I understand the longest one can stay in England is 6 months on a visa, but I am not clear on how soon one can RETURN and renew for another six months. In other words, how long must I live in another country before I can return to England? Must I return to my native country, America, before re-entering?
Of course as a US citizen you don't have to get a visa in order to spend up to six months visiting as a tourist. As to re-entry after such a visit, I'm not sure there's a hard and fast rule about that. This was discussed here on this forum a few years ago. I think this quote from one of the posts is probably the best advice:
The Brits have a lick of sense. They've put out guidelines and left
the decision up to the Border Agency / Border Force officers. There is
no magic formula, or exact number of days, or specific time away
requirement. As long as you're not sneaking around trying to be a
resident, you'll have no problem. Make them suspicious and it ends
right there -- maybe at zero days -- probably without much chance of
appeal. The guys and gals sitting on those desks are not the village
As I understand it, the officers can stamp your passport as good for X days, they don't automatically have to give you six months in the country. So if you've just spent three months in the UK, hop over to Amsterdam for a weekend and grab the Eurostar to go back to the UK, they could let you enter but maybe not for an additional six months' stay.
I hope someone with some real expertise will chime in here.
There is no hard rule. It has to do with intent. You stay for six months, leave for a day, then return for another six months, it's going to send up red flags. They are going to assume you are trying to reside in the UK without the proper visa.
Remember, they don't have to let you in at all. When you first arrive and they ask you how long you plan to stay and you say "six months" they are going to ask a lot of questions like what you plan to do and how you are going to pay for it.
When my Dad had to do it when visiting my stepmom in Australia/UK rules back then (they divorced for 5 yrs but then remarried), he had to return to the USA to get his passport stamped after 6 months there, and then he could go back the next day I think. He just had to get to Hawaii.
Asking the immigration office by email, and double checking with the immigration officers there in Heathrow would probably be good. Have fun!
You have to satisfy the officer at each entry that you are not attempting in essence to live in the UK rather than being a visitor. Repeated long visits with short time away would not help in this regard.
Thanks to everyone for having taken the time to reply, and with such great info.
Here is the truth behind my original question: Yes, I think I may, in fact, want to live permanently in England. We fell in love with the UK when we visited in May and saw much of England and Scotland.
When I initially researched migration there, it seemed we fit none of the criterion (no relatives there, no job, etc.); but just since I posted this question, I found this link: http://www.ukimmigration.com/retirement that offers some hope.
We can meet the income requirements, and could purchase outright a home. I am not sure how to satisfy the "close connection" requirement, except for the one about "a strong sense of identity with the UK.". :-) A recent DNA test shows I am 49% British origin - I wonder if that would help, lol?
We really have no wish to "fool" the powers that be about our intent, and now that several of you have pointed out that my initial attempt at a workaround would be exactly that, I suspect our best bet would be to contact UK Immigration and be entirely up front and see if they could manage to allow two healthy American retirees to become permanent residents. I could promise them I would create a beautiful garden wherever we landed!
Emma, you are absolutely right, and as soon as I hit "send" I thought I should have added that before making a final, drastic decision, that we would live as locals for several months before applying for permanent residency.
Admittedly, the weather we had during our stay in May was near to perfect and, according to locals, quite unusual.
The retirement visa for people with independent means was closed to new entrants to the UK in November 2008 and there is no sign of anything similar being introduced, although those already here can stay if they still meet the requirements.
The retirement visa for people with independent means was closed to
new entrants to the UK in November 2008 and there is no sign of
anything similar being introduced, although those already here can
stay if they still meet the requirements.
I remember discovering this a few years ago, and feeling deeply disappointed. But, I bounced back. :-)
Just want to say that the UK has one of the most through border controls and coming and going might raise red flags. In other European countries such as Spain, I've only been asked am I coming for business/vacation and then waved through but every time I come into Heathrow, I'm asked how long I'm staying where I'm staying and when I'm going back home.
I agree with Emma on this one. From my own experience of moving to another country, it is far more complex than anyone can really imagine. Not only in terms of legal and financial matters but also in terms of emotional health. Homesickness and cultural shock are very real. I would suggest you look into renting a furnished cottage for a short time before making any kind of full-time commitment. Additionally, purchasing property in the UK is not as straightforward as buying property in the US. There are relatively few transactions that are considered "chain-free" properties in the UK which really complicates the buying process even if you are a cash buyer. As Emma points out, the weather in the UK can be quite depressing at times. I usually spent 1-2 months each summer in the UK. When the weather and beauty of the countryside is just delightful. (its my escape from the heat of the Midwest) but after visiting the UK in March this year, I was ready to come back to the US. Healthcare is also another area that must be considered - and it will get complicated. At this point in my life, (mid 50's) it would be very hard for me to move back to the UK even being a citizen. Keep it simple and just go more frequently and for longer stays.
Once again, thanks to everyone who was kind enough to weigh in on this topic.
Marco, perhaps this info on the UK Immigration page is out of date:
Retirement to the UK is an option for foreign nationals over sixty who
can demonstrate an income of £25,000 per year "without working", and a
close connection with the UK. The 'close connection' requirement is
not defined rigidly, and may, for example, be satisfied by having a
close relative in the UK, previous UK residence, business
connections/interests in the UK, or a strong sense of identity with
If not, it seems that some mechanism is still available for retirees wishing to move to the UK is still in place, albeit with perhaps more stringent requirement than were in effect prior to 2008?
Margaret, yes, I am sure such a drastic move would be quite complicated, for all the reasons you describe, and it's probable we will never attempt it - the crux of my initial question was only intended to explore the "how" of the most critical piece - gaining legal residence. I have explored purchase of real estate (out of rank curiosity) and understand about "chain free properties".
But my questions are merely explorations to find what COULD be possible. If the UK turns out NOT to be an option, we will look elsewhere because, frankly, under the current political climate here in the US, I find more and more that I no longer wish to be associated with my formerly beloved America So much long term damage has been done, and I have lost faith that anything will change, or even if my vote will be valid to help effect that change; hence, my investigations about moves to countries I find more closely matches the values I've always held dear and which are fast disappearing in the US.
Again, thanks to all participants in this thread.
Here is the information from the UK government (Home Office) on the rules for immigration into the UK by retired persons of independent means: [Edited to add, as discussed below, this link goes to a ".gov.uk" URL, meaning it's a UK government website. It's the same document linked in a later post.]
On 27 November 2008, the retired persons of independent means
immigration category was closed to new entrants. This means
• cannot enter the UK in this category
• already here in a different category cannot switch into retired
persons of independent means
The website ukimmigration.com is a commercial website with a somewhat confusing "About Us" page referring to itself as workpermits.com, which apparently is a firm of immigration advisers. Whoever they are, their advice on retired persons is out of date. BTW, the copyright at the bottom of the About Us page is "SIA Workpermit.com Riga, Latvia." Nothing wrong with that, but it's always best to get info on things like this directly from the government if at all possible, and in this case it is available.
If you wish to live there for six months to "try it out", you'll probably also have to purchase health insurance to cover the duration of yours stay, so that you're not a burden on NHS. Your best bet would be to contact the nearest British Embassy.
This was found on the official UK GOV web site, it's a long pdf, but it might give you details that you would like, it's dated recently.
This is all about moving to the UK, it may give you info that's helpful. Could also be helpful info for travelers too.
And this could be a good group for asking questions and getting some experienced answers, American expats living in the UK Facebook group.
It'll probably be a very large process, based on renting a place for months at a time to gain experience, and asking questions, getting some answers but then writing new questions that arise after some more different challenges pop up, getting those answers, making a big to-do list, you'll be OK. It'll probably be a journey in itself. :)
I hope it's fun for you, and you join a gardening club early on :)
Marco, perhaps this info on the UK Immigration page is out of date:
Yes nearly 10 years out of date.
big hint in the web address - if it is a dot com, it probably isn't British which is usually .co.uk. If it is official it is usually from .gov.uk
The reference originally used sounded to me like a commercial one, and so it proved - just a commercial one with bad information.
Yes, out of date, and unofficial to boot!
OP- I see you want to move because of the politics here and I can't argue with that. However, I'd urge you to read local newspapers from the UK and other countries you may want to move to get a feel of the realities of everyday life there. The UK is going through huge problems right now: Brexit, slashing money from the NHS, immigration/residency reforms, etc and IMO is veering to the right side of the political system. It's the same in Europe, where the far right have managed to get elected to parliaments. A declining population, health care costs and Islamophobia due to refugees is turning many countries to the right. While they might not have a fake tan clown as their leader, their problems are similar.
End of soapbox rant
Just a little pick up from the original question:
not clear on how soon one can RETURN and renew for another six months.
Be clear that each entry stands or falls on its own merits. There is no "renew", each and every entry is assessed on many criteria and then entry is granted (or not) for a time decided by the Border Protection staffer at the moment.
However, I'd urge you to read local newspapers from the UK and other countries you may want to move to get a feel of the realities of everyday life there.
Yes, the grass isn't always greener.
Yes, the grass isn't always greener.
It is in Wales and Ireland. That's why I live in the East - dryer.
Have you considered consulting with a competent immigration attorney?
Ah, yes, I missed that the website I quoted from is commercial and not government official. Thanks to the several of you who pointed that out.
I can now finally concede that there is no way to immigrate to the UK as a retiree.
I thank all of you for your kind assistance.
Thank you, Claudia, you said exactly what I have said to others who arrived where I am now before I did. I do thank you for your concern.
What about asylum?
Asylum is not be granted to those who are purely unhappy. I echo Claudia's sentiments exactly.
Maybe Canada would welcome you.
What about Scandinavia?
I was just in Denmark and Norway. Nice people, great social services, everyone speaks English and health is a major concern.
However, everything is expensive and taxes are high.
Norma, I had a Canadian say to me that we better not elect he who shall not be named because Canada wouldn't be letting a whole big bunch of us in. He was joshing me, of course, but it showed what he thought of our situation.
I found a grad school program that will let me stay for 2 years in London :) now that my daughter's married, I could pack up everything and go. If you are studying with an university as a foreign student, you can stay a total of 6 years I think that's counting both undergrad and grad school years. Maybe the political activism stirred up by the current muck will see much better election turnout and results after a while.
I'm going because my current layoff from the medical billing coding field's gone on for 2 years, so I could possibly change careers, and Kingston University gives a 2nd year on the visa to be able to work full time (grad school programs there are usually 1 yr). At least I could sightsee for a while. OR a job could finally come along and I might stay. But if you or your wife are interested in studying to be able to stay over there, the web site for advisors of US students has been invaluable (and free).
There are entrepreneur degree programs that can possibly lead to a visa to stay there permanently, if the business start up is a needed one.
There are also charity worker visas, that my daughter and I had when we went to live and work in London at the Girl Scouts' world center Pax Lodge, they can last up to 6 months. If you want to go volunteer for a location that your church or a charity you like might have available, that could get you in for a while too. :)
But if you can just go on a tourist 6 month thing, come back to get your passport stamped, and then return, that might be simpler.
I hope you find your adventure and have fun!
Please note that some political commentary was removed. Thanks in advance for keeping this forum about travel.
Keep in mind that even if you don't become a legal resident in the UK or elsewhere, if you make repeated long trips to a place, you may end up with tax liability in that jurisdiction. In many countries, if you spend a certain number of days there (usually around half the year), you have to pay taxes there. Not meant to discourage--just something to keep in mind as it would be a very unfortunate surprise if you didn't know!
I caution you that if U.K. immigration will scrutinize you if you have repeated, long stays.
I lived in the U.K. for a year with a valid 3 year work / residence visa. I traveled frequently for work during that time. Everytime that I re-entered the U.K., I got a series of questions from immigration. It was obvious that they were determining if I was still complying with the terms of my visa which only permitted me to work for a specific employer.
After I moved back to the U.S., I continued to get extra questions whenever I entered the U.K. on vacation. This lasted until the passport with the work visa stamped in it finally expired.
Questions I have been asked over the years include questions about purpose of visit, friends in U.K., money, date of return, what I plan to do on my vacation, when I last visited the U.K, etc. I’ve been asked to show my ticket departing the U.K.
Once again, many thanks to all who replied.
I believe I have enough information now.
I will make no attempt to immigrate to the UK.
I may stay on a legitimate holiday for a couple of months at some point, and not repeat.
There are several Spanish speaking countries who welcome expats - I will investigate those should the need arise.
Or try the Vancouver area of Canada IF Canadians will still have Americans
As long as you don't have to work, and can prove means of support, many European countries will let you live there. I, too, wanted to move to the UK but found I could not apply for any of the existing visa categories.
I know that Portugal and France are welcoming. My former postal carrier in the U.S. told me how he and his wife planned to retire in France because he found they welcomed retirees. Their health system is excellent and even having to buy insurance for a year or two costs nowhere near what it does in the U.S. Portugal is looking for people to move there who don't need any financial help. I have also heard Ireland is welcoming although I have not done any research.
The ultimate, however, is Malta. For $500k they will give you a passport.
I spend a good deal of time in the UK. I go in and out quite often. I spent last summer in London and will do the same this year. I have Registered Traveler so I don't get questioned but I also had no problem renewing it. Going in and out of a country as a visitor won't cause a problem. Having them think you won't leave is the issue.
Frank II, thank you for your informative reply. Very much appreciated.