Last updated on November 27th, 2018
From the documents list I gave in the previous post, you must have gotten some idea about how time-consuming this step is. But I didn’t have a clue back then that 90% of my time in this step will be taken up by just one document – well technically three documents but of the same type – Employer Reference Letter.
What The Heck Is A Reference Letter?
Reference letter, also known as roles and responsibilities letter, is a document, usually provided by company HR on a company letterhead. It contains a list of duties performed by you during your tenure in the company. This document gives a clear picture of your role as well as your responsibilities in the company, hence the name. You have to get one letter for each company that you worked for.
Why it is needed, you ask? Some Indian IT companies give a very bland version of this, called experience letter, which only gives start and end date of your employment in a particular company. From this, do you expect ACS to magically determine whether you were really doing any work which was relevant to your academic qualifications or not? Of course, not. Hence, we have to go through the pain of getting the reference letter from the company which makes this clear to ACS.
It must contain:
- Your full name and designation
- Employment type (full time or part time)
- Start and end date of employment
- The full list of duties you performed during your employment
- If there was a change of designation within the same company (such as due to promotion)
- Set of duties performed under the new designation. These must be different from duties specified for designation before the change
- Start and end date of employment in the new designation
- Your full name and designation
- Employment type (full time or part time)
In my case, I worked with 3 different companies over a period of more than 9 years. Add to that first company, where I worked as a contractor for a year and then got absorbed as a full-time employee for 3 months. As a result, I had two designations – one as a consultant and one as a programmer. In effect, I had to show two different set of duties for two designations, though in reality, I performed almost the same duties.
The Chase Begins
I started with my current employer by submitting a request to the company HR. To my utter surprise, things moved unexpectedly fast. Within a week, company HR asked me to submit manager approval mail along with a list of duties. My manager was kind enough to approve my request and within two weeks, I got my first reference letter. Positively recharged with this outcome, I contacted HR from my very first organization and again to my utter surprise, HR responded back quickly providing the reference letter that I requested. My happiness knew no bounds. Wow! Two letters in under a month? A piece of cake!
But my happiness was short lived. My balloon of joy burst when my agent reviewed the letter and said that the set of duties need to be different for two designations that I held in the first organization. This came clearly as a shock to me as the draft letter that I asked my agent to review had exactly the same content but somehow, he approved it without noticing the flaw at that stage. Thankfully, he noticed the mistake before submitting to ACS and asked me to get a revised letter from the company.
Lesson learned: Never blindly trust an agent.
But this mistake cost me an additional one month as I had to go back to my company to get a revised letter. This time they wanted my manager’s approval for a new set of duties. Thankfully my stars were really shining high as my manager gave his approval without any issue and the revised letter was issued immediately. Things would not have been easy if my manager was not so kind or had left the organization.
The Struggle Ahead
With two letters secured relatively easily, I was confident enough that the fight for the third one won’t be a big deal. First of all, I was with the company for more than 5 years. Secondly, I knew most of the colleagues and my manager was still in the same company and the company itself was pretty good in terms of providing employment-related documents. I mean they have a dedicated helpline just for employment-related queries, how long is it gonna take them to provide a simple letter? May a week or two. Boy, was I wrong?
Firstly, the HR person whom I contacted took nearly two months to respond, as he was on vacation. While he was having a good time, I became a pressure cooker about to burst. My problem was further aggravated by the fact that I was not living in the same city and hence, couldn’t personally follow up with any other person from HR.
Next obstacle was the manager’s approval which again was a big headache, as he was not ready to approve a two-page letter. He wanted to cut it down to just one page for some unfathomable reason. But from my point of view, it was absolutely necessary as I worked with the company for more than five years with one promotion. Tell me about bureaucracy!
After a lot of head banging, 3 months of constant follow-ups and nail-biting anxiety, things finally went my way. I received my third and final reference letter. Never have I felt so relieved in my life, not even when I cleared my IELTS! I had become a ball of nerves and almost gave up the hope of getting the final letter. However, deep down I knew that I must get this letter by hook or crook, to prove my 5 years worth of experience.
Some of the lessons I learned during the process were:
- Start as early as possible to collect all the documents
- Things never go the way you expect.
- Never blindly trust an agent. Review the documents yourself and make sure everything is in order
- Professional relationships that you build during your career are more important than anything else.
- Career choices that you make go long way in shaping up your life
- When you are about to give up, you are just inches away from success
How I Organized Visa Documents?
Once all the documents were ready, I quickly scanned and notarized them. Please make sure to scan the documents using a high-quality flatbed scanner. A nifty little tip about notarization: make at least 3-4 sets of printed documents and get all of them notarized. It may cost you little more but the benefits are tremendous. First of all, if you misplace or damage any document, you have more than one backup copy. Secondly, you will always have cases where some documents don’t bear clear notary stamp or it is printed on top of contents making it useless. No matter how much care you take, these things happen. If you have more than one set, you can always use the best copy available.
Once the documents are notarized and scanned, you need to organize them. I used Dropbox to create a folder structure as below:
As you can see, I have created one folder for each major step in the visa process. Skills assessment has hierarchical folder structure to organize documents by various categories such as Certificates to hold all academic and professional qualifications, Letters to hold all work-related letters such as offer letters, referral letters etc. I replicated the structure of Original folder to Notarized folder to keep a notarised version of same documents.
At each step, whenever I received any communication or letter from the respective authority such as ACS evaluation letter or IELTS score card, I stored them in respective folders. This type of cataloguing has immensely helped me to quickly retrieve the document needed.
I suggest that you keep multiple copies of this folder structure on various secure cloud storage accounts, such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox etc. This will help you to keep documents handy and can be accessed from across various devices, whenever required. Please remember that all these documents, that you gathered for skills assessment, are also going to be required after filing the visa application.
Luckily, I was able to secure a reference letter from all my previous employers. But if you can’t, you can get hold of your senior or colleague working with you and request him/her to sign a statutory declaration. It is a legal document list all the duties, similar to the reference letter, except that it is signed by your colleague and not company HR. If you can attach his/her business card indicating his/her employment in that company when submitting to ACS, that’s even better.
Once all the documents were ready, I submitted them along with filled ACS online form and assessment fees of $500. Exactly after one month, I received good news! My skills assessment was positive, meaning I was ready to move to the next stage. Though ACS deducted two years of my experience, I still had enough to score 10 points. One important point here – in the ACS letter, all your experience is listed as it is, leading you to falsely believe that you can claim points for all of it. However, that is not the case. You need to check the sentence which says “The following employment after Month Year is considered to …”, which means that only the experience, after specified month and year, is relevant and can be used to claim points.
With that, one of the most crucial steps in the visa process is complete. In the meanwhile, even before getting ACS result, I already started preparing for English proficiency test – IELTS. How did I succeed to clear it in the first attempt? Coming up in the next instalment in this series.
Moving To Australia Series
- Moving To Australia – The Idea
- 10 Reasons Why I Chose Australia
- Which Work Visa Is Right For You?
- Should I Go With Migration Agent?
- Introduction To Skilled Visa Points System
- How To Prepare For Skills Assessment – Part 1
- How To Prepare For Skills Assessment – Part 2
- How To Clear IELTS In First Attempt – Part 1
- How To Clear IELTS In First Attempt – Part 2
- How To Clear IELTS In First Attempt – Part 3
- EOI – Express Your Desire To Migrate
- Getting Visa Invitation
- Lodging Visa Application And Making Visa Payment
- Getting Evidence of Functional English
- Undergoing Health Examination – The Whole Story
- Getting Indian PCC And The Road Ahead