DO YOU STILL WANT TO COME TO THE UK?
By Yusuf Danesi
Monday, December 29, 2008.
I do understand why you want to migrate given your love for your family. I am happy that you have all obtained your visas as you look forward to transferring your media skills here (UK). Work was not going the way it should in spite of your towering industry stature. So you have thrown in your retirement letter to everyone's shock. You have sold all you ever owned to be able to relocate with your family. In a nutshell, bridges have been burnt as you look forward to making UK your "new home."
However, you need to prepare for a completely strange transition, which may either make or break you. You will practically go to 'school' on CV writing and before you eventually get it right it might take roughly three months- this is no exaggeration, as there are many critics out here. You will start pushing out your new CV, while it takes about 3,000 to get you one interview! You may have to push out about 30,000 copies to get 10 interviews and you’ll probably need to attend 30 interviews to finally land a job! The truth is you may have to send out 900,000 applications before you get a job here!
If you are wondering why this is so then consider the following statistics and facts: the Royal Mail risks 50,000 jobs; Woolworths, which has 813 stores, collapsed in November and as a result, 25,000 jobs are likely to go; the pound has hit a near low against the Euro; manufacturing has fallen to record lows; the service sector is in record contraction; Britain is slipping down the income rankings; the Bank of England is being blamed for the recession; unemployment has hit 1.8 million- the highest since 1998; UK debt has risen to 1.5 trillion pounds, etc.
Do not be shocked that your M.Sc degree means nothing to the employers here. Worse still, the almost 20 years of experience you have does not count! Most employers do not even know what the HSMP (Highly Skilled Migrant Programme) means!
It is great that you are coming with your family of five, but you need at least £13,000 (N2.8m) to survive the first six months of possible unemployment- and this is outside of London! You’d probably need close to double that amount if you decide to reside in London. You may not be able to earn the mandatory £35,000 per annum required by the Home Office (if your visa is to be renewed in two years time) if you do not work in London. And if your post code reads anywhere but London, your applications will all fire blank. Meanwhile, no employer will tell you the reason.
If you have a relation or friend who lives in London and is willing to accommodate you temporarily, why not come alone for now? However, the danger in that is multi-faceted. Who says you will find work in six months- even menial work? There is a recession here, which affects virtually every sector. You will be shocked to learn that the employment agency would rather call, and even in some cases, register somebody from the EU who cannot express him/herself clearly in English than give you, a master's degree holder a break. And the job in question? Factory operative! The wage is about £5.75 an hour before tax/NI deductions.
Do not forget that you need to be in the £24/25 per hour bracket to hit the HSMP £35k target. Relationships with your hosts will be strained in most cases and you will be running bills back home too since your wife is not working.
If you have the money, come with your family, stay with your host for not more than 72 hours, maximum, a week, but be prepared to contribute your quota to the upkeep of the home. You will be lucky if your hosts are not greedy because they have not set eyes ever on the kind of money you are coming with at a go, in their 20-something years of living in the UK!
That you have the money is no guarantee that you will immediately get a house of your own because you do not have a credit history. If you do not have a guarantor (and many potential ones are unwilling) then just pay six months rent upfront. Though the checks that will still be undertaken may take between two to three weeks.
Make sure your landlord in back home can easily be reached by the referencing company, e.g. e-mail, fax, land phone, mobile, etc. If you do not get a permanent job before the six months and your landlord wants to sell the property then you start the process all over, though your Nigerian landlord may not be contacted again. If your employment is temporary/contract, which is less than 6-12 months, you will need a guarantor.
Do not be in a hurry to own a car because keeping it on the road is not a joke; more so your driving licence/experience, like your academic certificates/experience, will not be recognised! You will have to start from scratch as a learner, in spite of your 18 years accident-free driving experience on roads that are death traps in Nigeria! Do not even think of using your international driving licence because of the prohibitive insurance premium you will be paying on it. What baffles me, however, is the accident statistics here despite the very strict driving/traffic regulations - every morning my radio reports accidents on the A2, M25, and the lot, as fatal!
The bills never cease to come from utility companies whether you have a job or not! Your local council tax is even reviewed upwards and if you call to let them know you are not working, they ask if your wife is and if she is. Your subsequent bills will come in her name! If you are impatient, the thousands of rejection letters you are going to receive on your applications will almost make you stop believing in yourself - you will think you are absolutely useless! An attempted foray into other unrelated survivalist professions like care work may even return further rejection letters- but you are highly skilled! You will crave anything eventually because the bills are ticking away - lunch time play leader, mail sorter, support worker, anything.
You pick up most newspapers here and it is obvious you could do a better editing job if given the chance, but you have sent more than 5,000 unsuccessful applications to be considered even for the post of assistant reporter! You will almost feel like quitting. Your foreign degree is competing with theirs in this period of recession. Thousands of their citizens are out of work and they would rather give them priority. But do not be frightened, do not despair. I understand that your Christian faith is intact: that is a vital credential you will be need here at this time. Be prepared because at a stage it will look like God does not even operate here!
You were given 24 months and by 10 months into your visa some prospective employers are already weary of even interviewing you, citing "company policy" as the reason (your visa is running out of steam). I can confirm to you that many Nigerians and foreigners here are returning home in great numbers- are you surprised?
Do you still want to come to UK? Whatever decision you take will be most respected by me and my family. Unfortunately, I am still trying to find my feet too and may not be able to be of assistance other than the frank, naked and analytical advice I have provided here. Above all, be propelled always by the thought of seeing your sacrifice for your family to the end. Believe in God, who knows all things. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. Do not regret your decision- keep fighting. Weigh the options, take the ultimate decision and never look back afterwards.
Yusuf Danesi lives in the UK.
Please email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org