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Expat Advice: Working in Mildenhall, UK

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Mildenhall

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

Small businesses, service businesses & light industries. Many of these businesses support the American airbases in the area, of which there are 2 in this immediate area.

The most easily obtained jobs on base are menial labor, retail or administrative/clerical jobs. The same type of jobs pretty much apply off base.

On-base, they apply at the base Civilian Personnel Office, AAFES (the base store) and at the Non-Appropriated Fund Human Resources offices. A good number of base spouses do seek & secure jobs off base, but the ordinarily citizen has to get his/her work permit visa before they can apply for a job off-base, which is almost an impossibility if that person came over here on a visitor's visa initially.

What type of work do you do and how did you find your job?

I work for the American Red Cross in the Armed Forces Emergency Services Division on RAF Mildenhall (an USAF base). I do casework that involves receiving and sending messages concerning servicemembers family emergencies back in the States. I also am basically the office secretary.

As I was retiring from the USAF 4 years ago, the Red Cross was interviewing for this full time position. I applied and after the interview process was offered the position after the first person they'd hired worked for only a week, didn't like the work, and left.

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How did you obtain your work permit? What advice would you have for others about work permits?

Once I had my job on base and I informed the authorities that I was planning on staying in England because I'd married an English lass, I had to apply for the visa. The base did a background check on me and the base hospital had to sign off saying that I didn't have any long term illness or the such. Then I went to HMS Immigration service with my application and letter from the Red Cross proving my employment (even though I've got my AF pension, they want to be sure that I wouldn't be a burden on their welfare system). Once they accepted my application, they stamped my passport with a visa good for 4 years. I could have used my marriage to my wife to have gotten a residency visa, but that would have classified me as an "ordinarily citizen" and may have jeopardized my employment opportunities on base. With my base employment comes the benefit of being able to shop on base, which saves me a lot of money on British gasoline, alcohol & VAT taxes.

To renew my visa all I need is another letter from the Red Cross proving my continued employment on base and I get my visa renewed for another 4 years.

Any American citizen can apply for various jobs on base after they've arrived in England. However, most of the jobs available to them are menial labor or clerical type jobs. And to get base benefits, one has to work 20+ hours a week.

Once one has worked for a year or more, they can then apply for other better paying jobs within their particular pay group.

Most of the good paying jobs where the base hires individuals off the street go to the spouses of the military & civilians who are over here on orders. Competing against them for these jobs as an initial hire is almost impossible as the base usually gets all the qualified applicants from this pool of spouses to more than fill these positions when they become vacant.

I do want to suggest to any American citizen who comes to England looking for a job and they wouldn't mind working on "Little America" and get the shopping benefits that go along with it, then they should apply for a job on one of the US bases that are still open in England. These employees, such as myself, are not eligible to live in base housing, but there's always plenty of affordable housing in the area.

Have you taken language and cross-cultural training courses to prepare for your assignment? If so, how have they helped you on the job?

No.

If you were transferred abroad by your employer, were you guaranteed a job upon repatriation? What type of mentoring programs does your employer offer?

My manager, who is on the Red Cross mobile staff, gets transferred every 3 years (single) or 4 years if married and family comes with her/him. I'm a local hire and not on mobile staff, therefore I have no "return rights" to the States. Even if I applied for a promotion to manager, which would mean working somewhere in the States initially, I would have to find my own way there.

The Red Cross does not have an in-place mentoring program overseas that I am aware of. I imagine a manager may take it upon her/himself to mentor her/his employees.

What advice would you offer others about finding jobs and working abroad?

If someone wants to come to England to find a job on the local economy, get the necessary visa(s) from the British Embassy or Consulate in the States before you come. Or, take a chance & show up at one of our American bases & try for a job. Good luck.

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