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Moving to the UK permanently and gaining citizenship. 
TWD: Michonne
Hi, there. I heard about your community in immigration and thought I'd post here as well. I read your FAQ and first I'd like to say I am not a student yet (I do plan on going to school sometime in the next few years), don't have any UK relatives, I am not looking to marry a UK citizen and I work from home as a web/graphic designer and have a small internet business. These four things make it pretty damn rough when you want to move to the UK permanently and gain citizenship. I also took a look at the national shortage occupations list and graphic design is on the list but I'm not sure if "computer graphics supervisor" or the entire graphic design section is what I would fall under since I don't do work for film, television or video games yet.

I also went through the tags; specifically the "moving to the uk" tag and most of the posts under that tag seem to be about marrying a citizen of the UK, people with college degrees or for people whose situation is pretty different from my own.

I know gaining citizenship and being able to move to the UK permanently is no easy task at all but I am trying to figure out my options and what I can do to make the process easiest for myself (not easy, though, just easier than other options). I've been researching this for a few months and the information is so overwhelming and I'd really like to hear from people who have been through similar ordeals for their input and advice.

Some of this I have copy and pasted from my post in immigration, but I feel like the more details I give the easier it is for people to give me input/advice.

I live in the USA, English is my mother language and I am interested in gaining a work permit, permanent residence, citizenship and/or possible naturalization.

My best friend moved to the UK a few years ago and fortunately for her it was much easier for her than it will be for me since she married a UK citizen. I have visited the UK a couple of times now and I am absolutely in love with it. I will live in the states for another year or so until my lease runs out and then it's time for me to move once more and I'd like it to be somewhere I've always wanted to live, the UK (England to be specific); the reason being I am tired of moving and want to move somewhere I won't want to move away from and I just don't like anywhere in the states enough to say that about them.

What would be the easiest way (again, not that any way will be particularly easy at all, just one that is a little easier than the rest) for me to go about moving their permanently and gaining citizenship with my current situation? Will I absolutely need a Visa and if so, which do I qualify for? It doesn't seem like I qualify for any of them :( Is there anything I can do to make this whole process more doable; change of profession, school, etc?

And the way naturalization works; according to the immigration website naturalization is able to be applied for if you have lived in the UK for five years and are over the age of 18. How could I explore that idea? IE, how can I live there for five years in order for that to be an option?

Pretty much, is there even a small possibility this could work out for me?

I'm sorry for the noobness, and thank you so much in advance.. it really means the world to me. Any other advice or tips are greatly welcomed.
29th-Jan-2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid the clue is in "It doesn't seem like I qualify for any of them". You don't. A computer graphics supervisor isn't a graphic designer - we have thousands of those spilling out of universities each year, many of them unable to get an agency job and barely scraping a living freelance or unemployed. Computer graphics supervisor is a highly-skilled, experienced role in supervising, managing and administering CG workflow for TV and film. If you aren't doing it yet, the UK doesn't need you. The reason it's a shortage occupation is it's hard to get into and requires years of specific skills and experience - someone who does graphic design from home is not who they have in mind.

Your only options for staying in the UK longer than 6 months are to marry somebody from the UK, come here to do further study (but you'd have to pay through the nose for it, and it wouldn't enable you to stick around afterwards) or get rich quick and come as high-level entrepreneur.

We are riddled with unemployment and the only way a firm can employ somebody from outside the EU is if they can't find anyone remotely suitable from within the entire European Union. This is not you.

Edited at 2012-01-29 06:30 pm (UTC)
29th-Jan-2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
I figured as much. Thank you. But I also was a tad confused since I do web/graphic design on my own for people who live in entirely different states/countries than I do now so I was just curious about how that would factor in since I wouldn't really be taking job opportunities (seeing as I would be doing the same work for the same people just in a different country)
29th-Jan-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
We don't care unless you're making enough money to come in under a Tier 1 so you can pay us lots of taxes. As you aren't a world-leading exceptional talent in your area and your internet and design business has not made you enough money to come here as an entrepreneur with over £200,000 in cash to employ any of us, we don't need you. The government says we're full.
29th-Jan-2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
There's no way to settle without a visa, and if you don't qualify, then . . . you don't qualify.

School is an option, but international fees (apply until you've lived here for three years) are astronomical, and last I checked time in school doesn't count towards naturalisation anyway.

Ask your friend if she knows anyone she can set you up with, that's probably your brightest hope. Don't uproot your life and career for the UK because you've enjoyed your holidays here.
29th-Jan-2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
IANAL, but here's what I can reasonably tell you based on doing this within the past year. Yes, you will need a visa to stay here more than six months or to work (no matter what type of work you do). You cannot just get citizenship - you need to put in some time under a visa first, though how much time depends on how you do it. Given your current situation, I'd suggest two things. First, see if you qualify under Tier 2 (General working) visa; this can be seen here. Second, I'd recommend that getting a degree would be a good idea, at whatever level is applicable. This is incredibly expensive, I will not jest, and you're unlikely to get financial support (though it's not impossible). It also does not have a guarantee of permission to stay; as of April the current program is going to be discontinued and a modified Tier 2 (General) without the EEA supply requirement will be put into place (according to my university's foreign student office), but this arrangement changes a heck of a lot. A long shot is if you have any parents or grandparents from the EU that you could get citizenship from; this varies by country, but in most cases it would give you permission to work in the UK. Finally, I'd say this: a few visits to a place does not give you any idea of what it's like to live there. I've been here a couple dozen times over the past decade, but I'm still experiencing some culture shock. I'd really suggest doing something short-term before deciding you want to up and move.
29th-Jan-2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
And I should clarify, the time you spend in school here won't count toward naturalization - whatever their graduate scheme replacement is likely will, but you've got to find someone to hire you, so choose what you major in carefully if you decide to go that route.
30th-Jan-2012 06:13 am (UTC)
Unrelated, but how is IANAL a thing? It sounds like an Apple product you'd have to go to certain speciality shops to get.
30th-Jan-2012 07:11 am (UTC)
I Am Not A Lawyer... (i.e. don't take that as any sort of legal advice, it's just my assessment of recent experience of trying to wrangle this stupid system.)
(Deleted comment)
29th-Jan-2012 09:45 pm (UTC)
As others have said, no, there's really no way. And it's just getting worse.

I was lucky, as I came over as a student, shacked up with a Brit long enough to get an unmarried partner visa and then citizenship. (Incidentally, if you *live* with a UK citizen for two years, you can still get a visa. Probably not much use, but it doesn't HAVE to be marriage/civil partnership. There is also a way in if you're married to an EU citizen who's exercising treaty rights; not sure about the living together thing in that situation.)

Now I'm married to a non-UK citizen who earns quite a lot of money and pays all his taxes, lived here for years beforehand, earned his PhD here, is a native English speaker (they make a big deal of being able to speak enough English to 'integrate into your community') and although I love being married to him, it was the only way to keep him here. The UK didn't think he and others like him were the sort of immigrant they want.

The Tories must reduce net migration before the next election and they are hammering everyone.

If you want more information, check out the Visas and Citizenship board at talk.uk-yankee.com - it's designed for US --> UK immigration. I doubt they'll tell you much more than these comments - though they will ask about ancestry, as certain EU country passports are easy to get if you have a grandparent, so if you want more info about that, head on over.
30th-Jan-2012 06:07 am (UTC)
There is also a way in if you're married to an EU citizen who's exercising treaty rights; not sure about the living together thing in that situation.)

That's how I came into the country... My husband is Irish living in England. You don't have to have lived together before getting the visa, but you do have to be married. It's essentially the same as a UK spousal visa, only it's free, and it takes 5 years to get ILR instead of 2.
29th-Jan-2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
You mention that you are in love with the UK, but this sounds to me like a very rose tinted view. What exactly is it you're in love with? Our wonderful weather? The resentful customer service, our class ridden political/social structure, our delightful NHS? (I was hospitalized last year and I guarantee if you were to experience the realities of what I went through in an average NHS city hospital, you'd be screaming for a ticket home!)

I'm not sure how up to speed you are with the economic situation in my country right now, but it's pretty dire. Have you checked out house prices and food prices? What about the of petrol/gas, how do you feel about spending almost $100 just to fill up your car? Do you realize it's almost impossible to get a mortgage as a first time buyer? These are all the realities of life in the UK today.

I married a US citizen but I was unable to remain in the UK with him because I am disabled and couldn't support him, despite owning my own house without a mortgage, so even if you DID marry a UK bod it's by no means a given that citizenship would be available to you. Fortunately my husband has a very good job in the USA, so we ended up here instead. I'd like to add that my one bedroomed home in the UK (approx 300 sq ft) was the equivalent of 3/4 of what our 2500 sq ft home on an acre of land cost us here in the US. If I wanted to buy that in my home town I'd have to spend at least $1m.

It's much easier to live well here in the USA on a modest income than it is in the UK, where being poor is VERY costly indeed.

Your only other route in would be to gain citizenship to another EEA country and come in like the rest of our Bulgarian/polish/Czech/any other EEA citizen friends! But even if you did find some way in you're in for a shock, immigration is by no means an easy thing, financially or emotionally.
Do yourself a favour and take off your rose hued specs, next time you come to visit, go out of your comfort zone and visit some of the less salubrious areas. See the country for what it really is, not your construction of it based on hollies.
29th-Jan-2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, you seem to be taking a very jaundiced view. For example, my own (extensive) recent experience of the NHS has been almost entirely positive. That's not to say I disagree with you about everything -- the broken property market especially -- but I don't think this is "broken Britain" any more than it's some Earthly paradise.
30th-Jan-2012 12:51 am (UTC)
It's incredibly regional. I gave birth in north London and had a horrid experience from the day I got pregnant. This was a while ago now, but I'm told from friends still there that it hasn't improved a whit--too many pregnant women and not enough resources. Friends in other parts of the country didn't experience anything like it.

Alas, I fear the Tories want to make it all like what I got.
30th-Jan-2012 03:04 am (UTC)
Just speaking from my own experience in the NHS as a disabled person for the past 24 years and those I know who had similar experiences. Now I'm in the US 43 yrs old and pregnant with a high risk pregnancy, the care I'm getting is INCOMPARABLE with anything I had in the UK. I get monitored every couple of weeks by the fetal medicine team of doctors only (no midwives) I will get my own room and my own designated nurse when I give birth. Contrast that with my best friends experience of giving birth last year with ONE obstetrician on duty for 60 women in labour. It took him 2 days to get around to her to discharge her.

Are you seriously telling me that you prefer to be on a ward with at least 8 people and one obs machine between the lot of you? Or begging for fluids because the message that you've been switched to 'free clear fluids' from nil by mouth is never passed on to subsequent shifts? That almost resulted in me needing a blood transfusion. And don't even get me started on the 'care' my mother received in a locked psych ward on a section with NO access to medical intervention, when in fact she was having strokes that have now resulted in her having intractable dementia. I had to tend to her head injury myself and other inpatients had to feed her.

I don't believe Britian is broken and never once said that in my post did I say that it was. I do however believe our NHS has gone into a dreadful decline in the last decade.

Nowhere is an earthly paradise, I hate the food here in the USA and the awful crime rate in my city. But at least I can afford to live in a nice house and put gas in the car more than once a month.
30th-Jan-2012 03:54 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you've had such a bad time, and I wouldn't presume to comment on obstetric care, as I have no experience of that even indirectly. All I can say is that I have both epilepsy and diabetes (with some complications) and have had excellent care from the NHS for many years, including a small amount of in-patient time. Overall, I'd rather be using the service now than when I was doing so in the mid-1990s. (The future is potentially another matter, but that's getting political.)
30th-Jan-2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
you mentioned that your husband has "a very good job", and it sounds like he also has a good health insurance plan. i don't have any firsthand experience with pregnancy care in the US, but i'm willing to bet that it's not as positive an experience for the millions of Americans without health care coverage. i'm glad you've had such a good experience with the US system, but please bear in mind that this high-quality health care is inaccessible to a large number of people.
30th-Jan-2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
As someone who gave birth in the US in a rural area with no health insurance, I can guarantee you it was no rosy picture of perfect care. I came within literally a few minutes of dying, and if my mother hadn't been there to forcibly insist I get airlifted to the next island, I would have. And that's as a strapping and healthy 20-year old who worked in a cannery up to a few weeks before giving birth! belle_marmotte's experience is certainly touching, but I wouldn't claim it as representative of the American healthcare system at all, especially for the unemployed.
31st-Jan-2012 09:15 pm (UTC)
Right I do have excellent health coverage due to husband being an essential fed employee, (whatever that means) And certainly for those without any health insurance something is better than nothing at all. If you're strapping and healthy then the UK health system will certainly provide for you at a level you'll find acceptable.

But I still can't get past the fact that we have the worst outcomes for cancer in Europe and that our screening is so cost driven, no mammograms til 50 folks, no cervical cancer screening til age 27. Try getting a second opinion for anything at all without having to go private anyway.

In the UK I lived in the Lake District, very beautiful but our PCT is beyond over stretched. Rural areas always seem to come off worse for good medical provision, regardless of the country. I'm lucky to have emigrated to a larger metropolitan area with a very good reputation for medical research.

Back in the UK I had family members and dear friends who worked in the NHS. It was so frustrating seeing how hard they work when every day resembles banging your head against a brick wall of intransigence. So many good people have left because they could not cope any more and the ones left behind have to detach even more just to survive day to day.

When I showed up at my GP before I emigrated, to get a summary of my notes I enquired about a spinal X-ray I'd had done 6 months earlier. I'd heard nothing so presumed all was ok. Turned out they found a serious problem with my spine that could result in my eventual paralysis. No one bothered to let me know. On top of everything else that happened last year it was the final straw.
31st-Jan-2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
I don't blame you for being upset with that! I think medical care in both the US and UK is pretty messed up in a lot of places. I and my family members have had similar things to that notification debacle happen, and I just don't understand it.
30th-Jan-2012 12:41 am (UTC)
I stayed in the hospital last year for about a week and the only problem I had with my stay was that I was waiting for surgery, and kept being put on "nil by mouth" and I had to ask the nurse for a drip because I was getting lightheaded and dehydrated, but other than that, my stay was fine.

And I'm also fortunate that my husband bought our house in 1996 when the property market was low and our mortgage is cheaper than most rental properties.

Personally, I don't think it's any easier to live in the US with a modest income, but to each his own.
30th-Jan-2012 06:14 am (UTC)
It's relative, isn't it? As is pretty common, I hadn't been able to afford medical care for the six years before I moved to the UK, so I certainly appreciate it more than what I was able to get in the US.
30th-Jan-2012 07:00 am (UTC)
I love the NHS. I grew up in a fully-insured upper-middle-class American family who nonetheless couldn't afford to actually access healthcare (other almost a thousand dollars of monthly prescription meds for a couple people in the family). It's a whole new experience for me to be able to go to the doctor just because I'm concerned that there may be a problem. The NHS is one of the best things about Britain, though generations of naive British politicians who have never known a moment's fear that they wouldn't be able to access healthcare certainly haven't done it any favours.
30th-Jan-2012 11:09 am (UTC)
Though you can go private in the UK too - isn't it fairer to compare like with like?
30th-Jan-2012 12:11 am (UTC)
It's not impossible, but the possibility is so small as to be irrelevant. It's definitely not something you can plan to do, especially not with the sort of defined time frame you've described. If you can get a job with a big multinational or international company who have a sizeable presence in the UK, then you might be able to put yourself in a position to get sent to the UK for a short period, or might be able to transfer internally. But it's by no means a guaranteed route, and the company would still have to show at this end that there isn't an EEA/Commonwealth citizen who can do the job - but at least if you're a known quantity, they might be more willing to expend that effort.

Just to reiterate, that is still not a guaranteed route or one you can rely on at all.

I would also agree with the others that it's very difficult to get an idea of what living in a country is like based on a few short holidays. And that emigrating is very taxing emotionally and financially, it's not a decision to take lightly.
30th-Jan-2012 12:47 am (UTC)
I fell in love with the UK when I was 17 and I was determined to move here. I was fortunate that I happened to fall in love with a British man in 2008 and am now married with ILR and counting down until my Citizenship eligibility, but obviously, that doesn't happen for everyone.

You could come over as a student, but like others have said, you wouldn't be able to stay after you are finished school unless you qualified for another visa as they have discontinued the post-graduate visa option. However, I do have several friends who came over for three years of University and met/fell in love/got married/applied to stay as a spouse, but I also don't think you should come here for schooling and use it as a means to meet someone to marry!

It's just a crappy time to want to move here as they have been changing rules and cracking down on things lately.

Coming over as a student will at least expose you to life in the UK and help you determine if this is a place you really do want to settle in. I came over as a visitor for six months while I was dating my husband and so when he proposed and asked me to move here, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
30th-Jan-2012 12:50 am (UTC)
Ditto to everything above, I'm afraid. But honestly? Given the state of the union, you're probably better off remaining a visitor - especially since it seems you have a good thing going for you in the US. :)
30th-Jan-2012 01:49 am (UTC)
A few good friends and I are all unemployed, despite having all of us done two degrees and had some work experience. It's ridiculous right now. Youth unemployment is at its highest since '92 and things aren't going to get better soon. I'm from Scotland and I do love living here, it's beautiful in many places, but we have our fair share of problems, too. The whole UK does. It's such a bad time. And you do need more than a couple of visits to really know what a country is about. That's for your own sake.

I did Work Canada in 2008, lived in Vancouver for a year and even then I couldn't get any other job than a retail one, which wasn't what I'd been hoping for but I knew and understood Canadians would be picked over me for a lot of things. A year was a good length of time to like where I was, but when I went home I wasn't heartbroken. There might be a similar scheme you could do where you'd find casual work here for a year, and then you could really get to know the place, find out where exactly you'd want to live and get to know what everything costs (ie, a LOT). What everyone else has said I mostly agree with and you'd probably be hard-pushed to find even casual work but that's my advice if you are really desperate to do anything. I don't know if that sort of thing exists the other way round but it must do - it'll be more of a safety net than uprooting yourself for a country in a big economic mess.
30th-Jan-2012 08:06 am (UTC)
I came to the UK for 1 year on a charity worker visa. There were plenty of people working there from the Americas whose plan was to keep volunteering there until they had the necessary time to apply for citizenship. I think it's 5 years total. They have to go back every year to renew their visas though.
31st-Jan-2012 09:37 am (UTC)
If you're serious enough about doing this to devote your life and cash to it, then the only way to do, other than my marriage to an EU citizen, is via work. Tier 2 work visas are by no means impossible to get if the job is eligible for one - my employer has loads of people on them - the challenge is to be qualified for an obtain that job.

Option 1: get work for a US employer that will employ you in the UK on an inter-company transfer. Lots of people do this. It is not in itself a route to permanent residency however long you stay, though it would mean you were here and could look for work for a UK company that would make you eligible for a Tier 2 work permit.

Option 2: investigate what jobs the UK has a shortage of, and are thus possible Tier 2 options. Consider what jobs the UK is going to continue to have a shortage of by the time you have done your training in that job. Train (ideally with a short part of your course in the UK, so you can say you have UK experience). Hunt for a job here.

Finally, remember that any advice you receive now, and any decisions you make, could be overturned by future government decisions on immigration. For instance, the government recently consulted my employer on possible plans to remove Tier 2 as a route for settlement in most cases. What if you train as a [sewage engineer] to come to the UK, and then the government changes the rules and you are stuck in the USA with your [sewage engineer] training and debt?
1st-Feb-2012 05:01 am (UTC)
Oh, bless. We haven't had one of these posts for ages.
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