Friday, August 31, 2012

"We Don't Sponsor Work Permits"

Personal note: this blog has now reached a quarter million pageviews!

Venezuela-Carnaval-02.jpg
Venezuela Carnaval. Gosh, why would
anyone want to live here?
Photo by Carnaval.com Studios
It's a common lament: "I keep applying for international jobs but they turn me down because they won't pay relocation or they don't sponsor work permits." You can apply for international positions for months on end and if you have the skills for a job, these are the two biggest objections you will face. If you get a phone interview with your dream job in Venezuela, questions about relocation costs or work permits will often cause the interview to come to a swift end.

Not paying relocation is a bit of a strange issue because many hiring managers are apparently bad at math: if you can't find anyone and must import a worker, it will often cost you less to pay a small amount for their relocation than to do without a critical skill your company needs (there are many caveats to this and if you're on the hiring side, you know what I mean).

However, "we don't sponsor work permits" is a bit spurious. Companies seldom have this written down in their playbook. Like all objections, to overcome this objection you have to know the real reason for it. What the interviewer is usually saying is "I don't know how this process works and it makes me feel uncomfortable." That's actually a perfectly natural response, so your job is to say "actually, it's really simple to sponsor someone and I'll happily walk your HR people through it."

In my work permit series I lay out a step-by-step plan on how to land that job in a foreign country. In part four I wrote:
This is why you've spent so much time learning exactly how the country's work permit system is structured. When the company in Nottingham wanted to hire me, they were concerned that it would be difficult. I assured them that it wasn't and briefly outlined the process. Then I asked for contact information in the company to whom I should be sending links to explain the process in more detail. I told them where to download forms, what fees they would be paying and what papers they would need to provide. In short, I told my employer how to hire me.
See that? I had (almost) the same objection as many people get, but I overcame it by explaining how the process works. You'll need to tailor this to the country you're trying to get work in, but I'll explain the UK system so you can get a feel for the information you need to give a company.

London, England
London is awesome
Photo by Tim Morris
First, work permits are no longer issued in the United Kingdom. Instead, there is a points scheme that each non-EU worker needs to go through. There's also an immigration cap of just over 20,000 people on non-intracompany transfers, so the earlier in the year a company tries to hire an expat, the better.

For a company to hire a non-EU worker, they need to become a licensed sponsor. It's not much different from how it used to be: fill out some paperwork to prove you're a real company, pay a fee, get your license.

Tier
Fee for small sponsors or sponsors with charitable status
Fee for medium or large sponsors
Tier 2 only£310£1,025
Tier 2 and Tier 4£410£1,025
Tier 2 and Tier 5£410£1,025
Tier 2 and Tier 4 and Tier 5£410£1,025
Tier 4 only£410£410
Tier 4 and Tier 5£410£410
Tier 5 only£410£410

Check here to determine if you're a small sponsor and check here for full policy guidance.

For expats, they generally need to score enough points as a Tier 2 worker. The company needs to make them a job offer and provide them with a number called a Certificate of Sponsorship (new rules starting April 6th, 2012).

The applicant is then submitted to the Home Office and they're approved, they apply for entry clearance and fly over to become an expat!

So it's not too hard to do. The company needs to apply to be a sponsor and, when approved, needs to provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship number. It's that easy. Yes, there's more work involved, but it's on your end. You need to verify that you qualify as a Tier 2 worker and apply for your own entry clearance. These processes take time, but shouldn't scare off a potential employer if you've convinced them you're the right candidate. It's a bit of paperwork, but it's not expensive and if you've made yourself look like an outstanding candidate, being able to explain the above can seal the deal.

Note that one "we don't sponsor" objection is very real: if it's relatively easy for the foreign firm to fill the position, they might not be legally able to hire you as their country's laws probably require them to recruit locally if they can. Or they may be simply disinclined to hire because, hey, why wait months for someone if you can get someone now? If you've gone through my work permit series and buffed your résumé to the point where no local candidate could possibly match what you have on paper, you still might be able to overcome these obstacles. It's hard work, particularly in the current economic downturn, but people are still making it happen. You can, too.

See also: We don't pay for relocation.