I want to move to the USA

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

As a tourist

Residency and travelPositivesNegatives
Allowed in the USA up to 90 days per year on the visa waiver program.

No restrictions on being in the UK.
Can freely own property.

No need to file taxes.

Not allowed to work.

Not allowed to vote.

Can’t get a social security number.

As a UK citizen, there’s nothing stopping you from buying property in the US. BUT you’d only be allowed in the states for 3 months of the year. You wouldn’t be allowed to work, couldn’t vote, and even simple things like getting a bank account could prove tricky, without a social security number.

That was too restrictive for us. The next level up was to get a green card.

As a permanent resident

Residency and travelPositivesNegatives
Can stay in the USA continually.

Cannot leave the US for more than 180 days in a calendar year without risking losing Permanent Resident status (forfeiting the Green Card, treated as “abandonment”).
Ability to live and work in the USA on a continuous basis.

Grants a social security number.
Must file US taxes, even on worldwide income.

Restrictions on leaving the US, which could revoke Permanent Residency status if violated.

Tax / immigration implications if you decide to annul your green card.

Getting a green card

You can get a green card either through work sponsorship (unlikely even in the tech sector) or marriage (though whether that would prevent Megan getting a UK marriage visa, we just didn’t know at this point).

A green card had the opposite problem – you could be in the states, but you couldn’t really leave for any extended period of time without invalidating your visa.

The process will take from 11 – 17 MONTHS to complete, costing around $1400. If, by the time it is approved, we’ve been married less than 2 years, it will be marked CR1 (“conditional green card”) and be valid for 2 years. Otherwise it’s IR1 (“Immediate Relative green card”) and valid for 10 years.

While you’re waiting for your green card, you may not be able to visit the United States.

Once you have it

You’re classed as a ‘Permanent Resident’. It requires that you not be outside of the US for more than 180 days at a time. However, trips abroad that are less than 6 months at a time will NOT disrupt ‘continuous residence’.

For every day I’m out of the states, that’s another day I’d have to wait to build up my 3 years of continuous residence. I.e. if I spend exactly 6 months a year in the states, it will take 6 years to get citizenship.

Requires filing US income tax returns as a resident. This income tax applies to worldwide income, not just US income, although there are treaties in place to reduce the burden of double taxation. Read more about UK foreign income taxation, and how to determine which country is your main residence. Lots of detail here.

Renouncing green card or citizenship can have ramifications for re-entry into the US, and there may be an ‘exit fee’ taxation to pay.

Must have maintained continuous permanent residency in the US for 3 years as a spouse (or 5 years without!). Time starts from the day you get your green card.

As a citizen

Residency and travelPositivesNegatives
Free to leave and enter the US/UK without prejudice.

No minimum/maximum lengths of stay.
Ability to live and work in the USA on a continuous basis.

Grants a social security number.

Can apply for a second (US) passport, which can make travel to some countries easier.

Citizenship also lets you vote.
Must file US taxes, even on worldwide income.

Citizenship makes you liable for jury service – though possibly only if you vote? – which could be a drain.

Can also be a disadvantage in that it may prevent jobs where a “high level of security clearance” is required.

You’re recognised as a citizen in both countries, and can come and go as you please, work, vote, like any normal citizen.

“A U.S. citizen can leave and reenter the U.S. at any time without being subject to the grounds of inadmissibility. There are no restrictions on the amount of time you can remain outside the United States.”

You can also apply for a US passport once you have the citizenship.

You are liable for jury service – not a plus for many people.

Dual citizenship can be a disadvantage for jobs where you require “high level of security clearance“, i.e. if I stay in the Government and rise through the ranks, this could be a sensitive situation.

Whilst the oath of allegiance requires that I “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign state of whom I have heretofore been a citizen”, this is a bit misleading – the US does allow dual citizenship. It’s just up to the other country too.

It does not appear that I’d lose British citizenship if I did this. The only requirement upon being a US Citizen is that I use my US passport when leaving and returning to the US. I could still use my UK passport elsewhere in the world.