The golden rule is that you should never resign your current job without a signed job offer from the new employer. However, I believe my case is tougher than that: I've got a job offer that's "contingent upon obtaining the work permit" and a 3 months notice period. I know for fact that getting a work permit in that country is a complicated and lengthy process that can possibly take more than 3 months, however, waiting another 3 months after all the paperwork is done won't satisfy my new employer. How do I time my resignation properly? I'd appreciate it if somebody who were in a similar situation could share their experience.
How do I time my resignation properly?
You simply cannot turn in your resignation until all terms of your new employment is met. Once they are met turn in the appropriate amount of notice, whatever that may be.
If you do anything else you put yourself at risk of potentially being out of a job if for example you turn in your notice and your new potential employer runs into an issue.
Stay pat until all the conditions of your hopefully soon to be new employer are met.
If you are applying for something that requires a work permit, then you are probably looking to emigrate. Emigrating is expensive and difficult with no long term guarantees of success in the country you emigrate to.
You also need to familiarize yourself with the immigration process for that country to understand if a work permit can even be secured for someone with a 3 month delay before they start. There is absolutely no guarantee that an immigration process will be smooth or rational.
If you are serious about achieving this goal and your current place of employment has restrictions (e.g. 3 month notice period) that will complicate your chances of success, you may have better long term success finding a new local position with conditions more favorable towards your emigration goal.
In short, you should not put yourself in a position where you may be unemployed. For the current opportunity, you should have an honest discussion with the prospective employer about the notice period and the work permit situation. If you can't reach an agreement on how to proceed, I would encourage you to see if your best bet is to try again with another foreign company or to take steps locally to better your prospects of emigrating before trying again.
First, as noted by others, I too find it hard to believe you could get a work permit in any country without a signed contract with the employer. However, it's not clear if the contingency blocks you from obtaining the contract, or if it is merely a clause in a the contract. If it's just a clause, your worry may be a bit misplaced: if you don't secure your permit, it doesn't matter one whit what the contract says, you won't be able to take the job. It's not crazy for the employer to spell that out.
Second, and more importantly, what is the employer doing to support your application for the permit? I emmigrated to Germany and it's absolutely common advice and practice that the employer start the application process for the work permit, here, as they can get it done in a few weeks, as opposed to several months if the employee has to do it themselves. As far as I know it cost my employer nothing but a bit of HR's time. So what is your prospective employer doing/willing to do, to help secure your permit?
In most cases, the employer should feel some motivation to secure your permit as quickly as possible. If they are not assisting you I think this tells you A LOT about the quality of this employer and you may want to seriously rethink this.
However we still have no hint what country you might be moving to...really, it's important to know that.
You have to weigh the risks and rewards.
If you resign before you've got a rock solid job offer including work permit then you risk ending up with no job. Would your finances be able to cope with that? Do you think you could easily find another job?
If you wait until all the paperwork is complete then you risk losing the job offer that you have. How much of a problem is that? Do you need a job offer before you can apply for the permit? If you plan to wait then discuss the situation with your new employer.
Can you reduce your notice period? It's difficult to ask that directly before you've actually resigned, but if you avoid taking any holiday days unless absolutely essential then you may be able to build up a significant chunk to take at the end of your notice period. You can then start at your new employer during this 'holiday' period.