How to Work in London as an American
There are many US nationals who are working in London. However, if this is something you’re planning on doing, then there are some things that you need to take into account before being able to do so.
First and foremost, you need to acquire the right to work in the UK. This means you need to get a visa. There are different types of visas available to Americans to work in London. In brief, they are as follows:
- A Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa: This is for those who want to set up or run a business in the UK. To apply, you must have access to at least £50,000 in investment funds.
- A Tier 1 (exceptional talent) visa: To apply you must be a recognized leader or emerging leader in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology, or the arts.
- A Tier 1 (graduate entrepreneur) visa: This is a visa for graduates who’ve been endorsed by either UK Trade and Investment as part of the elite global graduate entrepreneur programme, or an authorized UK higher education institute as having a genuine and credible business idea.
- A Tier 1 (investor) visa: For those who want to invest £2,000,000 or more in the UK.
- A Tier 2 (general) visa: This is for those who’ve already been offered a skilled job in the UK.
- A Tier 2 (intra-company transfer) visa: As the name suggests, this is when your US employer has offered you a role in a UK branch of the organsation.
- A Tier 2 (minister of religion) visa: For those who’ve been offered a job within a faith community within the UK.
- A Tier 2 (sportsperson) visa: This is for elite sports athletes who are endorsed by their sports governing body, internationally established at the highest level, and whose employment will help develop that sport in the UK at the highest level.
- A Tier 5 (temporary worker – charity worker) visa: for unpaid voluntary work for a charity.
- A Tier 5 (temporary worker – creative and sporting) visa: For those who’ve been offered work as a sports person or creative worker on a temporary basis.
- A Tier 5 (temporary worker – Government authorised exchange) visa: For those who want to come to the UK for a short time for work experience, training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research, or a fellowship thorough a government approved exchange scheme.
- A Tier 5 (temporary worker – international agreement) visa: For those who will be contracted to do work covered by International law whilst in the UK – for example, working for a foreign government or as a private servant in a diplomatic household.
- A Tier 5 (temporary worker – religious worker) visa: The visa for those who want to do religious work, such as working in a religious order or preaching.
For many people, the most likely visa you’ll be applying for is the Tier 2 (general) visa or the Tier 2 (intra company transfer) visa.
It makes life easier that, coming from the US, you probably have a good grasp of English. Sure, we have some different terminology and our grammar differs a little, but in general we all understand each other.
However, for those who speak English as their second language, you may have to prove your knowledge of English.
This can be done by passing an approved English Language test, or by having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being the equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, masters degree, or PhD.
How do I go about finding a job in London?
If you’re starting from scratch, then the first place to start is to look on the official skills shortage list for the UK. There are many different types of industries listed here, and if you’re qualified in such a field then you’re already half way to finding a job.
Be sure to only check out the list on the official Government website, because it changes regularly. Other lists found online may well be out of date.
Sadly, it is illegal to move to London on a tourist visa and start the search for a job. This might make you feel like you’re in a catch 22 situation, and indeed it is a difficult problem to overcome.
In all reality, many people do start their job search on a tourist visa, but the British authorities take this very seriously and if caught you’ll be deported back to the US with no chance of ever working in London – so it’s really not worth the risk.
It’s far better to follow the legal steps, get the proper visa, and live and work in London legitimately.
One option is to contact companies in the US that have a global presence, and particularly a presence in London. If you’re a viable candidate, then there is a chance that you could well secure a job first (and legally), and then be able to apply for the Tier 2 (intra company transfer) visa.
Historically, news organisations and the investment banking industry have been a good source for Americans wishing to work in London.
Utilise online resources
Another place to search is on some of the larger recruitment websites. You can search for ‘American Company’ in London and be rewarded with many results of US firms that have London-based positions. Such websites include Indeed and Monster.
Other ways of finding employment opportunities are using Linkedin and connecting with people that you feel might be able to enhance your opportunity of finding work in London, but remember that such a method is a two way street – you need to give back to others in return.
No one is suggesting that it’s not a challenge to gain the right to work in London, but hundreds of thousands of American citizens do it every year, so there’s no reason why you can’t join them.
For those who are still in full time study, you should factor in your desire to work in the UK into your plans for the future.
If you ever feel like you’re following a road to nowhere in your efforts to gain a visa, just remember that nothing worth doing is ever going to be easy. Just keep at it – and the day you get that hallowed stamp in your passport will be a day you’ll never forget…