How does it work, for a US citizen to get a UK work & residency permit?

Is a job offer necessary? I presume tourist visa is enough to visit & look for work?

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    @Traveller that comment could be expanded into a good answer with relatively little effort. – phoog Aug 20 '19 at 11:18
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    @phoog I didn’t post as an answer because I’m not 100% sure that looking for work when entering visa-free wouldn’t lead to potential problems at the border. I recall a couple of questions when visitors had eg CVs with them and the landing interview was either difficult or didn’t end well. It’s not in the list of permitted activities gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/… but I don’t think it’s explicitly banned either. – Traveller Aug 20 '19 at 11:41

The work visa you’ll need depends on whether it’s permanent or temporary employment and the type of work https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y/usa/work/longer_than_six_months You cannot switch from a visitor entry to a work visa within the UK, you must apply outside the UK. You’d typically need to spend 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK to qualify to apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence).

AFAIK looking for employment while in the UK as a visitor is not explicitly against Immigration Rules https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-v-visitor-rules however you should take care not to fall foul of the requirement to be a genuine visitor under V4.2. For example, making sure you can demonstrate if asked that you have sufficient funds, and will leave at the end of your stay. Intending to work during your visit is against the Rules (V4.5).

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