Eight Reasons Brits Move to America

The means of getting to America has greatly improved since 1620. (Photo via New Hampshire Commentary)

The means of getting to America has greatly improved since 1620. (Photo via New Hampshire Commentary)

Early British settlers flocked to the U.S. to find wealth and/or religious freedom. These days, America is just as alluring to Brits with about six percent of us saying we’d like to live here and around 700,000 of us currently doing so. But the reasons we migrate across the Pond have changed.

To work
Fortunately, many U.S. employers are prepared to jump through expensive, pernickety hoops to secure the services of talented foreigners. And Brits are particularly appealing because they’re already fluent in American.

To study
Many degree courses in the U.K. include modules in the U.S. And since the British government lifted the cap on tuition fees, students increasingly struggle to find a reason to confine their course search to the U.K. Now, more than ever, Brits are looking to sign on with foreign universities, including ones in America. In 2011, almost 9,200 student attended universities in the U.S. However, studying in the U.S. doesn’t come cheap, and candidates will need to sit American SAT.

When besotted couples live on opposite sides of a big ocean, it’s usually not long before one half decides they’re prepared to migrate to be with their beloved, permanently. But be warned. Unless you’re willing to marry your American squeeze, you won’t be entitled to stay in the US any longer than a regular tourist, so up to three months at a time.

To escape the British weather
While no one is going to grant you a U.S. visa on the basis that you find the climate at home life-endingly depressing, it is what gives many Brits the impetus to emigrate. Handily, America boasts many regions with year-round sun and, should you find this doesn’t entirely fix your British blues, a more open attitude towards therapy.

To escape family
When even a move to the outer-most boundaries of Europe just won’t put enough distance between you and the mother-in-law, America is a great solution. It’s closer than other non-EU spots British emigrants chose to live in, like Australia. So you can still be home in under half a day if duty calls or you get an unmanageable craving for a proper bacon sandwich.

To get more living space
Forget idiots like me who chose to relocate to NYC, where an average property costs more than a Scottish castle. Most British immigrants to the U.S. are pleasantly surprised by how much square footage you get for your cash compared to the U.K. Not convinced? Two minutes of research revealed that for the price of a three-bed semi in Hull, you can buy a four bedroom, 3000 square foot beast of a house in Dallas.

To retire
Lots of older Brits dream of living out their last few decades under the American sun, although unfortunately there’s no such thing as a U.S. “retirement visa.” Your best option, if you happen to have an American-born child over the age of 18, is to get him or her to sponsor you. Failing that, you’ll need to see if you qualify for one of three visa categories popular with retirees.

To travel
Gap year Brits still covet time in the U.S., not least because it’s a convenient jumping off point for exploring South and Central America. Although longer-term visitors — even students on temporary work visas – can’t claim to have officially “lived” in the U.S., they’ll probably feel like they have.

Why’d you come to the States, British expats? Join us Wednesday, September 11 at 2 pm/et on Twitter for a discussion of things we *don’t* miss about the U.K. Follow @MindTheGap_BBCA and tweet us using #MindTheChat.

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • BillyBlue

    Brits emigrate to the US because they can. Ask any American that’s tried to live in the UK….first you have to be rich because it takes years to get a job or residency (NHS Card). You have to have a relative from the UK, how absurd is that. Any old European from the continent can move to the UK and live happily ever after but not an American. Most of the people moving to Britain today hate the British and their way of life. They are welcomed….Even Albert Speer died of old age in London. What a great feeling it must be to know you can move to any country you want and are welcomed.

    • Kate

      This is very true. I am working very hard to qualify under one of the British visa schemes, but it is actually going to take me years. Years that I would rather be in the UK. I wish I could just trade citizenship with a Brit who wants US citizenship. It would make it so much easier! Maybe I should just find a Brit to fall in love with, that would speed things up nicely….

    • Claire P


      It is equally as difficult to emigrate as a British person to the US. You have to qualify under strict regulations. There are years of forms, medicals, interviews, poverty testing and the promise that you will not make any claims on the US welfare or other benefits program.

      There is no free healthcare to become entitled to, purchasing your own medical insurance which if you are lucky will cost you only $5000 a year!

      That is why there are 11 million illegal aliens living in the US because there is no route for them to do it legally.

      So yes us Brits do emigrate because some of us can, but it if you are thinking that it is as as easy as following the yellow brick road – you would be entirely misinformed…

      Only EU citizens can live in the UK without visa requirements, not any old European.

      • BillyBlue

        I didn’t mean that it was that easy to move to the US. I meant that it wasn’t impossible. To obtain residency in the UK….you have to be rich, not just able to take care of yourself but Donald Trump rich. You have to have a British relative. If you try for a working Visa you have to be an outstanding surgeon, or engineer, or actor (rich). Even if you’re married to a UK citizen you will wait for residency for years living off your vast wealth. I agree with Kate….everytime a Brit moves to the US, an American should be allowed into the UK. We call it even steven. By the way where did you get health insurance for $5000.00 a year? I’m a cop and I pay twice that amount.

        • Cornish Pixie

          Sorry Billy Blue, but just having a British relative only works for Commonwealth countries. My paternal grandparents were born, raised and married in Cornwall. They emigrated to the US and never became citizens, choosing to remain British subjects. That does not help one iota if you are from the US (my father was born here but he was able to have dual citizenship, wh as the UK confers citizenship no further than one generation called British by Descent). I know. I’ve tried. I would rather live there than here but I am stuck. My father got his British citizenship hoping it would help me but nothing works.

        • RJK

          I can see the confusion. Technically you can bring a dependent parent but the rules are basically a catch 22 that makes it impossible.
          Other than that, having a brother or sister for example will do nothing. It has to be a spouse
          Though you don’t have to live off your wealth for years. Unlike the US you can work immediately in the UK.

    • Bradford

      It’s pretty much difficult to move to any first world country now because many people have already done that, and the nations are trying to decrease the rise in population and multicultural misunderstandings, tension, etc.

  • Bev

    Dallas is awful…maybe you should have tried to find a different state to make it more appealing!

    • Cornish Pixie

      Excuse me Bev but I lived in Dallas for several years. I loved it, but I’d rather live in GB.

  • janado

    The first time I emigrated was because I was 8 years old and my mom made me! The second time I was 16 and again my mom made me! The third time was because my husband and kids were coming back to the States and I didn’t want to live without them! :)

  • http://www.studioshiba.info/ Yraith

    My wife’s family (several generatins back) came here because they were kidnapped off the streets of County Meath, Ireland to be sold and used as bond servants..

    • LM Jones

      Sounds familiar…except my ancestors weren’t even considered full people by law.

    • expatmum

      Goodness. I’m researching my husband’s family (Americans) and there are several who came from Meath several hundred years ago. I wonder if that’s the same story.

  • Owen

    What about the desire to escape the Islamification of Britain, the crushing multiculturalism and political correctness, the lack of free speech, the socialism and collectivism, and high taxation?

    • rasquiche

      sounds like the U.S. so not much of a change there.

      • Simeon

        far from the U.S.

    • Hope Hughes

      Then this country would not be the place to come. My country falls into all but the Islamification, however that is on the rise only more slowly.

    • LM Jones

      Well, we do have our share of narrow-minded extremists, and entire states where they feel welcome, so yeah, there is that.

    • gn

      Sounds like you should move to Russia, not the US.

    • James Shakespeare

      Or maybe to escape narrow-minded bigots like you

    • RJK

      If by “Islamification” you mean “gasp there are Muslims here!” I’m afraid you’re out of luck. As another suggested, perhaps Russia is more your speed.
      If that’s not what you mean then you’re going to need to explain yourself because I’ve yet to see how anything is different, except in that maybe casual racism is a little less acceptable than it used to be.

  • Merry Bond

    Wow, that quashes my designs on moving to the UK. :-)

  • Erin Elizabeth Brown-Bell

    I’ve lived in Michigan my entire life and my dream is to move to the UK after I get my doctorate–

  • Blake

    If you want to live in America, move to Oregon– yes, fabulous Oregon! Land of contrast; ride a buggy along the smooth dunes or raft the mighty Rogue…please?? For once I want to meet somebody with an accent who WON’T rob my house. 😉

  • RJK

    I was surprised as I met more and more of my fiance’s family and friends (my SO is English) how many of them wanted to move to the US. The more I talked to them the more I realized why. They had a really skewed idea of what life in the US is like, especially when it comes to jobs and healthcare. Every single one was shocked when I explained how much health insurance premiums can be and what co-pays were (when giving an example of my out-of-pocket expenses for a simple diagnostic procedure one thought I must not have had insurance at all and that my co-pay was actually the entire cost! He was practically on the floor when I clarified that insurance companies do not pay 100%. This seems to be a common misconception.)