I understand I wouldn't be able to live there off the bat, I just want to know what I CAN do to live there and I don't know how I can get residency but afford it at the same time if I can't work for not being a citizen.
As you saw with Aquila's great advice, there are various routes, some of which allow you to live in the UK for anywhere up to 5 years, but do not lead to permanent residence, and some do lead to permanent residence.
I think the main thing for you though will be the cost of doing what you want to do.
For a student visa, for example, the visa fees aren't that much ($500-700), but you're looking at a cost of something like $25,000-30,000 per year - about $15,000-20,000 per year for international tuition fees, plus about $10,000-15,000 per year in living costs. In order to get a student visa, you need to show you have access to the first year of fees and living costs upfront (about $30,000), either in your bank account or from a US loan, before they will grant you the visa.
As another example, in terms of fiance or spousal visas though (if you were in a relationship with a UK citizen), it would be on the UK citizen to prove they met the income requirement, but just the visa fees alone to get to permanent residence and citizenship are likely to be close to $10,000 over 5 years ($1,500-2,000 per visa, 3 or 4 visas over 5 years, plus citizenship at the end).
Work visas don't have such a financial burden as often the company will pay for the visas and sometimes will help you to move, but in that case, it's being eligible to be sponsored for a visa in the first place that is the difficult part.
I have however been told my best bet is to study in the UK or get a job off the shortage list (which is risky) but if I do study in the UK I just want to know if I could also apply to regular college courses or would I only be able to apply to big universities? And I understand as well you can't take different college classes in the UK
College and university in the UK are very different things and are not the same as college vs. university in the US.
College in the UK is essentially the last 2 years of our high school... it is approximately equivalent to AP or college prep classes in the US, or equivalent to 'continuing education' or 'adult education' in the US.
College is Further Education (pre-university) and University is Higher Education.
Many UK students usually attend college at age 16, either in order to gain the necessary further education qualifications to be able to apply to university to study for a degree, or they decide they don't want to get a degree so they leave academics and instead go to college in order to study vocational, non-academic courses.
In the UK, the education system is generally as follows:
- Primary School: age 4-11
- Secondary/High School: age 11-16
- College: age 16-18/19
- University: age 18/19-21/22
So, someone might leave high school at 16 with GCSE qualifications and decide they want to become a physicist. The entry qualifications to get into university to become an physicist are: A level qualifications in Maths, Physics and one other subject (generally A or B grades are required). A levels are further education (college) courses, so that student would then go to either an FE or a Sixth Form college to take 2 years of A level courses in Maths, Physics, and maybe Chemistry too. Then they would apply to specific physics courses at UK universities to study for a degree in physics.
It is possible to get a student visa for a Further Education College course, but it would depend what your educational plans were and whether the courses offered would be what you were looking for and if they will help you in your long-term education goals.
If I have to study in the uk what happens after I get sent back but wanna come back to the uk I'm not sure if I made myself clear enough
If you were to get a degree in the UK, and were able to secure a sponsored graduate job after graduation but before your student visa ran out, it would be relatively easy to stay in the UK - due to you having a UK degree and being in the UK legally, your employer would NOT need to pass the resident labour market test, which means they could employ you without needing to prove they couldn't find a UK/EU worker and without the job being on the shortage list.
However, if you returned home to the US after the student visa, in order to move back, you would either have to apply for a new student visa to study for another course (i.e. a postgraduate degree), or if you wanted a work visa your UK degree wouldn't help - the job would either need to be on the shortage list or they would have to pass the resident labour market test first before they could hire you.