First off, I want to thank everyone here, who has helped me to successfully apply for my TN GT visa. I would also like to especially thank @Francisca_Chiedu @Maya @Bubun @goonjanmall just to name a few who have constantly helped me to create a successful application.
Today, I am writing this post with the hope that someday my tips and strategy could help another prospective candidate to apply for this coveted visa successfully. So, please treat this post more as one of many ways to strategize your TN GT visa application rather than a hard & fast rule towards it.
I had my eye on this visa since 2018 but every time I read the rules and guidelines provided by TN, I would feel inadequate and will weasel my way out to apply for it. However, fast forward to August 2022, since, my Tier 4 student visa was about to expire so, I had no other option but to apply for the TN GT visa. Hence, I pushed away my insecurities and finally applied for it.
Now, when I was applying for this visa the biggest questions that I had were how to arrange the evidence documents and who to ask for recommendation letter. Again, these questions were also holding me back to apply for the visa in the first place. But at the end, one fine night I woke up with an idea as if I was a lit bulb. An idea to arrange my evidences the way the TN GT visa guidelines tells you to! This was an Eureka moment for me with regards to my TN GT visa application. (Surprisingly, when you are cornered and have no other way, how innovative you could become at times. Since my visa was expiring I had no other way but to apply for this switch of visa.)
Let’s first talk about under which route I applied and then I am gonna talk about how I arranged my evidences and what I provided as part of those evidences.
I applied on 28th June 2022 and I got my endorsement on 18th July (14 working days). When I applied for the TN GT Stage 1 Endorsement I chose the following answers for the following questions on the application form:
Q. Please indicate your sector: AI & Machine Learning
Q. Please indicate your specialist skill: Research
Q. Highest formal education level completed: Masters degree [Note: I was on Tier 4 visa because I was pursuing my PhD and I applied for the TN GT visa while pursuing my PhD without having sat for the viva (defense) yet. So, it is possible to apply for GT visa while doing your PhD without completing it. I completed my master’s degree in 2014.]
Q. Are you applying under the eligibility criteria for Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise?: Exceptional Promise
Q. What is the main reason you have chosen to apply for the route of ‘Exceptional Promise’ (rather than Exceptional Talent)?: I started my PhD in Embedded Machine Learning (Artificial Intelligence) in 2018 and do not have more than 5 years work experience on the topic regardless being a pioneer of several methodologies that are currently being used in academia and industry in many ways.
Now, let’s talk about arranging evidences. Somehow, the Eureka moment was inspired by this guideline of the TN GT visa as shown in the image.
From the guidelines the line that struck me the most was “A ‘leader’ of exceptional talent (or promise) must show extraordinary ability by sustained (or emerging) national or international recognition.”
This means that I need to arrange evidences that actually shows me as a “Leader” or “potential to be a Leader”. We have all read this line in the guidelines numerous times and I know, it might not seem like something to inspire an Eureka moment but allow me to explain by showing my arrangements of evidences.
So, I arranged my evidences in the following file(s):
Personal statement: In this essay, I literally started from my beginning (I mean, my birth, that was 31 years ago). I talked about my birth in the slums of India in a humble family and connections to food and how we detested food waste. Then I talked about how I got inspired by technology as I grew up and why I became smitten by technology. After that I talked about my inspiration behind coming to the UK for master’s and how I settled here to pursue my PhD to improve lives and fight food waste. After that I talked about my invention - the mobile app that helps consumers to reduce food waste, which also became one of the most popular apps to reduce food waste in the UK and worldwide during the pandemic. This was followed by my motivation to incorporate my company in the UK based on the success of the app and how it would help the UK and the UK tech community going forward. [Note: I have requested TN whether I can publish my actual personal statement without affecting my endorsement to help other prospective candidates but I have not heard back and hence, I am not publishing the personal statement as of yet]
CV: In my CV, I cherry picked the experiences from my plethora of experiences to show my expertise in the tech sector within 3 pages as per guidelines. In the CV, I have also provided my published peer-reviewed intellectual properties, awards, memberships and a brief mention in press. [Note: Since, most of my work has been covered in public, I am sharing my CV that I used for the GT visa application here: Somdip Dey’s CV] [Another point to mention that please don’t call me or email me based on the information provided in the CV as I will definitely not reply back. Instead try to reach out here or ask questions in the TN Visa Forum, I will try to help out then.]
Now, for the 10 main evidence documents I have arranged them based on different topics (or names) that is able to show me as a Leader or Potential Leader. The names (and contents) of the documents are as follows.
1 - News articles on my work.pdf: For my works I have been fortunate enough to be featured and mentioned in 300+ news articles. So, in this evidence document, I have cherry picked some of the influential news articles on my food waste reduction apps. I broke this document into 2 parts: 1) 7 news articles on my food waste reduction app; 2) Two news articles of my other notable works. In the first part of the evidence, on my food waste reduction app, I provided news articles from Free Press Journal, Business Insider, Echo News, TechCrunch, Food Tank, Entrepreneur, and South China Morning Post in a chronological order (I chose these news articles based on the number of viewers nationally and internationally). For each news articles I have shown the article title, published date, publication name and link to the article. For each news article I have also provided the SimilarWeb analytics viewership/readership metrics. SimilarWeb is a web analytics platform that shows the monthly viewership/readership of a website, may that be a news publication or otherwise.
2 - Speaking engagements.pdf: In this document, I have highlighted some of my public talks/speaking engagements within the technology sector. The document starts with an explanation of why public talks are important and how that motivates and inspires others in the technology sector. Then, I have broken this evidence document into 3 parts (3 pages). First 2 pages were to highlight my TEDx talk and 6 other speaking engagements. The last page of this document was an endorsement letter (1 page) from the organizers of the TEDx talk, endorsing my talk and why they chose me for the this particular talk. While providing evidence on my TEDx talk and other speaking engagements, I have provided links to the individual talks (if available), metrics of viewership (if available), other evidences and recommendation letters pointing to the respective talk, etc.
3 - Thought leadership.pdf: In this document, I first introduced about what is “thought leadership” and how that inspires and motivates the tech industry. Then I divided the document into two segments: 1) My published OP-ED news article in publications; 2) Me quoted in press and media. For each news articles, may that be written by me or where I was quoted, I have provided SimilarWeb viewership analytics on each publications to show the impact of each articles (I have mentioned about SimilarWeb earlier, so, read about it).
4 - Peer-review & editorship.pdf: In this document, I first introduced about what is “peer-review, technical program committee and editorship of scientific/technical works” in terms of scientific impact and how it improves the quality of scientific research and helps the research community. Then I have broken the evidences in 3 parts: 1) Peer-review of scientific/technology research publications (this is further broken in 2 parts - peer-review for conferences and then peer-review for journals); 2) Technical Program Committee Member of Peer-reviewed Tech Conferences; 3) Editorship of scientific/technical works for Journals. In some of these evidences, there was an overlap with other evidences, so, I have pointed to that respective device document instead. For example, I have created a separate evidence document on editorial work on technical journals and hence, pointed to that evidence document for that part in this document. For each sections (evidence) in this document I have provided links, screenshots, and a bit more explanation as required or warranted.
5 - Editorship of scientific research.pdf: In this document, I talked about the importance of editorship in scientific/research oriented technical journals and how improves the tech research community. Then, I have provided evidences of my editorial work as a Guest Editor or Associate Editor in research oriented tech journals along with screenshots, links, etc.
6 - International awards.pdf: In this document, I have highlighted 4 of my most important achieved awards that are national and internationally known. For each award I have provided links and/or news that are publicly available and screenshots wherever necessary. For one of the awards, I have even provided the certificate by uploading it to my Google Drive and creating a sharable link that I have provided in this document. I have mentioned the 4 wards in 2 pages of the document and I kept the last page to show an endorsement letter from one of the international award provider, mentioning why they have chosen me for the award and other specific about the award itself. Within each award I have also specified how the awardees were selected by the committees and how are the committee members wherever possible.
7 - International voluntary collaborations and contributions.pdf: In this document, I have highlighted some of my international voluntary collaborations and contributions that I have done beyond my day-today work. First, I explained why each of these actives are important and ho they help the tech sector. Then I broke the document into 2 sections: 1) Contribution to Microsoft TechNet and Microsoft Technologies; 2) 0. Contribution to developing International Standard. For those who are not aware, Microsoft TechNet is equivalent to StackOverflow but only restricted to Microsoft Technologies. I mentioned about my contributions in each sections along with screenshots and links wherever possible for each of the sections. The last 2 pages of the documents (not going over the 3 page limit), I have provided one endorsement letter from the top contributor of the Microsoft TechNet platform attesting my contributions and one endorsement letter from the General Chair of the international standard of which I was part in developing. Within this document I have also pointed to other documents such as “6 - International awards.pdf” as my contributions have led me to achieve awards within the Microsoft TechNet community and I have generously pointed these out wherever I could.
8 - Peer-reviewed-presentation.pdf: In this document, I have provided evidence of my peer-reviewed scientific research work presented at internationally reputed tech conference while I was pursuing my PhD. First, I talked about the positive effects it had on the research community and then I have chosen and categorized each evidence of peer-reviewed presentation based on their impact (citations and news appearances). I have provided links to the articles, citations, conference program agenda links and screenshots, etc. At the end of this document, I have also provided a 1-page endorsement letter from one of the conferences organizers, mentioning about why my research was chosen, how many attendees were there and about my presentation. Since, I have published several peer-reviewed articles via conferences and journals, so, I have also provided my Google Scholar link along with screenshots and citations. I have also linked this to another evidence document named “9 - Peer-reviewed-journals.pdf” (this document is the next in line here).
9 - Peer-reviewed-journals.pdf: In this document, I have talked about my peer-reviewed scientific research work published in top tier journals. First, I started with the positive effect it had on the community and then highlighted some of my most influential peer-reviewed journal publications based on citations and appearances in news (I also chose the article whether they were published in Q1 research journals or not, priority to Q1 journals than lower ones). For each article evidence I have provided links to the articles online, citations, screenshots and news appearances if any wherever possible. I have again provided a screenshot of my Google Scholar profile with citations and links to the profile.
10 - Research endorsement letter by Dr. X.pdf: This is the recommendation letter from one of the top 10 embedded machine learning scientists in the world. He endorsed several of my research as they appeared in news and cited by his research teams. This was to prove that my research is world class and top-tiered. He did mention about my international awards as well that are publicly known and my news appearances.
Three letters of recommendation: This one of the hardest to choose for me as I had so many options and I was confused as to whom to really choose to recommend me for the TN GT visa. Finally, I chose the strategy where I compromised between choosing the recommenders based on their international reputation vs who are reputed in the UK. One of my recommenders was my PhD supervisor, who is also the Professor and Director of Research within my University in the UK. This same person is also a Fellow of BCS & IET and happens to be a serial-entrepreneur with several successful exits (I know I got lucky with my supervisor in terms of reputation ) The other recommender is a big time young entrepreneur, who was also awarded Forbes 30 Under 30 recognition. He is my mentor and advisor in my entrepreneurial journey. And the third recommender is my previous boss in a tech company in the UK where he used to be the CTO but now he is a senior-manager at the biggest publicly traded tech travel company. He is my mentor and advisor in my entrepreneurial journey as well and he also owns his own tech company in the UK.
Important notes on the evidence documents: Now, if you take a close look at my naming of my evidence documents as mentioned above you would realize that I have leveraged the guidelines of TN GT visa to show that I am a “Leader” or “Potential Leader” in the tech community.
In the TN Stage 1 Endorsement visa application, I have chosen the following documents in the following criterions.
1 - News articles on my work.pdf :- Mandatory
2 - Speaking engagements.pdf :- Mandatory, Optional Criteria 2
3 - Thought leadership.pdf :- Mandatory
4 - Peer-review & editorship.pdf :- Mandatory, Optional Criteria 2, Optional Criteria 4
5 - Editorship of scientific research.pdf :- Mandatory, Optional Criteria 2, Optional Criteria 4
6 - International awards.pdf :- Mandatory, Optional Criteria 4
7 - International voluntary collaborations and contributions.pdf :- Optional Criteria 2
8 - Peer-reviewed-presentation.pdf :- Optional Criteria 2, Optional Criteria 4
9 - Peer-reviewed-journals.pdf :- Optional Criteria 4
10 - Research endorsement letter by Dr. X.pdf :- Mandatory, Optional Criteria 4
Some afterthoughts (and before-thoughts about the endorsement application as well)
Link the evidences wherever possible: A lot of your evidence documents will be intertwined with other evidence documents. So, don’t forget to link to each other to create a compelling story on yourself being a Leader or Potential Leader in Tech. Don’t be shy. Provide evidences as necessary to support your personal statement and to show off that you are in-fact a Leader or Potential Leader in Tech.
Provide screenshots and links generously: You are only able to provide at most of 3 pages of each evidence document, so, don’t forget to provided screenshots and links as necessary and generously to make your case as a Leader or Potential Leader in Tech. Same goes with the metrics to show the impact of your work so far that could help the TB GT visa case worker to evaluate your impact so far.
Imposter syndrome is a B*tch: I had my eye on this visa since 2018 and every time I read the guidelines I told myself that I might not be good enough for this visa. That was all a lie. Majority of my evidences except a very small parts of “1 - News articles on my work.pdf” and “6 - International awards.pdf” were from the end of 2017/2018. I applied for the TN GT Stage 1 Endorsement under “Exceptional Promise” and I got endorsed as “Exceptional Talent” using the same evidences. This means that if I would have applied back in 2018 (shoving my insecurities back) using the same evidences then I would still have got endorsed as “Expectational Talent” without having to wait till 2022 to have the guts to finally apply for it. This also means that I would have been 4 years closer to getting the ILR if I had not believed my insecurities after reading the guidelines. I am aware that the guidelines of the TN GT visa Stage 1 endorsement are a bit vague but that’s why you should be talking to other TN GT visa alumni to get over your insecurities and finally apply for the endorsement.
Network as if there’s no tomorrow: Don’t underestimate the power of networking and building your network. I have a saying, “Your net worth is your network!” You need to meet new people in tech and create relationships that will help you in the long term while you help them as well. This is very important because when you need the recommenders to support your TN GT visa, you will be coming back to your network to ask for these recommendations. For example, I met one of my recommenders during a Forbes conference and since then he became my mentor and advisor in my entrepreneurial journey. I am so glad that I have got a big mouth at times because the same mouth has helped me to make friends with mutual benefits over the long time. [Note: I am an introvert inherently but I had to force myself to be an extrovert in situations after becoming an entrepreneur. That’s the beauty of pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone to evolve as a human being.]
Lastly, all the best with your TN GT visa endorsement application. Don’t forget to reach out to the amazing members of the TN Visa Forum as I got 99% of my help from here! Don’t be shy, we don’t bite.