A full guide on how to get a Letter of Recommendation for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa: Read Before You Apply - Blog about my story of visa application

From October 2019, an applicant for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa in Digital Technology must have three docs called “Letter of Recommendation” for this type of visa application. However, some immigration lawyers think that this change will positively influence the whole ecosystem. But since I have been in your shoes, I know how big headache you have now. So let’s clarify the main points about the letter of recommendation and main steps on how to get it.

Find the right person

Regularly I get a question about how to find a person to sign a Letter of Recommendation. And every time I say – it is not an easy task! I wrote a big post about the topic. But the main idea of this stage is clear: think about your professional network and shortlist the brightest people within it.

Brainstorm your recent contacts (up to six months ago) and try to clarify for yourself who of the people may be ready to give you a Letter of Recommendation. This task is mainly not about drafting text or doing any other research but about trust to you. This means the person must trust you and believe in your talent and vice versa – you must be sure 100 % that your signee is the responsible and right person to be related with your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa application.

Only trusted person can provide you good Letter of Recommendation
Only a trusted person can provide you with a good Letter of Recommendation

Check eligibility of the person

After you get 5 – 10 most interesting candidates for signing your recommendation letter, it is exact time to check their eligibility. In other words, not to waste your and the person’s time – you must carefully find the proof that:

  • a person is a senior member of an established national or international organisation in the digital technology sector;
  • a person is working in C-suite level (the Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer, Finance Director or Head of Course or similar position);
  • a person is based in the United Kingdom (preferably) or is well-known in the UK market due to the international reputation of a person or a company.

If you tick all three boxes of the requirements mentioned above – that’s completely great! But there are also a couple of important moments to remember:

  1. you cannot ask three managers of the same company about the Letters of Recommendation. As the Tech Nation Visa Guidelines say: “Three letters of recommendation from three different recognised experts who are familiar with your work and contribution to the digital technology sector
  2. You must double-check the person who will recommend you in terms of involvement in scandals and any reputational risks. The calibre and reputation of your chosen references will be taken into consideration by Endorsement Panel.
  3. In the ideal case, the person has to know your expertise and contribution to the local or global tech community. You cannot ask the HR agency about this letter, based on your CV. Or the same irrelevancy exists regarding the letters from individuals within service-based organisations (i.e. consultants, agencies, outsourcers, service/process delivery). In most cases, they are not considered appropriate.

Initial contact about the deal

I am sure you have a personal relationship with a person, who will sign you a letter of recommendation for your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. Hence, in general, you do not need any help to write a mail or message on LinkedIn or AngelList regarding this point.

However, sometimes, even knowing an expert for a long time, we are not completely free to contact them in an unofficial manner like: “Hi, let’s catch up on Tuesday, I need your help to approve my talents :)”.

In this case, it is better to write a message that will explain how this person can help you and positively change your life. I decided to make your task a little bit easier and here you can find three samples of request for Letter of Recommendation in Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa application.

Draft of Letter of Recommendation

It is almost impossible to find an example of a Letter of Recommendation. And if you are curious why – I can explain. In all cases, this letter is based on a very intimate and personal relationship between the signer (a person who provide a letter) and an applicant for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa.

All the letters of recommendation contain the answers for the next 8 questions:

  1. How the recognised expert knows you (by relationship or reputation)?
  2. What are your achievements in the specialist field?
  3. How in the opinion of the recognised expert you have demonstrated that you are a leader, or demonstrate significant potential, in your field?
  4. What details of your previous work (quantitive data or objective information) may support your profile?
  5. What impact does your contribution have?
  6. How you would benefit from living in the UK?
  7. What contribution you would make to the UK digital technology sector?
  8. What professional engagements in the UK are you expecting?

If answering questions does not help you – try a different method. You can draft a Letter of Recommendation for your signee, by writing paragraphs on every of the following topic:

  1. Introduction of a person who signs the Letter
  2. Your relationship with a person (you know each other in person or reputationally via other people)
  3. Your field of expertise as a basis for recommending you as an expert and talent.
  4. Your projects that clearly support the idea that you are a talent or a promise
  5. Details about your most promising projects and their overall influence (with numbers and relevant data)
  6. Your life in the UK as a source of future professional growth
  7. Your life in the UK as a reason for positive changes in the technological ecosystem of the UK
  8. Details about your long-term plans for job, place to live and to work.
  9. Contact details of a person

Using this method you have to write nine paragraphs from the third person, being in shoes of a person who will sign your Letter of Recommendation. Imagine that you are an expert who is assessing you :). I know this is a bit tricky task but you must provide a draft of this document for a person who will recommend you. It will be a great support to that person.

But even if these questions, as well as my explanations about paragraphs, do not shed a light to the approximate text of the Letter of Recommendation, please, feel free to find them in Talent Visa app.

Format and content of the letter

Answers on the questions listed above are not enough. Also, the expert must clearly write a paragraph or two about himself/herself and provide full contact details.

Additionally, you must provide details of the author’s credentials (for example, a CV/resume). If your signee is Elon Mask, it is not required to write about his full professional journey :). But in other cases – it is better to copy-paste bio from the company’s webpage or make a brief from the LinkedIn profile. In any case, Tech Nation reserves the right to refuse your application or request more information, which could significantly delay your application, if the evidence is not provided that the author is a credible referee

Essential details about Letter of Recommendation

Finally, below I provide at least three of the answers for questions that appeared in my head when I was seeking for a person who can help me with writing such a letter

Headed paper

Shall it be only on headed paper? In most cases, yes. So you must do your best to receive such recommendation letters on a special paper with clear identification sign of your signer’s company or organisation. However, they might be on the plain paper A4 (not headed). However, this exception concerns only exceptional cases. For example, when you receive such a letter from C-suite managers of international companies like KPMG, Microsoft, Alibaba or similar. The internal compliance of such companies may not permit them to sign such kind of letters on headed paper.

Title of a Signee

Can I send a recommendation letter from the receptionist / Junior QA / HR at Google (IBM, Apple, etc.)? I suggest this recommendation paper would be a nice addendum to your supporting documents. Sure, if you will not overreach the limit of 10 supporting docs. Some of my recommendations I have added as a supporting document. But it will not work for a recommendation letter. Even if this letter is on headed paper from a well-known organisation. This link between the highest level of management of the company and headed paper cannot be breached.

Special, not general

May I use a recommendation letter that CEO from Twitter (Uber, Petiole, etc.) gave me during my internship at their company last summer? No, it also can be a supporting document. But a recommendation letter must be written for the only purpose – to support your UK Tier 1 Exceptional Promise (Talent) Visa application. Its format and content are shaped for completing the unique and challenging task to assess you as a talent and expert in your field. Finally, as Guidelines say: “The letter should not be a general all-purpose reference letter”. Hence, be precise in choosing what to give to the Tech Nation.

Professional Advice about Letter of Recommendation

If you need a consultation regarding a draft of Letter of Recommendation, or you have questions about its content – contact immigration advisors, please. They deal with these issues every day and helped hundreds of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa applicants to get their Endorsement.  A Y & J Solicitors supports this Blog, and you can find their details here.

Disclosure: This post includes sponsored content

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Author: Andrii Seleznov

This blog is written by Andrii Seleznov. Andrii is a holder of Tier 1 Exceptional Promise visa. He is an experienced entrepreneur, professional engineer, founder and CTO at Petiole and Alumni Mentor at GIST Tech-I Competition

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