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  • 1 Post By PDLM
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Employer reference letter for work visa for new job

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Employer reference letter for work visa for new job

    Hi guys, I hope you can help me. I've searched the forum looking to see if this question has already been answered but can't seem to find anything that covers it (so apologies if I've missed something!).

    Here we go...I'm currently a UK employee but have just received a provisional offer for a job in HK. The offer was by email and I should get the formal written offer within the next few days. I've provisionally said yes and my prospective new employer has kicked off their pre-employment checks. As part of this process, I've received the work visa application to complete and return to them. As part of the visa application, it requires a reference letter from my last (i.e. current) employer. This is a problem.

    My current employer has no idea that I have been offered a job elsewhere (let alone in HK) and I don't want to risk them finding out until everything is signed and sealed for the new job - or I could end up unemployed and without a job in either country! Usually in my industry (in London), once all pre-employment checks are successfully completed (with the exception of reference from current employer), then you resign and they take up the last (and current) reference since its now out in the open that you're leaving. But the work visa application complicates this

    My current employer will not be happy when I resign. To say the least. I am expecting it to get messy as a lot of people rush to cover their arses as to why I'm going and no-one knew. Asking them for a reference letter without resigning is pretty much spray-painting "I'm leaving" on the office wall and doing a tap dance. Same result.

    From what I hear, its unlikely that my work visa will be refused. My future employer is a large international bank with a lot of experience recruiting expats to HK. However, I understand that the visa application takes up to 6-8 weeks.

    I do not feel comfortable resigning - or asking for a reference letter - until I

    1) have the formal offer letter (just in case there's something in there I don't like)
    2) know pre-employment checks (except current reference) have been satisfactorily completed
    3) IDEALLY...know the visa application is at least in progress, completed would be nice but I know my future employer wants me to start asap.

    How do people get around applying for a work visa for HK which requires a reference letter from their last employer when they are still employed by that employer??? Is submitting a copy of my current employment contract proof that I am actually employed as I say I am? Any ideas please?

    I will, of course, ask my future employer about this but I'm hoping some of you guys have been through this yourselves and can shed some light on it. How do people manage without leaving themselves completely vulnerable?

    Just to add, the reference itself will be fine....its just a timing problem. I don't want to resign and be unemployed/unpaid while waiting for the visa to come through. I'm going to need every penny I have to set myself up in HK given rent deposits etc(I'll be on a local contract so no housing allowance etc). Plus, if for some reason the visa is denied, I've then lost the (well paid) job I currently have in the UK.

    Last edited by bibbju; 17-06-2011 at 02:46 AM.

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    I am not sure of the need for a letter from your former employer for Immigration and it could wait as you note. The onus I thought is more on your prospective employer to show why your special skills are needed over an HK local job candidate. You are certainly right to let the current employer only be checked after the offer is set. Outfits like the ones you suggest are going to hire you have proven records of success in getting new hires in.

    What we typically see in our background checking business is a person like you only granting access to the current employer only after all the other checks are done and of course you know that your current job performance is okay.

    What too many candidates worry about is an angry ex-employer all of a sudden trashing them. It is just not going to happen normally and if it does it stands out as very stupid and dumb on their part as the candidate has glowing references from others. I have even seen references from bosses on candidates they didn't work well with that come out fine as the person (ex boss) admits to being part of the problem and an employer who has already interviewed the candidate is not about to not hire someone due to one bad response (as long as it is not integrity related or a very serious allegation). If it is a total trashing of the person with our clients it is totally discounted as it will come across to them as a reference from an idiot. Where the astute clients get concerned is with glowing references that look unbalanced as the person is just too perfect.

    What is more important is once you resign and if you are asked for a reference is to speak the right boss to let them know that you need them to speak on your behalf. Where we get issues is where referees are surprised by our call as the candidate does not tell them we will call and does not give us an email to get a proper introduction. The other problem we get rarely but at times is where the job candidate is a bit of an idiot and prejudices us by not telling his old boss we will call and they then claim company policy of no oral references and don't talk. This never happens IF the referee knows a call is coming.

    Last edited by Football16; 17-06-2011 at 03:19 AM.

  3. #3

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    There's no requirement from Immigration for a letter from your previous employer. The checklist of documents required is here: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - Immigration Department (look at the last column for your case).

    What they do ask for is evidence to support your claimed experience. Personally (on an internal transfer) I just submitted my CV and that seemed sufficient, but you could submit a copy of your current job specification, for example.

    Last edited by PDLM; 17-06-2011 at 10:53 AM.
    Football16 likes this.

  4. #4

    Join Date
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    Your CV should be sufficient, that's all I provided and I got my visa without any issues. If your employer is sponsoring the visa you don't have to worry too much.


  5. #5

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    We had the same thing when Mr SS was offered a job here. The new company nagged and nagged for him to get the reference letter, which he was unable to ask for as he hadn't resigned.
    I don't think companies are allowed to give you a "bad" reference...? In the UK I'm sure there's an employment law for that.


  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by PDLM:
    There's no requirement from Immigration for a letter from your previous employer. The checklist of documents required is here: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - Immigration Department (look at the last column for your case).

    What they do ask for is evidence to support your claimed experience. Personally (on an internal transfer) I just submitted my CV and that seemed sufficient, but you could submit a copy of your current job specification, for example.
    That's really interesting, thank you! My prospective employer has asked me to send a cv AND a reference letter from my current employer for the visa application so I guess they are just being over-egging the application. Its a relief that I don't actually need the reference letter yet. I went back this morning and asked them if a copy of my current employment contract is sufficient evidence of my employment level (plus my cv of course) so hopefully they will say yes. If they say no, I will send them your link showing that I don't need a reference letter for the visa application. The recruitment agency I am dealing with assures me its just part of their standard procedure and that the HR contact is more than aware of situation and understands that I'm not willing to resign until I have the job offer in writing etc etc.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Satay Sue:
    We had the same thing when Mr SS was offered a job here. The new company nagged and nagged for him to get the reference letter, which he was unable to ask for as he hadn't resigned.
    I don't think companies are allowed to give you a "bad" reference...? In the UK I'm sure there's an employment law for that.
    We don't give reference letters any longer, only a certificate of employment.

    When taking references I do them directly as, to be honest, a written reference letter is far too easy to 'produce'.

  8. #8

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    bibbju
    I think the purpose of this is not a reference as such, just proof that you do have the experience that you claim on your CV. Mine was a 2 line letter stating dates of employment and job title, with a copy of job description attached. Therefore your current employment contract I'd have thought should suffice.


  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Satay Sue:
    We had the same thing when Mr SS was offered a job here. The new company nagged and nagged for him to get the reference letter, which he was unable to ask for as he hadn't resigned.
    I don't think companies are allowed to give you a "bad" reference...? In the UK I'm sure there's an employment law for that.
    In the UK the legal requirement is that a company gives a truthful and accurate reference. So technically they could give a "bad" reference if the "bad" things they say are true and can be proven...for example, if you were dismissed for stealing etc etc. Just as if they omit to mention something "bad" from a reference, they can be equally liable for not mentioning it. Which is why most large companies have a policy to just confirm dates of employment and job titles these days.

    I used to work for an American IB and their policy was to confirm job title and dates of employment, or if asked confirm these plus salary (although these references would take longer) or if asked for anything else, it was referred to HR and Legal for them to take a decision as to whether the questions could be answered (so the reference would take forever).
    Fiona in HKG likes this.