Getting a Visa before getting a job offer?
August 2, 2009 10:55 PM   Subscribe

UK Expat Work Filter: Worth getting a working visa before getting a job offer?

I'd love to get the opinion/experiences of anyone who's gotten a Tier 1 General Visa before getting a job offer in the UK. My wife and I (both with graduate degrees, both American) work in strategy consulting and service design, and although there are advertised positions available for the work we do, few firms seem to be open to hiring anyone without work permits. We're looking specifically in London, but are open to other areas of the UK.

Since it will cost over US $2,000 to apply for visas, is spending the money on permits a calculated risk or crazy gamble? Basically we'd like to better understand if it would be worth it to spend the money getting work permits in this economy, or if it would be money down the drain. Love to hear the experience of anyone who has been/is in the same boat.
posted by qwip to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
My apologies, but from the two phases you've used ("strategy consulting and service design") its not totally clear what field you work in so I'll be brief (but please feel free to reply in thread with more details) - in the end it really depends how international your field is.

I'm in banking, where being American working in London is a distinct advantage as most of the teams I've led were very, very multicultural. In fact sometimes banks are specifically looking for an American for various reasons.

But I could imagine some fields where an international background wouldn't be relevant or perhaps even detrimental (e.g., local government).

Precisely what field are we talking about here?

"few firms seem to be open to hiring anyone without work permits"

Yeh, firms take this position largely due to the cost of obtaining permits for foreign workers, but also because of time frames, overall hassle factor and the probabilistic element. The entire lengthy process could take several months and there is no guarantee of success.

If a hiring manager has a position open they need to know it will be filled by a specific date.
posted by Mutant at 12:57 AM on August 3, 2009


As someone who was a hiring manager for some positions in the UK I can tell you that I did not consider any applications from candidates who were not already qualified to work in the UK. The market is such that there are plenty of people to choose from who already have Visas or qualified in some other way (ie EU citizen). Mutant is 100% correct. The visa process is unpredictable and hiring managers need to know when your start date is.

If you're thinking about consulting you especially need a visa upfront. I worked with some recruiting companies and it seems that there is still some consulting opportunities available (particularly in London) but yes, your chances of getting a job will be MUCH better if you have a visa in hand. Think about it, there is no reason for a company to sponsor you for a Visa if the contract they are offering is only for 6 months. If you are totally set on moving your life to the UK, $2,000 is actually not that much.

Maybe you can try looking for an American company that has a London branch? Make it clear you want to somehow make your way there and work towards that? That would be hard to coordinate between the two of you but that's basically how I got here. Note though, the company and I had to basically prove that I had specialized knowledge that they could not recruit domestically. I don't know how rigorously that is enforced because I think I had a pretty good argument for it anyway.
posted by like_neon at 2:34 AM on August 3, 2009


My apologies, but from the two phases you've used ("strategy consulting and service design") its not totally clear what field you work in

Yeah, didn't want to get too into it, but basically we're in a field much like management consulting, but come from a design perspective to build business strategies, customer experiences, organizational transformation, etc. Basically it's using design methodologies to solve very complex problems. Our last roles worked specifically with Banks/Insurers in Australia developing new product areas and customer interactions.

Companies that do similar work in the consulting field are Engine and IDEO. We are not specifically looking for consulting roles, but are completely open to them all the same.

Thanks for the input, mutant and like_neon, I suspected that it would be somewhat pointless to attempt to gain employment without lowering the barrier for entry quite a bit.
posted by qwip at 8:49 AM on August 3, 2009



qwip -- "Companies that do similar work in the consulting field are Engine and IDEO. We are not specifically looking for consulting roles, but are completely open to them all the same."

Ok, here's what I suggest (and would probably do in similar circumstances) but it will take a little time: try to establish any type of networking opportunity you can with similar UK based firms (if not these), and after a relationship is in place just ask a hiring manager if they'd make you an offer IF you had a work permit.

Now sure, this won't be a formal job offer and there is alway the chance of a false positive, but that being said if you do this a few times you'll a feeling just how marketable your skills in general, and the international perspective you guys can offer, are. If you get positive indications from a number of managers then it might help reduce your nervousness about the initial cash outlay.

While I'm not familiar with your precise niche, my gut feeling is a management consultancy might bring you on, especially so one of the smaller firms looking to differentiate themselves from the big players.

Of course in that environment you're only as good as your revenue number, but if you can live with that type of pressure then I don't see why you'd have a problem.

Best of luck and be sure to call for a meetup once you guys are here!!
posted by Mutant at 9:04 AM on August 3, 2009


The UK has recently tightened rules on work-based immigration significantly. It is becoming nigh on impossible to get a Tier 2 work permit unless you are in a specified shortage area. Unless you can prove family ties, Tier 1 is your best bet. Do make sure you qualify under post-April rules, though. Yes, it's expensive. But it is becoming the only way.

(Currently going through ILR with my spouse, we went this route rather than work permits because even if you get one, likelihood of renewal is getting slimmer).
posted by wingless_angel at 10:34 AM on August 3, 2009


Best of luck and be sure to call for a meetup once you guys are here!!

But of course!

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I'll be getting our documents together forthwith!
posted by qwip at 12:17 PM on August 3, 2009


Update: For those who are curious about our application process, we applied on September 3rd and just got confirmation for our Tier 1 visas.
posted by qwip at 12:42 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


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