require some good timing skills and a bit of luck. It’s way easier to get a green card and go hunting for a job locally.

Establishing an own business is not a bad idea, either. One that you can prove will be beneficial to the local economy would be the best choice. This is a massive shortcut to a green card and does not involve third persons, as you can do it on your own behalf.

The cost of living in the USA

As you may expect, there will be a bit of a difference between London high street and downtown Manhattan in terms of money needed to live. Think higher renting and living costs overall. Nothing to worry, though, as your New York salary will surely pay your bills. Alternatively, you could look for accommodation a bit farther from the costly downtown or have a comparative look at some other states.

Rent or Purchase?

Short-term stays rule out any purchases. That wouldn't be legal in the first place. Given the validity periods of temporary visas, you’ll be better-off with a 6 - 12 month lease.
But once you’ve established yourself as a business operative, you may venture into the property market to land yourself that house you’ve always wanted. In any case, there is no shortage of real estate agents who are on hand to offer their expertise. Land and property prices will vary state to state.


There is a massive difference between the UK and the USA in how these two countries approach the issue of healthcare. While in the UK you have a state healthcare system funded through taxation deductible from your salary, America is on the opposite end of the spectrum. There, all health-related issues are taken care of privately. And that costs a fortune.

Living in the USA means having to be insured. Same as when you work or study. Whoever isn't offered any form of health insurance at work, will have to sort the issue out on their own. Most employers, however, do offer some form of healthcare insurance.

Education in America

Who hasn't heard of Yale or Oxford? Undoubtedly, there are institutions of higher learning in the USA that well deserve their world renown. Such Ivy League Institutions attract thousands of students every year.
Primary education in the USA is for the most part public and comprises:

  • Pre-school
  • Kindergarten
  • Elementary school
  • Middle school
  • High school

Driving in the USA

In America, you will have to drive on the right side of the road. And there are different regulations from state to state. You have been warned! Joking aside, not having access to a private means of transportation may come across as a hindrance. Not to say, you will not get to see much of America’s pristine nature without your very own four wheels.
Getting a motor is cheaper than in the UK. You will not be required to change your UK driving licence for the first year. Once you get your residence permit, though, you will have between 30 and 60 days to address the issue of updating the document.