Living and working in the EU

Living and working in Europe

While relocating to a country in the European Union is fairly simple for residents of another EU country, due to freedom of movement, for those who live outside the Union becoming a resident can be a touch trickier.

A highly skilled worker from a non-EU member state will probably need an EU Blue Card in order to live and work in their country of choice. To qualify, an applicant will need to have higher professional qualifications, such as a university degree, and an employment contract or a binding job offer which offers a salary higher than the average for the same position in the EU country where the job is.

The applicant will also need to be in paid employment; Blue Cards will not be granted to those who are self-employed or consider themselves an entrepreneur.

It is up to the applicant or, more usually, their prospective employer to submit an application for an EU Blue Card to the national authorities in the country where they wish to work. Depending on the country you are interested in, there may be an application fee. You will be informed of this at the time of applying. A decision on whether a Blue Card will be granted will be made within 90 days of applying.

Blue Cards usually last for a period of between one and four years, during which time the holder must spend at least the first two years working for the company which originally hired them (unless they have special permission from the national authorities to change jobs). Providing the applicant continues to meet the criteria through which they are legally in the country, then they should be able to renew their Blue Card for a further period of up to four years.

It should be noted that while the EU Blue Card applies in 24 of the 27 EU member states, it does not apply in Denmark, Ireland or the United Kingdom.

These countries operate their own immigration systems which usually require that a potential non-EU immigrant has a job offer from an employer in an occupation which is considered to be in-demand in the country.

Some countries (including the UK) do allow opportunities for self-employed workers and entrepreneurs from outside of the EU to become resident there. Quite often these applications will be dealt with on a case by case basis. You can contact an embassy for the country you are interested in moving to, to find out more information.

Of course, it is not only highly skilled workers who will wish to move to a European Union country.

If you are the spouse or partner of a current EU citizen, but are yourself from outside the Union, then you will need your EU-citizen partner to sponsor you and will be required to prove you have ‘reasonable prospects’ of staying permanently in that country. ‘Reasonable prospects’ are defined individually by each EU country.

Same sex relationships will be accepted in any EU countries which lawfully recognise same sex marriage. Polygamy is not recognised in any EU countries – you can only bring one spouse.

Some countries will impose extra criteria on family reunification. For example, the sponsor may need to be earning a certain salary to be classed an eligible sponsor, or the family member will need to take out private health insurance. Again, such rules vary country by country, so it’s worth checking before you go.

If you have children who are not classed as EU citizens, but are still considered as being dependant on you, then they should be able to accompany you. A dependent child is one who is not considered an adult under the laws of the sponsor’s host EU country.

If you come from a country outside the EU and you are planning to study in a university or another establishment of higher education in an EU country for more than three months, you will generally need a residence permit. Typically, you can apply for a residence permit once you have been admitted to a higher education institute to follow a full-time course of studies leading to a higher education qualification, such as a diploma, certificate or doctoral degree. You will need to prove that you have enough financial resources to cover your living and study costs for your stay, as well as you return travel costs.

If you are planning on studying in the UK or Ireland, then the rules are slightly different. Here there are specific student visas that come with residency included. However, students in these countries often have more restrictions placed on them in terms of whether they can work outside of their studies.

If you don’t qualify through any of these routes, then some EU countries operate what are often considered to be controversial golden visa schemes.

These are schemes whereby an applicant pays a certain amount of money (usually in the form of a property investment) to receive residency, and in some instances, citizenship. Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Hungary, Bulgaria and the UK all offer a certain type of Golden visa scheme.

Portugal’s golden visa scheme has to date proved to be the most popular of these programmes. For a 500,000 Euro investment in real estate, an investor will be granted a residency visa for their family. The visa can be renewed every two years providing the applicant spends two weeks in the country every two years. They can then apply for permanent residency after five years and citizenship after six years. Once they have obtained citizenship status they are then afforded the same rights as any EU citizen, meaning they have the right to reside in any member state – hence why some golden visa schemes are considered ‘controversial.’