I want to move to the UK

So you want to live in the UK. Let’s consider all your options: you may not actually need citizenship.

As a tourist

Residency and travelPositivesNegatives
Allowed in the UK up to six months per year without a visa.Can freely own property.

No need to file taxes.

Not allowed to work.

Not allowed to vote.

Can’t get a national insurance number.

US citizens can spend up to 6 months of the year in the UK without a visa. If your aim is to spend half your time in each country, you could technically do that already!

The problem is that you can’t work or vote. Perhaps if you’re rich or retired, this won’t be an issue.

With a visa

Megan entered the UK on a Tier 2 work visa. Read her post, “How Did I Get a Nursing Job in the UK?“, for details.

If you can’t get a work visa, the easiest one to get is a fiancè visa, but it’s really no more than an extension to being a ‘tourist’: it’s only valid for 6 months, and you’re unable to work during that time. You have to prove you’ll be married within 6 months of the visa start date.

Once you’re married, you can get a spouse visa, which allows the right to work. It is valid for 33 months, and can then be renewed for another 2.5 years – although you’re not allowed to leave the UK for more than 180 days in any given 12 month period in order to renew the visa.

Spouse visas take about 3 months to apply for. It looks like we both need to send off our passports for up to SIX MONTHS for them to process… and also that it’s not STRICTLY necessary for US citizens, but that it’s a good idea to get a residency card.

Once you have been living in the UK for five years, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Like a spouse visa, this does not yet allow you to vote. And if you leave the country for more than 2 years at a time, your ILR status will be revoked.

With indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain (IDLR) is somewhere in between visa residency and citizenship. You can stay in the UK as long as you like, and have the right to work.

But it expires when your passport expires (you have to prove you’ve been living in the UK in order to renew it) and whilst it allows you to leave for up to 2 years, you cannot just pop back to reset the timer, you have to intend to live here.

Once you have IDLR, you can apply for UK citizenship, although if you’re not married to a British citizen, you need to have ILR status for at least one year first.

As a citizen

There are no fast-track routes to UK citizenship. You must have lived continuously in the country for the past five years – see sections above.

You would need to have not left the UK for more than 270 days in the past 3 years (90 days per year).

Benefits: ability to vote, apply for UK passport, and no requirements around entry/exit time periods.

It costs £1,330 to apply for citizenship.