European work permit – rule of thumb

When it comes to work permits in the European Union there is a rule of thumb. The European Commission, i.e. the unelected rulers who decree new laws to member countries, have created one approach most member countries have implemented.

So, wherever you want to work in the European Union the following general rules apply:

EU/EEA and Swiss citizens

Work permits are not required for EU/EAA (EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Swiss citizens and members of their families. In most countries you will need to get some local red tape sorted (residence permit, etc.), but this is just to keep the locals busy shifting paper. If you are a European passport holder, no one can deny your right to work in a European Union country.

The local red tape generally need to be applied for within 90 days after arrival in the country.

Non-EU/EEA citizens

Non-EU/EEA have the right to work in EU member states only after a local work permit is issued. The permit must be requested by the employer and not by the employee.

Work permits are issued
– to foreigners who possess specific skills or specialised knowledge that can not be found on the national and European labour market,
– to those wishing to be self-employed or
– if they have been commissioned by a foreign employer to provide services.

The employer must prove that no one in the European Union can fulfill the role.

The work permit is issued for a fixed period of time, usually one year, for a specific job and employer. The permit may be renewed for a further three years for executive personnel and managerial positions. Once the work permit is issued a visa, valid for the same length of time can be obtained via the embassy in the country of origin of the employee.

If you have a work permit and want to change jobs, you will have to go through the whole process again as the work permit is only given for one company. If you leave the employer your work permit becomes invalid.



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