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My wife and I are US citizens. My wife has been accepted to study abroad as an undergraduate for 1 school year (September'16 - May'17) in London, UK under PBS Tier 4 Student Visa. I intend to travel there with her. I will be her primary means of financial support while there. I'm a software engineer, so my work will be done entirely remotely online for a US based company involving only US bank accounts (I mentioned this since this link suggests that these are the main concerns with remote "work" in the UK.) Also as I understand it, I can apply as a dependant to travel to the UK with her.

My question is this: will I be allowed to work remotely for a US company receiving payment to a US only bank account while living in the UK as a dependant of a US exchange student? If not, then under what visa/immigration-policy would this be doable?

  • If you do sort out the visa issues, you should be aware that you will most likely be liable for UK income tax. You'll also have to file US taxes, but you probably won't owe very much tax, if anything. – phoog Mar 23 '16 at 13:10
  • Would it be possible for you to give a response on how your situation ended up working out? We have a similar life transition coming up and cannot locate a definitive answer anywhere. – Allen Johnson May 27 at 20:58
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From the description you've given, I'm assuming that she is in a degree level course. The problem is that if her visa has been granted for less than 12 months, any dependents would not be able to work. If you are a dependent of a spouse holding a student visa granted for 12 months or more at a university degree level course, then yes, you may work remotely.

If you intend to stay with her in the United Kingdom, you will need visa of some kind. The scrutiny of your finances will be very high in this case. It might be best to stay in the U.S. Traveling with her should be fine to help her get settled in the first week or two of her stay. Maybe even come back to help her return. This whole working-abroad concept is still new to most immigration agencies so the default response is that work is work no matter what it's nature might be (funding, location of resulting product, base of company, etc...).

  • despite high scrutiny, in the case that I do decide to stay with her in the UK for less than 12 months, what Visa might that require? – Adam J Mar 23 '16 at 16:12
  • To honest, I can't think of a visa that really fits this scenario. Might need some research.... – ouflak Mar 23 '16 at 19:02
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I never did find a definitive answer, and I can only conclude that the UK government wants it that way. I haven't done any research since then, but here is what I did.

  1. I applied for a spouse of a student VISA, but was rejected because it only applied to post-graduate students who are studying for longer than 1 year, and my wife's term was undergrad, and less than 1 year.
  2. I decided to go on a visitor VISA, which I didn't need to apply for as a US citizen. I saw in a few places that the limit on a US visitor VISA was about 6 months, although I couldn't find 100% confirmation on that from the UK government web sites. However, I still needed to account for the 3 months that I couldn't spend in the UK. So I decided to break up my 6 months of visitor time into trips to Europe. This also would work because my work was entirely remote for the same US company.
  3. We arrived in the UK in September, and I stayed in the UK about 45 days before taking a trip to Europe for about 24 days. For part of this trip my wife was able to accomany me during a "reading week" at her university. 69 days in, and I returned to the UK without issue.
  4. About 120 days in, at the end of December, we traveled to Europe during her winter break. We traveled together for about 21 days and then she returned to resume classes, and I stayed out of the UK until mid February, a total of about 50 days outside the UK and 170 days in (~5 months 20 days). Upon returning to the UK in February, they asked the standard questions at the immigration booth, and then asked me to sit aside in a holding area for about 45 minutes, asking where I had gone and what my purpose in the UK was, etc, so I had to explain the whole situation of my wife being undergrad, and not being able to find a better VISA, so I am here to visit her, etc, etc. They made me show my pay stubs and my bank account balance to prove that I could support myself. They eventually let me in, but it felt begrudging. But the important note from this experience for me was that they did not tell me that I should have had some other VISA.
  5. At 200 days in, we took a weekend trip (3 days) to Ireland (not Northern Ireland). This was an interesting experiment too, since the UK immigration treated it like a domestic flight, even though Ireland is technically a different country and a member of the EU. As a result of it being treated like a domestic flight, I didn't have to endure any questioning upon returning to the UK. Disclaimer: I say that it "felt" like a domestic flight; that may be incorrect, but it certainly felt like they treated flights to Ireland less strictly than flights to the rest of the EU.
  6. Finally, my wife finished her schooling in late April. We had about a month left until our rental agreement expired at the end of May. At this point, my visitor VISA days balance was at (240 days in - 24 days out - 50 days out - 3 days out = 163 days ~ 5 months 12 days). So we spent 22 days of May traveling in the EU, putting us at 262 days in. Finally, when we returned, I was detained again for about 1 hour in a similar manner. They seemed more agitated and suspicious of me this time, and finally got to the point and asked me how long it had been since I had been home to the US. I said about 9 months, and they did not like that. They said they don't care just care about 6 months, they also care about you going home in between for as much time as you stay (i.e. you come for 3-6 months, you stay out of the UK for 3-6 months, but they didn't use those words; they were much more vague). The gist is that they didn't like me hopping back and forth from Europe. And they agreed to allow me in because I showed them my outbound ticket for the US that was booked about 15 days out.
  7. We said our goodbyes, packed our stuff and left the UK near the first day of June. We had traveled 273 days outside the US, and I spent a grand total of 174 days ~ 5 months 24 days in the UK and 99 days ~ 3 months 9 days in the EU and middle east. I have not been back to the UK since June of 2017.

Notes:

  • We booked a UK Airbnb for 9 months

  • Traveling alone, I stayed in hostels because they were cheaper ($12-$40 a night)

  • Traveling together, we stayed in hotels but not for much longer than a week ($60-$100 a night)

  • Booked many flights with Ryanair and Easyjet (~$100 per flight, sometimes less)

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