The catch-22 of being an American job hunting in England

Hunting for jobs in the U.K. is hard, but being American makes it even more difficult. With roadblocks at every turn due to my nationality, I entered a vicious cycle of visa requirements.

In order to get a visa in the U.K., you will need to have the Right to Work.

What the “Right to Work” is: Basically, the U.K. government recognizes that they have okayed you (a non-UK citizen) to legally live and work in their country for pay. This Right is given in the form of a visa.

This is an obvious requirement because a country can’t have randoms from all over the world flying in and getting jobs, making money, not paying taxes, and leaving. Especially in a country like England, where the job market is already tight.

As a foreigner, there are only a couple of ways to secure this Right. The main way is through a Tier 2 Work Visa. Other ways include marriage, having $50,000 reserved to set up a business, or being a specialist in a field that has a shortage of workers. Since I’m 22, poor, and have a pretty general degree, the Tier 2 Work Visa was my only option.

What a “Tier 2 Work Visa” is: The U.K. government has granted you this legal document to show that you can live and work in the U.K. for up to 5 years, unless your employer says otherwise.

(To be clear, you can also enter the U.K. to volunteer or study, but those do not grant you the Right to Work in any paid job or to earn money in any way.)

In order to get a Tier 2 Work Visa, the company you plan to work for has to be your Sponsor.

What a “Sponsor” does: In visa terms, a sponsor basically agrees to pay you a certain amount and to be your legal place of work (through which you will pay taxes and have a national ID number) for a certain amount of time.

Having a sponsor proves that you will not come to the U.K. and have to live on the street or prostitute yourself. It is an absolutely essential piece of securing a Work Visa.

Herein lies my conundrum.

To get a visa (i.e. the right to work), one must have a sponsor. To apply for a job that would become a sponsor, one must have the right to work (or visa). To be American is to have neither of those things.

Without a sponsor, no visa and therefore no right to work. Without a right to work, no jobs and therefore no sponsor.

On and on and on it went for over 75% of the jobs for which I tried to apply. I can almost guarantee, any American in the same situation will run into the exact same Catch-22. And there is no way out.

Unless, of course, you are a recent university graduate and can do what I did.

For anyone who has not graduated from university in the last 12 months, better start looking for a British spouse, or 50k and a startup idea.

Or, if you’ve ever encountered the same issue or happen to know of a way through the system, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

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