Not Dwelling But… ‘Advice on Moving to London: Visa”

Today, I had an email from an optimistic girl who wanted to move to London and had heard that I could help her. At first, I wanted to fill her with hope and encourage that it was possible – pretend like it’s not as hard as it seems to get a sponsorship to live in, what I consider, the greatest city on earth. That’s not to say I didn’t try to give her the encouragement to try, but I realized that this is one of those moments where truth wins.

I’ve realized that these words should be shared to all those who have London on their minds. While I’m not comfortable pasting the whole email into a blog post, I’ve decided to put it here for those who want the truth from my perspective and from the perspective of many of my course mates and peers.

For those who have followed this blog, you know that I spent two years building a life in London as a MA student and at the end of that time, still couldn’t manage to stay in London. I had to leave my friends, my connections, my life and my mattress behind. So here is my honest advice on trying to move there with a career in mind:

Glad you have your sights on London! It is a wonderful city. All of my closest friends are still there, so I like to go back an visit as often as I can. I miss them loads! They were my family during my time there. I’m going to be really honest now, not to deter you but to let you know what the job market is like there. I lived there for two years looking for a career while I earned my MA and couldn’t find anyone to sponsor me with a visa. Of 13 american students in my course, 1 of us got a job because she was working with a start-up and they decided to pay for the extra expense for the visa sponsorship… How it works (at least how it worked a year ago), is a company has to pay a fee to the government to take on an international employee – up to an additional 750GBP. If you have a degree from the UK you will be put on the top of the pile with other UK citizens when it comes to looking at the applications – which is a bonus. But most companies will pick a UK kid before another to avoid the paperwork / fees. If you don’t have a degree from the UK, your application moves even lower down in the pile. Recently, the government has also cut the amount of sponsorship licenses that companies are allowed to have. For example, I nearly got a job for _________ Publishing, but they simply couldn’t take me on because they had no more licenses to give – not even for upper level employees. Even though I was the top candidate for the position and they wanted to give me the position, they couldn’t get any additional licences until one of their other international employees left. I was nearly hired 6 times, even by a few places in Wales, but all of them decided not to deal with the visa. Also, there is a 90 day visitor’s visa – but before you try to use that to look for jobs, know that it is illegal to apply for work while on that visitor’s visa. If you get deported, you can be denied entrance to the UK for 10 years. It’s a pretty step risk. I know this is probably not what you wanted to hear, but there is no point in skirting around the real situation. I had to deal with this for two years while I was there. Not fun. It is a massive challenge to get hired in the UK, even as an American. I’m not sure what your background is, but if you really want to live there I suggest going as a student. You can have almost two years on a student visa to have fun in the most incredible city in the world, lol. I went to Kingston University, which is located in a beautiful outer borough of London, surrounded by parks and young professionals. Anyway, the good news is, they are redeveloping their immigration system – so there is a chance they will be a bit friendlier in the future… By no means should you stop trying if you want to get over there! I still stick by my recommendation of being a student first. I do have many friends in London (all with citizenship) who are looking for jobs in your field – which might be a helpful connection in future. Good luck…”

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xx, Kristin 

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