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A bit over a month ago I accepted an offer from a major tech company in the US. From the start of the hiring process it was known that I'd need some paperwork from the company to obtain the visa I need to work there.

I frequently followed up with my recruiter asking how things were going and when I would get the paperwork I needed from them. I was always assured that everything was moving along and that I'd get everything I need in time (the visa I need has no processing time, I just need to have all the correct documents with me at time of travel).

Shortly before I was set to leave, my recruiter contacted me to inform me that there was a mix up and my name had never even entered the queue of people who need visa assistance.

Because of this, my start date may get pushed back by two weeks while their legal team handles my file. I have already left my previous job and apartment in preparation of starting my new job on the original start date. I will be speaking to someone later today to discuss what needs to be done and determine when I'll be able to start with them.

If my start date is pushed back, is it unreasonable for me to ask for some form of compensation? How should I go about doing so? I'm very frustrated by the idea of sitting around doing nothing for two weeks when I could have stayed on longer with my previous employer.

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3 Answers 3

If you are polite and you do not use a tone by which it sounds like you are entitled to extra assistance, then there is nothing unprofessional about asking. However, the company doesn't owe you any assistance for this. I've heard of even worse situations where someone left a job and apartment in London to accept an offer in San Francisco, and upon physically arriving in San Francisco, he was informed that the new company was unable to pay for the position they had offered to him. He had a 90 day tourist visa, no job, no apartment, and had left his previous job already.

It's very unpleasant that companies are allowed to do this, but nothing really stops them. Your best bet is to politely ask for them to put you in an extended stay hotel while it is sorted out (or else to begin paying you despite the visa) and possibly to offer a sign-on bonus to cover some of the short term expenses that you may need to cover with credit until it is sorted. But beware -- they don't have to do anything and the process by which they can help you is probably mired in bureaucracy.

This is also a pretty strong signal that it's a bad company. Once you do start the job, if the culture, projects, job satisfaction, etc., are not through the roof and exceeding your expectations, you should promptly begin another job search. Sticking with a company after they do something like this is generally a bad idea (and this applies in spades if they choose not to offer you some form of short term pay / housing / etc. to mitigate the short term costs that they have forced you to incur).

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This is a sign of a bad company as they should have notified you if any problems arose before you arrived. At the very least, things aren't very organized with them so you can expect any number of other future issues with regard to compensation, vacation, working conditions,etc. –  Mistah Mix Mar 4 at 16:59
    
It seems that they didn't make the problems very clear or ensure that he/she understood that the delay would mean that he/she wouldn't be compensated for an extended period of time. –  Mistah Mix Mar 4 at 17:09
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@JoeStrazzere A pretty good company with one bad recruiter is a bad company, at least as far as anyone who suffered due to that single bad recruiter is concerned. –  EMS Mar 4 at 18:00
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@EMS Everybody makes mistakes. If you refused to work for any company that had made a mistake, you would be permanently looking for a job. –  DJClayworth Mar 5 at 16:47
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@EMS I don't see anything in the question that says the company has refused to help correct or take responsibility. "I will be speaking to someone later today to discuss what needs to be done" means that they haven't decided what to do yet. –  DJClayworth Mar 5 at 16:50

Maybe.

It depends on who dropped the ball; if it was the recruiter, the government, or the employer.

If it was the recruiter then demand compensation from them and depending on the laws of the area you may be able to seek legal compensation if they turn down your request.

If it's the government there may be paperwork to fill out otherwise you're up the same avenue as with the recruiter, but historically speaking you'll be in for a harder time since governments tend to be very slow moving and might just say "we never guarantee a response time". You might spend more time than is worth fighting for compensation, and there's a chance you won't be.

If it's the employer, that's up to your personal judgement whether you seek to demand compensation before starting. You can certainly politely request it, and a 'good' employer might give you a token holdover for the mix-up. But if you choose to press it you may risk damaging your relationship with them early - so it's a personal decision up to your discretion.

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Independently of who dropped the ball, the company has the means to compensate the employee. Nothing good can come from hiring an upset employee. –  Spidey Mar 4 at 19:37
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@Spidey True, hiring an upset employee isn't good; but firing misplaced anger at the wrong party is even worse and gets nowhere. He's not walking through the door upset at the company, and bringing up the issue to them could damage relations; they may see the employee as someone bringing 'personal trouble' into the workplace. My main advice is to ensure the gun is pointed in the right direction. –  Kver Mar 4 at 19:55
    
It's not about blaming someone, but asking for financial help. –  Spidey Mar 4 at 20:02
    
@Spidey as heartless as it sounds, it's not your employers' responsibility to help you out financially; if you need financial help there's always the banks or family. That being said, instead of demanding 'compensation' you could also approach the company and ask for advance pay, explaining the situation. But again, when you're literally just walking into the door, I think first impressions may be more important than immediate financial comfort; especially since the employer knows nothing about the employee - they may assume you're a deadbeat. –  Kver Mar 5 at 15:54

It's been said that it never hurts to ask. Of course, as with all absolute statements (including this one), there are exceptions. One of the first things to do is to check your paperwork. Did you sign a contract? Did the contract include a date by which you would begin work? If so, check for what stipulations there are for if such a date is not accomplished. Some contract boilerplate includes verbiage on what happens if the start date is pushed out or moved forward and some do not. If you feel it seems logical, ask the company. Perhaps they can start you on your training materials, or have you work on a concept necessary to the project on your own. If they balk, it may be worthy gently indicating that, if they are not willing to stand up to their side of the contract, there is nothing preventing you from pursuing other opportunities. Either way, a contract is a contract, and it applies to both sides. Unfortunately, this may result in having to bring in a lawyer if it's serious enough.

If you haven't signed a contract, well, you might be able to argue a verbal contract, but your chances are bad. In that case, congratulations, you are a free agent. You have no obligation to begin work with them, so you can start interviewing again, and I'd honestly recommend that you do so, just in case you can't come to an agreement with them.

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