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I've been working for a company remotely for about 3+ months now and for about 2 months they've been getting a work permit ready. Relocation would be from EU to US. For me personally, relocation itself is a stressful thing and not knowing when it will happen - tomorrow or a few months later is starting to take a toll on my health. I've asked the company multiple times if it would be possible to know the relocation date or at least establish a time-frame - for example, relocation two weeks after the work permit has been acquired. Their response would always be "we don't have this information" or "we're unable to give you that" or "time-frame is not possible".

A month ago I was about to inform my landlord that I'm "probably" leaving next month and thank god I didn't do that - I would have lost my apartment by now, broken the lease agreement, lost my deposit and would be looking for an expensive short term lease. I'm starting to feel that the company is trying to save money due to tax reliefs or whatever, but totally ignoring the situation they are keeping me in.

I'm starting to have second thoughts if that's a company I want to work for. If they are unable to establish a time-frame for relocation - what else they won't be able to do in the future - establish when I can finally have vacation? etc?

Additional details: they are a small start-up tech company of ~10 people.

The question: given the details above is it normal that a company cannot give you a relocation date or establish a time-frame?

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    What is your actual question here? Right now this is a bit of a rant. See Real Questions Have Answers. – David K Dec 14 '15 at 14:03
  • "Is it normal for a company to not give me an exact relocation date or a time-frame?" – user44344 Dec 14 '15 at 14:09
  • It is likely they are waiting on some government agency to give approval, they may not know any more than you do. – HLGEM Dec 14 '15 at 14:14
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    Really, when the paper work clears you think they are going to give you one day notice to move? – paparazzo Dec 14 '15 at 14:27
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    Have you asked simply how much notice they will give you to relocate? They may have many steps and approvals to go through, and specifying two weeks after the work permit is acquired may indeed not be possible to guarantee. – David K Dec 14 '15 at 14:27
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Not knowing this sort of thing is bound to be stressful. How stressful, however, is up to you.

As others have commented, there can be more than one reason behind them not giving you a straight answer. Just off the top of my head:

  • They honestly have no idea when the work permit is going to come in
  • There are certain internal matters relating to your employment which they can't deal with until they have the work permit, and they don't know how long those are going to take to set up
  • Depending on when the permit comes in they may or may not want you to start until the next financial quarter
  • etc. etc. etc.

Here's what you should always keep in mind:

The company will always follow their best interests, and so should you.

Frankly, their behavior is not all that shocking - they're watching out for themselves. And you should do the same.

You Have The Power

Look at it this way: you don't have to move if you don't want to. That permit might be ready two days from now, or in a month. Just sit tight and assume nothing's changed until they get back to you.

When they do eventually ask you to come over to the States you can be the one to delay them:

Sorry, I can't more for another two weeks as I have a personal issue that I need to take care of before I leave.

They kept you hanging for months, you can pull a similar move if you need to. If you have moving expenses such as a penalty for cancelling the lease in the middle of the contract you can ask the company to pay it, since you had to make arrangements not knowing when you would be moving. If they refuse then you know they may not be a company you want to work for.

What Do You Want?

Finally, if this process has truly ruined your opinion of them, then it might be time to simply start looking for a new job. You're the only one who knows how this opportunity compares with what's on the market in your area. You're the only one who can make this decision.

Good luck!

  • While I agree with this answer on principle, make sure that you actually have the ability to delay your relocation without breaking your employment contract. You want to be respected, but you don't want to give them a reason to fire you either. – David K Dec 14 '15 at 15:43
  • +1 for "The company will always follow their best interests, and so should you." Unfortunately there is also the possibility that "the company" tries to keep it's employees happy, but someone in the company doesn't give a ****. – gnasher729 Dec 14 '15 at 16:12
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    Moving from EU to US sounds like a rather big discussion to make. I would honestly consider that heavily into whatever decision is made. If you feel they're giving you too little then you should go with your guts and look for a new job instead of waiting. – Dan Dec 14 '15 at 19:02
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In one of your comments (to gnasher729's answer), you mention that this is a startup. For me that changes the whole question.

Since this is a startup, it may simply be that they don't even know exactly what they are doing. Managing this type of process and all of the ensuing paperwork is typically something handled by a fully staffed HR department with all of the necessary expertise. Since you mentioned that this is a startup of around 10 people, I doubt they have much of an HR staff at this time.

If I got this kind of response from a corporation with thousands of employees, I'd be shocked that the HR department doesn't have better idea how to handle this and likely a fully documented process for the situation. However for a startup without that expertise, they are probably figuring it out as they go. Also, as a startup they are likely to have lots of other hot issues to worry about and if they are waiting on your paperwork to come in, this is not on their priority radar yet, and quite possibly won't be until that paperwork comes in.

The silver lining may be that as a startup they may also be more flexible in giving you time to relocate after the decisions are made, since they are used to adjusting to things on the fly.

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Is it normal for a company to not give me an exact relocation date or a time-frame?

When visas are concerned, yes. The process for getting a visa is complex and involves political influences that are indeterminable by nearly any company.

In working for a fairly large international company with substantial financial interests in getting US work visas for people from a variety of locations (although mostly South America, not the EU), there are regular challenges in getting visas approved.

Prior to approval a wise company would not plan for an employee to be physically present until the visa is approved, so an employee is unlikely to see any evidence of approval "progress" until it is final. The cost to the company is too high if estimates are wrong.

The same goes for you. There is little that you can do until the approval is final. Anything that you do now in the incorrect expectation that the visa approval is imminent but not final, as you pointed out, is costly.

To minimize those costs, wait until approval is granted and then you should evaluate your status and the costs associated with taking immediate action. You should not assume that you will be "reimbursed" for your anxiety as no date was promised going into the arrangement. Having unmet hopes leads to frustration and anxiety, but that is part of this process so lower your expectations to reduce your anxiety.

To take advice here like, "You inconvenienced me, now I will inconvenience you" is petty and it's likely that any lack of cooperation on your part does not help your career or transition to the new location You probably will want to start the relocation process with candor and directness. Sever lack of cooperation could be as dramatic as you ending up without the job and having to reimburse the company for their costs of acquiring the visa.

Just try to take this process one day at a time. I witnessed one foreign application for a visa take over eight months to process - all while other people in the same location applying for the "same visa" took less than 2 months. Why? Reasons...

Last, unless your company is a "visa acquisition contractor" you probably should not judge the competence of the company on this. They are enthusiastic and hopeful, like, that they can successfully navigate this process and you can relocate, but if they are inexperienced, then the challenges will be even greater. It might be better if you saw this as an opportunity to be more like a "partner" is moving the process along. When working for start-ups, contributing to solutions outside your core skills is generally a must.

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It happens that there is not just "the company". There are many different people. Some who care about their co-workers or employees, some who don't. Make sure you figure out why this is happening. It may be deliberate, it may be that some person at the company can't get their act together.

Figure out where this response comes from. If it doesn't come from your manager or his manager, there is a good chance that they are not aware of your problem and that they would do something about it if they were aware. So make people aware of the problem (carefully and tactfully). It wouldn't be the first time that a huge problem is caused by someone sitting on a pile of paperwork and not moving, because they don't care.

If they are aware and powerless, nothing you can do. Looking for a better position won't hurt. If they are aware and don't care, nothing you can do. Again, looking for a better position won't hurt.

PS. Didn't realise this is a tiny company - so there is a good chance that there is nothing evil going on, no carelessness, but just nobody who is competent getting you to the USA. This my go on for a while. In that case, if you are happy living in the EU where you are right now, you just relax, stay where you are, and wait until the company gets their act together. It may never happen. You may stay in the EU forever. (If this goes on for months, then plans tend to change, and the need for you to go to the USA might go away). If they have everything ready, then it's your time to get going and organise to move at your pace.

If the company thinks you are moving to slow, they can use money to accellerate things. Worst case, if they wanted to fire you for moving too slow, that would be quite difficult in most EU countries, so you would likely have plenty of time to find a new job.

  • It might be that, but the company is a startup of just ~10 people at the moment and I'm mainly communicating with the VP/CTO (we opened up an email thread regarding my work permit). So I'm basically talking to the top hierarchy and getting back such responses. This really makes me wonder what's more to come in the future. – user44344 Dec 14 '15 at 16:22
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    @mtx I think that is an important point that should be worked into the question. Dealing with a random travel admin for a large corporation is completely different than dealing with someone you have a working relationship with. – David K Dec 14 '15 at 17:27
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Keep job hunting while you wait, don't stress over it too much. It's out of your control. Meanwhile you may well find something better.

Is it normal?

No, not in my experience, usually there is some sort of timeframe you can reference. It's not a good sign of their competence.

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This is just a possibility to consider, which may explain some of the responses.

In general, Americans seem to have an expectation that government will be slow and inefficient, and therefore tolerate slowness and inefficiency. Add to that the fact that getting the visa involves a portion of the government that deals mainly with people who are not eligible to vote in US elections.

Last year I had to renew my US Permanent Resident card. It took over 6 months. This year, I had to renew my UK Passport. It took about 4 days from when they received my paperwork to when they shipped the new passport. I could understand an extra month because the permanent resident card needed a background check, but not six months.

I am sure your employer has absolutely no idea how long it is going to take to get your visa processed. They are probably just as frustrated about that as you are.

If you started by pushing them for a specific date they could not give, they may have got tired of responding to what seem to them to be unreasonable e-mails. Now that you are asking about contingencies for which they could make a plan, they may be responding automatically.

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I'd focus on your stress levels first. What would make you happy? It sounds as though the uncertainty is the issue.

What I do there is make a plan, allowing for the uncertainty. List out what you need to do, how long it'll take, how much shortcuts will cost.

It might help to work on your personal relationships with co-workers so you have a better idea of what's happening in the startup. Is it really "I'm too busy, wait" from the top level and nothing at all from anyone else? If you're working for them already presumably you're working with someone too. Can you ask them? Or is there a receptionist or someone you can ask about things? Again, make a list of things that not knowing is hurting you, and look for people who can help answer them.

Work out how long it will take you to get your stuff together and move and tell the US company that. Be generous with your time, they're likely to be annoyed that you take longer more than if you arrive early. I don't think it's at all unreasonable to say "I could pack up and move in a week, but I have to give a month's notice for my apartment so I'd prefer to wait a month or have you reimburse the extra rent if you want the fast option". Don't be at all afraid to have a list like that, but do it as a standard work communication: a one sentence summary with details afterwards. That way someone in a hurry can read

I'd like a month but I can be there in three days if you pay $US1825

and say "here's the cash, see you in three days". Or whatever arrangement they like. But they have clarity over your situation.

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