How to write a cover letter to overseas employer?
August 25, 2013 1:06 AM   Subscribe

How should mention my nationality when writing a cover letter to employer overseas? I have read that I am not supposed to say anything about my marital status, religion, etc... But since I am a foreigner so I don't want the recruiter to find it out in my last paragraph kindda. I feel that I should at least tell them why I am relocating and such. However, it's also weird to bring it up in the first paragraph either (and get thrown to trash right away...). In fact, I am a US citizen writing to Canadian employer so it is basically very similar to letters to my local companies. Unfortunately, it is harder than I thought due to the citizenship and job market, I guess. I have searched and couldn't find any sample letter for employer overseas... Do you guys have any idea or experience how I should put it better?
posted by lanhan to Travel & Transportation around Canada (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the suggestion that you don't mention your nationality isn't practical when you start job searching outside the US because, like you said, it's going to come up at some point. However, I think your location and work eligibility are more important than your nationality. That is, do you currently live in Canada and are you currently eligible to work there? If not, are you going to get that stuff sorted out on your own, or do you need an employer to help you do so?

I was in a similar situation. I wanted to move to an EU country, but I needed an employer to "sponsor" me so I could legally work and live there. The phrase I used in my cover letter was "I am a US citizen looking to move to [name of country]". I also used this phrase in a qualifications summary at the top of my CV, just in case my CV and cover letter got separated.
posted by neushoorn at 2:29 AM on August 25, 2013

When I was in New Zealand looking to move to Europe I had a sentence at the bottom of my cover letter about how I was looking for a new challenge and particularly wanted to move to Europe. Now that I'm in one European country looking to move to another one I don't bother because it's really obvious from my work history as detailed in the cover letter and CV. I've already shown I'm capable of changing countries so don't feel I need to talk it up the same way. I do have a line item on my CV with my nationality (under the contact details), but not with my immigration status because it won't translate to a new country anyway.

Then this does always come up in the initial interview so I have the information ready (what kind of sponsorship I'll need, why I don't want to go back to NZ, why I think that moving around Europe will further my career at this stage and long term, etc). And I'm sure it has screened me out of some jobs but I'm OK with that, there's no point going through the whole process when they weren't going to hire me anyway.

So yeah, I think you need to mention it even if just as a tiny resume item, but don't go into any amount of detail. It will be obvious from your history that you're not Canadian and they'll cover it in the interview if they care.
posted by shelleycat at 3:08 AM on August 25, 2013

But since I am a foreigner so I don't want the recruiter to find it out in my last paragraph kindda.

Leaving something until the last paragraph isn't going to cause a recruiter to toss it your cover letter in the garbage for wasting an entire minute of his or her time (unless you're writing Tolstoy-esque cover letters (don't do that)). Put it where it fits in the flow.
posted by Etrigan at 3:29 AM on August 25, 2013

I don't like to make comparisons between North American and European s.o.p. so take this for what it's worth. Here I would absolutely say it, since it's something that makes you stick out. But only if everything is sorted.

"I am an American who wan'ts to move as far from possible as my horrible soon-to-be-ex-wife, hopefully a position in your company will help me get Canadian residency".
"Originally from Michigan I am moving to Quebec next month to live with my soon-to-be wife. I have a X2J visa status and speak decent French so working for a Canadian company is no problem."

Fwiw I start all my cover letters with "I am a *koffkoff* year old Irishwoman who has been living and working in Sweden for the past *koffkoff* years.
posted by Iteki at 3:32 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the above is good, but I don't know if an explanation of why you're making the move is necessary. "Originally from Michigan, I am moving to Quebec next month" seems to cover it, and avoids any questions in the prospective employer's mind about whether any personal circumstances might change. On the other hand, leaving out an explanation of the move might mean you need to make sure you've really covered the reasons why you want to work for their company specifically, but a good covering letter should be doing that as well as possible anyway.
posted by howfar at 3:44 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having recently been on the employer side of this equation (FWIW, I am in Canada) I usually see situations like yours addressed in the first paragraph along the lines that Iteki or howfar suggested. Try something like, "I will be relocating to [location] to join my family there [or whatever]." Keep it as simple and straightforward as possible.

Also if you're still job-hunting after you've relocated, I don't think you need to mention that you're not a citizen once you have a local address (assuming that you're eligible to work and your employer does not need to be involved somehow such as for visa purposes). They can't discriminate based on nationality so it's really not relevant where you're from.
posted by AV at 7:49 AM on August 25, 2013

Best answer: As a potential (albeit American) employer, I'd also address whether you are legally employable. Don't talk about family, marital status, etc., just let them know that they can hire you just as they would any Canadian citizen (or if they can't, briefly address what steps are necessary). If you didn't do this, I would assume there might be some issues with your employability.

May I also suggest that you run your cover letter and resume by trusted friends with strong writing, editing and grammar skills? This is always a great idea, but the way you phrased your question suggested this might be a particularly good thing for you to do before you apply for any more positions.

Good luck!
posted by arnicae at 8:16 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it would flow just fine in the first paragraph or so saying "I'm originally from US City, State, and will be moving to Your City next month on a Visa Type." I don't think that gets it tossed into the trash. What would get it tossed is not mentioning it and not making it clear that you're already moving there and already have a visa.

Also I agree with arnicae - you should definitely get a friend who is a good writer to help you with or at least proof your cover letter regardless of where you are living, working, and applying.
posted by radioamy at 9:01 AM on August 25, 2013

If you're having issues finding someone to cast a quick glance at your cover letter or resume, I'd be happy to take a look at it.
posted by arnicae at 10:54 AM on August 25, 2013

Canadian firms prefer not to hire non-Canadians if they can avoid it, unless you already have the legal right to work in Canada. So, you should say whichever of the following is true:

I'm a US citizen currently living in [country]. I have the legal right to work in Canada and am planning to relocate to [destination city].


I'm a US citizen currently living in [country], and am planning to relocate to [destination city].

This assumes you're not currently living in the United States: if you are, you can skip the second half of the first sentence. If you have the legal right to work in Canada, definitely say that. If you don't, it is much less likely that Canadian employers will be interested in you, unless you have rare skills they really need, and can prove they need to immigration. Obtaining a work visa for Canada is not as hard as for the United States, but it's still a hassle, and expensive, for employers.

Good luck.
posted by Susan PG at 10:54 AM on August 25, 2013

I moved from the US to Canada and myself and my husband both put something like "I am in the process of relocating from NY having obtained my permanent residence. I will be in Toronto between Date1 and Date2 should you wish to meet, and travel up regularly should another time be convenient" on our emails and cover letters. Also, we are not Americans originally and my husband has a very "foreign sounding" name so was very emphatic in his cover emails that he had worked in the States ..... I think the phrase he used was "comparative North American business environment and culture" or something. Maybe not necessary but you hear the horror stories about "no jobs with no Canadian experience" and cab driving engineers around and about.

FWIW, my employer hires many immigrants, including some we have to sponsor for visas. Those are not issues but not having ever been in TO or not having plans to travel here soon definitely are. My bosses find that a bit flaky and tend to assume a fishing expedition or something that'll become a massive timewaster. YMMV.
posted by jamesonandwater at 12:41 PM on August 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you so much, everyone! And sorry that I didn't mention more detailed about myself earlier.

Unfortunately, I don't have working permit in Canada. If I do, I would be already at least working part-time somewhere, I think. For some family/culture reasons, me and my Canadian "fiancee" can't arrange marriage at the moment. Although visitor visa offers six-month stay, I can't just stay there doing nothing so I often come back and forth between working, studying, and find better jobs, which doesn't turn out well so far. Time goes by so fast, I am in my late 30s now but the only way is still to gain working permit via employers so I can be close to her. For her to come to the states is also not possible unless I earn good money.

Another unfortunate thing for me is that I am a graphic artist (print/video/web), which is not a needed one in the market so I am thinking if there is anything I can tell them in the cover letter to offer something or just let them consider me more, as a foreigner coming to work hard and live well. I am multi-disciplined so I am sure my work and language skill can contribute a lot but I am afraid that they won't even consider my work when reading my cover letter.

I will revise my "never working" cover letter and hopefully you guys can take a look for me a bit later.

Thanks again!

posted by lanhan at 3:43 PM on August 25, 2013

Unfortunately, you can't legally work in Canada on a visitors visa and employers are unlikely to jump through the legal hoops to help you get a work visa if there are already local workers available.

Could you get a position where you are legally able to work that you could do from Canada? I know graphic design sometimes happens in a different place than the salesperson or without a local contact person.

This is what family class sponsorship is for, so you may want to reconsider engagement or marriage as the solution.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 4:46 AM on August 26, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, I guess family class sponsorship is the only way then....

Currently, I am working as a graphic artist/designer in the US saving up money while gaining as many different work experience as possible to stay competent once I get to make the move .

Thank you all for sharing great info and knowledge with me!

posted by lanhan at 11:55 PM on September 5, 2013

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