1 out of 3: which referee for Recommendation Letter is the best?

Please, pay your attention that Talent Visa Help is not updated anymore. Starting from January 5, 2021, I don't proofread drafts of Personal Statements, Letters of Recommendation or any supporting documents. Also, I do not answer individual questions either via email or Linkedin. For more details, go to the Global Talent Visa Help Updates.

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This question was my problem since I was looking for a referee for Letter of Recommendation and was applying for my Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. In general, the criteria seems to be pretty obvious and clear. Any senior manager with direct relation to you as an employee or contractor will fit. But… If there are no line managers who can provide this letter now, what to do?

I think we must start with the basics about the requirements to a signee of Letter of Recommendation and this will be a direct way to the final, most important point – how to find a person for Letter of Recommendation.

Basic Requirements for Referee for Recommendation Letter

In the Tech Nation Guidelines, we can find the following requirements to the referee for recommendation letter. I have highlighted the most important things and explain them below:

“Three letters of recommendation from three different recognised experts who are familiar with your work and contribution to the digital technology sector. They must be qualified to assess your claim to be a leader or potential leader in the field and be able to recommend you with confidence.

Letters of recommendation should be written in support of your application by three different senior members of three different established organisations in the digital technology sector. These could be institutions or companies with a well-established national or international reputation and recognised expertise in your field.

They do not need to be based in the UK, although it may strengthen your application where your plans in the UK are supported by a recognised leader in in the UK digital technology sector. The calibre and reputation of your chosen references will be taken into consideration.

three different recognised experts as referee

Since October 2019, an applicant for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa in Digital Technology must provide three Letters of Recommendation instead of two. In other words, three different people must sign a Letter of Recommendation for your Tech Nation Visa application.

who are familiar with your work

The person who will sign a Letter of Recommendation for you must know your professional experience and work. You cannot meet a person who lives next door and ask about this letter because you are very good neighbours. If your neighbour is an investor in your startup – then (s)he can :).

must be qualified

Again to the significant point – you cannot ask a junior developer to provide you with a Letter of Recommendation because it will be a waste of this person’s time and efforts. And you will not be endorsed. The qualification to sign a Letter of Recommendation requires deep expertise in questions of digital technologies.

three different senior members of three different established organisations as referee

One of the popular mistakes of prospective applicants is the following: I will ask the CEO, CFO and CIO of my company about these letters and the job is done. Unfortunately, not yet! Three C-suite persons must work in different companies. Sure, they can have the experience of work at the same company in the past. At the same time, on the very moment of signing a Letter of Recommendation they must not be employees of the same company. Exceptions are rare and almost impossible. For example, if you work in Google and two of your referees work with Google as well but one of them is a part-timer and also works at Facebook – ok, this may make sense and such unique Letter of Recommendation may be accepted.

institutions or companies

You can ask about a Letter of Recommendation from a person who works at any type of business entity. A private company, a public company, a non-profit organisation, charity, community organisation, educational or governmental institution, etc. But the key point is the area of their work. It must be digital technology. Don’t ask a director of a charity who educates poor kids to write you a Letter of Recommendation. Definitely, it may work as a supporting document but not as the obligatory one.

national or international reputation of the referee

Yes, your Letter of Recommendation can be signed by a person with a good reputation in your country or recognised worldwide. Do you want examples? Here you are. You live in India and want to ask a well-known tech guru about the Letter of Recommendation.

The only problem is that he is well known in India. But, probably, he isn’t so famous in the UK. This is not a problem at all. When your signee will draft a Letter of Recommendation (s)he must put an extra paragraph. It has to be about their international contribution next to the many sentences about the influence on tech India. I hope this idea is clear but if not – let me know and we can consider your own situation closer.

do not need to be based in the UK

Again a very good and human-friendly aspect :). Two of my referees were not based in the UK. For you, this number can be three. However, you may be luckier. And as a result – find a person in the UK who will give you a Letter of Recommendation. That will be great! But if you cannot do this, focus on the connections that you have. And make them helpful for your visa application.

calibre and reputation of the referee for Recommendation Letter

Here the idea is clear and short. Don’t ask a founder of Theranos about a Letter of Recommendation. Never.

Letter of Recommendation is a completely important part of your Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa application. Pay as much attention as you can.
Letter of Recommendation has to be a good deal for both of you: your referee and yourself

List of 11 people who can be your referee for Recommendation Letter

This list can be endless and is based on my own experience. Also, I used a word of mouth from other recipients of my Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa Alumni Community. And, finally, I attached a piece of my imagination (why not?):

  1. Your boss or line manager
  2. Colleague or ex-colleague
  3. Your mentor
  4. Investor in your startup or company
  5. Co-founder of your startup or company
  6. Your customer or client
  7. A mate from University or any other educational institution
  8. Your supervisor or any other teaching staff from the University
  9. A judge from the Competition or Hackathon where you have won
  10. A speaker (co-panellist) from the international conference, where you was a speaker too
  11. A well-known person for digital tech, even without a direct link to your startup or business.

Where to find a referee for recommendation letter?

I believe the most popular way to contact the person now is via LinkedIn so browse your network and you will find a couple of relevant connections.

Also, I have known about a couple of requests to Tech Nation Visa Alumni. For example, some applicants ask to sign a Letter of Recommendation. In other words, this means to write a testimony for a person who has never been seen. I must say it is quite difficult. Or it’s better to say – it is almost impossible.

This is very difficult to provide such a reputational document like a Letter of Recommendation if you are a Tech Nation Visa recipient by yourself. Moreover, if you have never met a person. Then it is twice hard. That is why, please brainstorm other methods and ways.

If you don’t know what to do – ask people. You can contact me via email and I can share my experience with you.

Please, pay your attention that Talent Visa Help is not updated anymore. Starting from January 5, 2021, I don't proofread drafts of Personal Statements, Letters of Recommendation or any supporting documents. Also, I do not answer individual questions either via email or Linkedin. For more details, go to the Global Talent Visa Help Updates.

Please, donate to this page if Talent Visa Help was useful for you.

Talent Visa Help has been created for informational purpose and is not an official guidance for Global Talent Visa (Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa) application.

Talent Visa Help should not be used as a substitute for the official Tech Nation Guideline or Home Office Guideline. Talent Visa Help is NOT linked either with Tech Nation or Home Office. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the texts belong solely to the authors at Talent Visa Help. The contents of Talent Visa Help do not constitute legal advice and authors accept no liability for the accuracy of information provided. Applicants should always consult the official governmental guidance and seek professional immigration advice where appropriate.

For additional assistance, please, contact help@talentvisahelp.com

Author: Andrii Seleznov

TalentVisaHelp is an independent project to help more talents and promises to come to the United Kingdom. This project is created by Andrii Seleznov, Tier 1 Exceptional Promise visa recipient and Tech Nation Visa Ambassador in past. Andrii is an experienced entrepreneur, professional engineer and technical founder at Petiole. Additionally, Andrii is an Alumni Mentor at GIST Tech-I Competition and winner of local agritech Hackathons in Ukraine.

4 thoughts on “1 out of 3: which referee for Recommendation Letter is the best?”

  1. This is so helpful Andreii! I’ve been following your blog but never comment before.
    I’ve just asked about this in TechNation forum but then remembered you probably wrote about this and both of my questions has been answered.
    Greetings from Argentina!

  2. Hi, I have a question how can I referee or person can use company letterhead to give recommendation because its personal. Reference and recommendation and using letterhead without company’s interest seems illegal and conflict. I think A4 paper can use to recommendation by senior person and mentions his position and contacts right??. But if tech nation must need recommendations on letterhead and referee works in other company why referee will recommend and takes risk of using company letterhead. Please guide is it fine to use A 4 paper without letterhead and company logo?

    1. Hi Sameer,
      Thanks for your questions.
      In some cases, when a referee cannot provide a recommendation on the letterhead, it is allowed to use a white blank A4 paper for a recommendation. Anyway, in the text of recommendation, your referee must highlight her or his position and current company’s title.
      In any case, you must attach CV/bio of your referee as well.

      Andrii Seleznov

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