'I'm a maths teacher – why was my visa rejected?'

I thought that maths teachers were on the national shortage list – but I had to leave the country, writes one teacher

Alina Chernin

Let them teach

In Canada, the teaching job market is extremely oversaturated. After graduating, I knew that I either needed to wait several years for my own classroom in Canada – with a complete lack of job security and potentially years of working as a supply teacher – or move to the UK and have my own classroom straight away.

It was a very easy decision, and after applying for a two-year youth mobility visa, I arrived in June 2016. From the very beginning, I was head over heels for the country. And after the first month, I was already worrying about only having 23 months left. After researching around, I stumbled upon the UK national occupation shortage list and found that secondary school maths teachers were on this list. Knowing this would make it easier for me to get another visa after my first one expired, I was over the moon.

Fast-forward to January 2018, and my school agreed to sponsor me – which is usually the most difficult part in getting a work visa. With this, I had no doubt at all that my application would be successful.

Then in February the worst happened: my application was rejected. We tried again the next month, with the same results. We decided to try one more time, and again we were turned down. As I understand it, due to Brexit, there was a higher demand for non-EU employees, resulting in a much bigger pool of applicants. There is a cap on how many work visas are accepted per year, so the Home Office had to increase the requirements each month. The biggest deciding factor whether an application would be accepted or not was salary. As a teacher, I was out of luck, despite being on the national occupation shortage list. At this point, I knew that further applications would be futile. My school needed to fill my position, and I had to find a job somewhere else.

'I was utterly devastated'

I had to leave the country by June, before the end of the school year. I was truly and utterly devastated. I had settled in so well in London – I loved my school, my students and my flat; I had made friends and, above all, the city really felt like home.

Not wanting to return to Canada, I began applying to schools all over the world. After a dozen applications, I was called for a few interviews, from schools in Luxembourg, Germany and Hong Kong. Following a successful phone interview with a British international school in Luxembourg, I was invited to come in for a second round interview.

I didn’t know what to expect, but the school was absolutely wonderful. Students seemed happy to be there and the staff members were friendly and professional. Although I had other prospects, this school felt like a dream. I got the job the next day. With smaller classes and higher pay than in London, I feel that this is a pretty good alternative option. My residence permit in Luxembourg is valid for two years, but I plan to stay for one year and then return to my school in London.

Frustratingly, if I had applied for my work visa in the UK this month, it would have been accepted. I believe this means that the visa situation has returned back to normal, where having your employer agree to sponsor you generally means you will have a successful application. I am excited for my job in Luxembourg, and I hope that the United Kingdom will be there to welcome me in 2019.

Alina Chernin is an international maths teacher

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Alina Chernin

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