Working in the USA
Hundreds of thousands of British citizens choose to move from the United Kingdom to work in the USA, the country has plenty of career opportunities for British nationals, whether you are looking to relocate to a US branch of your current company, develop a business in the US market, or begin a new career with a US employer.
However, before moving to the USA it’s important to consider your immigration options. If you plan on working in the US then you must make sure that you hold the right visa, you will need a visa that grants you the right to both live and work in the US. UK nationals can only work in the USA if they have one of the following:
- An employment-based immigrant visa
- A nonimmigrant work visa
- A Permanent Residence Card (Green Card)
- A Work Permit
The right visa for you will depend on what type of job you plan to do whilst in the US and how long you intend to stay for.
US Visa Waiver Program
British citizens can travel to the US visa-free for up to 90 days using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The Visa Waiver Program can be used for tourism purposes. Whilst you cannot travel visa-free if you intend to work whilst you’re in the United States, you may be able to use the Visa Waiver Program for certain business purposes. The business activities you can participate in using the VWP include attending business meetings, consultations, conventions and conferences or negotiating contracts.
If you intend to travel to the US without a visa using the Visa Waiver Program then you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travelling.
Nonimmigrant work visas
A Nonimmigrant visa is a visa that grants you entry into the United States on a temporary basis. There are a variety of nonimmigrant visas that allow you to live and work in the United States. The validity period of these visas ranges from months to years.
The nonimmigrant work visas open to British nationals include:
- H1B Visa – for international workers in speciality occupations
- H2B Visa – for temporary workers
- H3 Visa – for exchange visitors
- E1 Visa – for Treaty Traders
- E2 Visa – for Treaty Investors
- 01 Visa – for individuals with extraordinary ability
- I Visa – for journalists and members of the media
- P1 Visa – for international athletes
- P3 Visa – for artists and entertainers
- R1 Visa – for religious workers
- L1 Visa – for those transferring to a US branch of their company for up to five years.
- B1 Visa – This is a business visitor visa that can be used by those doing unpaid work in the US on behalf of a charity or religious organisation.
How to apply for a nonimmigrant work visa
The application process for a nonimmigrant work visa varies depending on the visa you are applying for, each work visa category has its own set of eligibility criteria that you will need to meet.
Usually, to apply for a US work visa you must have a US employer to sponsor your application. Your employer will need to begin the application process on your behalf by filing I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS. If you are applying for a work visa as a specialty occupation worker, your employer will need to submit a Labor Condition Application to the Department of Labour before filing the petition, once they have Labour Certification they can submit the petition.
Once this petition has been approved you can then apply for your visa at a US Embassy or Consulate in your home country. Before attending the visa application appointment you will need to complete and submit the DS-160, the online visa application form for nonimmigrant visas. You will need to bring evidence of completion of this form with you to the Embassy or Consulate as well as your other supporting documents, a consular officer will then decide whether to approve your application.
Immigrant work visas
An immigrant visa, also known as a Green Cards, grants you permanent residency in the United States. Overseas nationals can obtain a green card using several different routes, including employment. The employment-based Green Card category is split into several subcategories organised by preference.
The Employment-based preference categories are as follows:
- EB1 – First preference employment-based visa for overseas nationals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, or certain multinational executives or managers.
- EB2 – Second preference employment-based visa for overseas nationals who hold an advanced degree, have exceptional ability or whose employment in the United States would be in the national interest.
- EB3 – Third preference employment-based visa for skilled workers, professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree and other unskilled workers.
- EB4 – Fourth preference employment-based visa for special immigrants such as religious workers, certain broadcasters, members of the U.S Armed Forces and more.
- EB5 – Fifth preference employment-based visa for foreign investors who can invest between $500,00 and $1 million to U.S. businesses.
There is also a range of other types of Green Cards that grant foreign nationals a Lawful Permanent Residence in the United States. All immigrant visa holders can live and work in the US permanently, so you do not need an employment-based Green Card to be able to work.
How to apply for an employment-based Green Card?
The application process for an employment-based Green Card differs depending on the category that you are applying for. If you are applying for an EB1 Visa as an immigrant with extraordinary ability then you can self-petition for your visa by filing Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. For the other employment-based Green Card categories you must have a US sponsor who can file the petition on your behalf, your employer will need to prove that they can continue to pay you the offered wage.
Once your I-140 has been approved you then must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, after this form has been approved you will officially be a Green Card holder and have the right to live and work in the US permanently.
During the application process, you and your US sponsor employer (if applicable) will be expected to submit supporting documents to prove that you meet the relevant requirements.
How can Total Law help?
Moving to the US to work comes with many opportunities, however, the job market remains competitive and the criteria for a work visa can be strict and complicated, but our immigration lawyers are here to help.
With training in all areas of US immigration law, our attorney’s know exactly what it takes to make a successful work visa application. If you are unsure about your immigration options, a member of our team can provide you with expert legal advice about which routes may work best for you. During an advice session your attorney will find out more about you and can assess your eligibility for the various US work visas, from this they can work out which one you will have the best chance of a successful application with.
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If you choose to move to the US to work then you may be able to bring your family members with you. Most of the main work visas also have an immigration route for your dependents. The family members that you can bring with you to the US include your partner and any unmarried children under the age of 21. To join you in the US, your family members will need to apply for one of the dependent visas that are relevant to the category of visa that you hold.
The dependent visas for overseas workers in the US are as follows:
- H4 Visa – for dependents of H1B, H2B and H3 visa holders
- 03 Visa – for dependent of 01 visa holders
- L2 Visa – for dependents of L1 visa holders
Yes, there are many types of visas that allow British citizens to work in the USA. They include temporary nonimmigrant visas such as the H1B visa for specialty workers, as well as immigrant visas such as the employment-based Green Cards that allow you to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.
British nationals are eligible for the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which allows you to travel to the US visa-free for up to 90 days, the VWP can be used for business and tourism purposed but cannot be used if you intend to work whilst in the US.
British citizens travelling to the US without a visa must have ESTA travel authorization before they travel.