I am 23 years old, I've been married for three years and have two children (ages 6mo and 2.5yrs). I just recently started a new job working at Aetna in customer service (in the U.S.) and my wife and I have been in pretty serious talk over the last few months of wanting to permanently relocate our family to England.

There are so many different Visa options out there that I'm not sure what would work best or even what I'd need to do. I've asked HR and my supervisor for some info and expressed my interested in wanting to relocate, but seeing as I'm in a customer service position I am almost 100% certain that an international transfer would be shot down.

As far as I know from what I've read thus far, in order for me to get a sponsorship my company would need to prove that my job can't be filled by a current U.K. resident.

Based off of that, what other options do I have to get a visa in hopes of becoming permanent residents after five years?

I'm trying to understand if it really is as hard as it sounds, given that the other criteria are being a skilled worker in a shortage job, entrepreneur, etc.

EDIT: My wife currently runs a bakery out of our home certified kitchen but it's not full-time per se (seeing as she raises the children while I work) and she only brings in an extra $1,000-$1,200 for those reasons. She has a bachelors degree in business and I'm nearing completion on my associates degree in graphic design.

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    There are currently a few graphic design occupations on the shortage list. Something to think about. I don't think there is any good route for you to get to the UK within a year, or even two. But you might be able to get yourself into a good position within five years. Aug 4, 2016 at 6:35
  • Thank you, I just read through the list. As far as work visas go, are these jobs the only ones that will allow your visa to be granted to you? Aug 4, 2016 at 6:42
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    What you're looking for are visas which have a route to settlement, which are mostly work visas (and some unusual ones that as an American you would likely have no way to qualify for). After five years on such a visa, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain, which is like permanent residence, and a year after you receive ILR, you can apply for citizenship. This is in no way a short process, and decisions you make now (e.g. with respect to university and work here in the US) will affect you for years to come. Aug 4, 2016 at 6:44
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    Note that to get a work visa, your job doesn't have to be on the shortage list. The company just has to be willing and able to sponsor you. But it's much easier to find a company to work for and to get the visa if the job is on the list. Aug 4, 2016 at 6:48
  • I appreciate all of the information, you've been very helpful. Would any work visa allow me to apply for indefinite leave to remain or only jobs on the shortage list? For example, my current employer (Aetna) has an international sector in England, would they be able to sponsor me to work for the U.K. side of the company if the option was presented to me? Aug 4, 2016 at 6:50

1 Answer 1


The most straightforward route is working at a Tier 2 sponsored position for five years, followed by an application to settle in the UK.

You should read the detailed guidance on the gov.uk website (specific links below), but the following are the requirements that are likely to be most important for your situation. Note that these are current requirements. Expect them to change in coming years--especially since the UK has just voted to leave the EU, and this will almost certainly result in changes to the visa system.

Tier 2 Sponsorship

  • A company has to offer you a job and be willing to sponsor you for a visa. Officially, they have to state that no one in the European Union can fill the position. In practice, this is subjective, and if they want you they can typically sponsor you. But they do have to think you are worth jumping through the extra hoops of visa sponsorship, so you have to outperform any EU citizen candidates.
  • You have to make at least a £20,800 annual salary initially.
  • The same person has to be sponsored for the entire time you are in the UK on this visa. You can't switch from you to your wife being the sponsored worker--you would have to leave the UK and re-enter, resetting the five year clock for permanent residency.
  • You will have to pay total visa fees of at least £4500 for your family over five years of sponsorship (at current rates). The employer can't pay this for you.
  • The sponsored individual can change jobs, but you have to get a new sponsorship from your new employer. And pay visa fees of >£2500 again.
  • The spouse who is not sponsored will be free to work without any additional requirements.

Settling in the UK

  • The sponsored individual must make £35,000 annually (or be in a PhD level or shortage occupation). This is a controversial new requirement. It means that the tier 2 visa isn't necessarily a path to permanent residence. If you successfully come to the UK on a tier 2 visa, yet don't end up with the required salary, you can't apply to stay. You can stay in the UK on this visa for a maximum of six years, and after that you would simply have to return home.
  • You will have to pay another £7500 in fees.

Another option is coming on a student visa, but you would then have to have enough money to support yourself and pay considerable fees for your education.

Overall, I would say that this is unlikely to be a feasible path at your current education and experience level. You need to build up a good enough CV that an employer thinks you are worth the extra effort of sponsorship, and so that you can command a salary of £35,000, or nearly that (if your plan is to stay permanently, I would not come unless you are sure at the start that you will be able to meet the salary requirement for settlement).

I would say, work for a few years in the U.S. to build up your CV, while monitoring the situation. Especially, keep an eye out for changes to the rules. It's possible that the UK leaving the EU may result in a new visa regime that is a lower barrier for non-EU citizens.

  • "the employer can't pay this for you": that seems a rather meaningless requirement. Is there anything preventing the employer from offering a bonus or a higher salary, knowing that the employee will be paying these fees?
    – phoog
    Aug 4, 2016 at 7:19
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    @phoog, it's not meaningless because 1) you have to pay the visa fees up front, before the employer can pay you anything 2) there is no guarantee the employer would pay you more, and they probably won't. If they have an EU worker and a non-EU worker, they aren't going to pay the latter more just because they are responsible for visa fees. Of course you can try to negotiate for a higher salary to cover it, but this is no guarantee.
    – dan1111
    Aug 4, 2016 at 7:23
  • If they are hiring a non-EU worker then they've already concluded that they can't find another EU worker to do the job. They're also going to understand that the same salary will result in far lower disposable income for someone who is facing thousands in visa fees, so they'll need to offer a higher salary to make the position attractive.
    – phoog
    Aug 4, 2016 at 7:35
  • @phoog "if they are hiring a non-EU worker then they've already concluded that they can't find another EU worker". No, that is the requirement on paper, not really in practice. "They'll need to offer a higher salary to make the position attractive" not necessarily, as the sponsorship is a ticket into the UK, which is attractive to many applicants. I have direct personal experience of this, and I think most of the time the visa fees really do end up being eaten by the applicant.
    – dan1111
    Aug 4, 2016 at 7:52
  • @phoog: No, there isn't. The employer can even just reimburse the cost.
    – Louis
    Aug 4, 2016 at 8:53

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