Q. I will graduate next May and am interested in pursuing public relations on an international scale (I hope to move to London). How do you suggest pursuing internships/jobs across the pond? –JS
A. Landing a job in London is not easy for non-UK citizens, but it’s possible. The best way to do so if by attending college in the country and then migrating to an internship or full-time position. You also have a better chance if you’re working for an American company that has operations in London.
Since there are a lot of rules and regulations that affect jobs in the UK, I asked someone who has managed through the process — my goddaughter, Amanda Felt. Amanda is director of business development, executive education for the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in London. Amanda worked for the University of Chicago in Chicago before being asked to move to London. Here are Amanda’s tips and suggestions regarding London jobs and internships, and how to navigate the process.
All visas come with a price. Legal assistance is helpful but not necessary.
Work Sponsored-Visa: Many (if not most) Americans living in the UK have been sponsored by their companies and are on a work permit visa. These visas are tied to their company. So, if they are no longer employed by that company they are no longer legally able to reside in the UK. Work permits are normally valid for a period of three years and are then renewed. After five years, you are eligible to apply for an indefinite leave to remain that isn’t tied to a company.
Highly Skilled Workers: This allows one to come into the UK not tied to any company. Following Australia’s lead, the UK has recently moved to a points based scheme to attract highly skilled migrants. You earn points based on your education levels, previous earnings, age (extra points if you are under 31) and previous work/education experience in the UK. For more information, (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/infs/).
Post-Study Worker: If you do not qualify as a highly skilled worker, one of the easiest ways for Americans to qualify for a work visa in the UK is to pursue a Masters degree in the UK and then apply for the post-study visa program. You can find a plethora of programs at the University of London (http://www.lon.ac.uk/) (or even at Oxford (http://www.ox.ac.uk/) and Cambridge (http://www.cam.ac.uk/) if you fancy spending some time in the countryside.) More info on the post-study visa program (http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier1/poststudy/)
There are several benefits to studying for a higher degree in the UK:
- British law now allows those on student visas to live and work in the UK, so you can work while going to school.
- Upon graduation, you will qualify for the post-study visa program, which will allow you to stay on and work in the UK.
- British master’s degrees are, in most cases, only one year in length
- You will have access to the university’s career centre, which will have options of employment not open to members of the general public.
- When you graduate, you will have your pick of top London jobs and a master’s degree in the process. Subsequently, you will be able to work anywhere in Europe with relative ease.
- Many schools and programs do not require the same standardized tests as the US (i.e. GRE, GMAT, MCAT); they just want your transcript, application, essay, résumé (CV) and two letters of recommendation.
Other Visa Schemes: For information about other visa schemes and more information about working in the UK, please see the Home Office’s webpage.
Youth Mobility Scheme- this scheme still requires that you have a job offer from a company/organization willing to sponsor your visa and pass the points based system. Unfortunately, the US is not one of the countries participating in this scheme.
Work: My guess is that it will be difficult to find a company that will sponsor your work permit. Companies will be required to prove that a British citizen can’t do the job. A formal letter detailing your specific and unique skills to a job will be part of the work permit visa application.
Internships: There are companies that claim to guarantee internships and charge $9,500. One such firm is LondonInternships.com. I have no idea about the quality of these organizations. So, this isn’t an endorsement, just information about what exists.
Another route is to research interning/working for American companies with London offices/operations.
The Booth Center’s career director, Monica Piercy, suggested starting out at the PRCA Public Relations Consultants Association should be a good starting point.
Monica says internships are a bit tricky. “Unpaid internships are not considered ‘work’ as you are volunteering so technically you should be able to come over on a holiday visa or student visa and take up the opportunity.”
Where you are formally working the company would need to sponsor a tier 2 visa, which is unlikely to happen as this costs time and money which small companies may not feel is worthwhile for a 6- or 8-week placement, Monica adds.