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I am based in UK and I got invited to the US for a 4-days trip as part of a job application. However, travel and accommodation would cost me more than two grand, which I can't afford right now.

I would rather not accrue debt to go on this trip, and while they will reimburse me, it will probably take 4-6 weeks which doesn't work for me.

How might I ask them if they could pay these expenses in advance?

Would this jeopardize my chances of getting the job?

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    Is this a large company? Whenever I've interviewed for a larger company (which is the only place I've ever interviewed/worked), they paid the heavy expenses (air tickets, hotel room, set up a car service, things like that) up front. The only thing I needed to do was provide the hotel a credit card to cover additional expenses/damages and pay for my meals/incidentals along the way. In some cases, I could even expense a meal or two to the company (depending on how the times fell). – Thomas Owens Jan 4 '16 at 21:53
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    Why don't you "feel comfortable" about getting a credit card? If the potential employer will reimburse your expenses then it seems like the obvious thing to do. – A E Jan 4 '16 at 21:55
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    It's not uncommon practice for even a medium sized company to book travel in advance (flight and hotel) using their preferred travel agency without any cost to you. You don't need to ask specifically if they would pay up front. Just ask "how is travel to be arranged" and take it from there. – Laconic Droid Jan 4 '16 at 22:08
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    Reminder to all: please don't answer in the comments if the question has been sufficiently clarified. – Lilienthal Jan 4 '16 at 22:13
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    Note to non-UK residents: Credit cards are less popular in the UK, most debit cards are Visa and have similar protections, and most people I know with credit cards either do lots of business travel (so use them to offset until expenses paid) or have a number of them (usually maxed out). They were very difficult to get for a number of years in the 80s/90s, had high APR and low limits, so the debit card became king instead. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jan 4 '16 at 23:51
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You already don't have the money to make the trip, so if you don't ask for the money up front, you may not get the interview at all. (It may take too much time to get a credit card, and most bank loans aren't super quick.)

Your best option is to talk to the people asking you to an interview. You already know they prefer you to pay and them to reimburse you. Therefore, say something like this:

I asked about paying up front, because I don't have the money right now to pay for transportation to the interview. Nor do I currently have a credit card. I know you prefer to reimburse me, but is there any leeway in that? Do you have recommendations for how to proceed?

If they suggest you get a loan or get a credit card, then you can assess how much you want the interview and the job. You might mention that by the time you get the loan, the tickets will be more expensive, so it will be cheaper for them in the long run if they buy at least the tickets. (And you could suggest that you could cover the rest of the expenses until reimbursed if they covered the airfare, if that is true for you.)

They may prefer to reimburse but will make accommodations when that doesn't work for the interviewee.

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  • @Monoandale - Great news! Glad to hear it. Good luck! – Wesley Long Jan 5 '16 at 21:54
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As far as common practices, most companies I've ever worked/applied for that needed me to travel insisted on booking the airfare and hotel themselves, as they usually had a corporate discount of some sort.

Meals and maybe a car should come out of your pocket, but not much more than that.

Ask for them to either book the travel, or get the prices together and ask them to front you the costs. I'd be leery of anyone who is asking you to spend $2K+ of your own money on interview travel. Besides, with the plethora of remote presence platforms out there, it would seem unnecessary. Something's not quite right, here, in my opinion.

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  • I read on some blog "they ask because HR is overwhelmed already"... – Monoandale Jan 4 '16 at 22:31
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    Your call. I wouldn't. – Wesley Long Jan 4 '16 at 22:31
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    Yeah this seems strange. Even my very small company (11 ish people) buy the flights when interviewing up front since they get the miles and perks. Takes HR a few minutes to book a flight/taxi generally. Unless this is like their first time doing that which is highly unlikely. – Sirisian Jan 4 '16 at 22:32
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    I would just about guarantee that if you are unsuccessful then you'll never see your money again. They are in a different country, and the cost to you of recovering it would be far greater than the actual outlay. It smells REALLY rotten to me. – Jane S Jan 5 '16 at 1:30
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    No way I would pay in the hope of reimbursement, something is wrong – Kilisi Jan 5 '16 at 6:14
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My question is: will my interview be compromised if I ask them to pay the expenses in advance? What is common practice?

Your interview might be compromised. I think it depends on the nature of the job, and of the company.

In my experience (within the US only), most companies would book the flights, hotels, etc, for you. You would have little to no out of pocket expenses.

The only exceptions I have encountered were a few startups where I was applying for rather high-level positions. In those cases, I was expected to front the money myself, give them the list of expenses when the interview was over, and get reimbursed. In those cases, I used my own credit card, I was reimbursed promptly, and didn't incur any permanent costs.

I never asked for the money up front. Perhaps they would have paid. Perhaps they would have thought it odd that I had to ask for the money. I suspect if the position you are seeking is lower on the food chain, it's clearly more of a burden to get reimbursed. Thus they may think it less odd if you have to ask.

For me, if they didn't offer to book the arrangements themselves, I'd just put it on a low-interest credit card, pay it off as soon as the reimbursement arrive, enjoy the mileage or cash back from the credit card purchases, and eat the very minor interest expense (if any) as a cost of doing interview business.

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  • thanks Joe. However, the total expense is almost twice my rent :( – Monoandale Jan 4 '16 at 23:21
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    @JoeStrazzere - I think Monoandale is concerned that it will NEVER be reimbursed. I share his concern, there. – Wesley Long Jan 5 '16 at 3:28
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    You shouldn't ask them to pay expenses in advance, you should expect them to book your hotel and buy the plane tickets. Anything less and you really don't want to work for this company. – TheMathemagician Jan 5 '16 at 4:17
  • @joe who's to say the OP isn't 6 months unemployed so now having burnt through that emergency money? If the money in the emergency fund is never to be spent then it doesn't exist – Richard Tingle Jan 5 '16 at 22:42
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To me there are a number of red flags.

Any (serious) company that is inviting a foreign candidate to travel for interviews would expect to pay for those expenses and would make the travel arrangements for the candidate. If this is somehow complicated for them then you really should worry whether they are capable of handling and paying for your work visa, your relocation and so on.

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