European Work Permit Overview

The harsh truth about European work permits

Despite it’s history of absorbing immigrants, Europe is not very welcoming to new visitors anymore. There are many reasons for this and they tend to be the same everywhere in the world: nationalistic politics, high unemployment levels, market protection, welfare states and high knowledge levels.

The economic crisis has hit Europe hard. Some countries in Europe have suffered more than others. Iceland, Spain and Greece have been hit hard, but the Netherlands seem to coast along nicely. Germany, France and the UK were coming out of the recession, but seem to be heading for another contraction again. The dreaded double dip recession! But Turkey continues to grow. It’s a real economic patchwork and this makes finding the right job not very straightforward.

Europe, as you may know, is not one country, but a constantly changing jumble of about 50 (semi) independent states. Some have grouped together in what is called the European Union, others have formed much looser alliances such as the European Economic Area and others remain fiercely independent. This all ensures that there is no standard, easy to follow solution to finding work in Europe.

However there are some basic guidelines.

– If you’re not born there or carry a local passport, you will need a work permit

– The European Union has, sort of, harmonised the permit requirements for member states. They are fairly identical in member states.

– If you are a EU passport holder you can work anywhere in the EU without the need for a work permit, but if you’re not and have a work permit for one member state, you might not necessarily be able to work in another member state.

– If you work and live in a European country illegally, you run the risk of being deported. You will not be able to benefit from the social security systems of the various countries. It is a myth that once you’re in Europe you will be paid loads of money if you are unemployed. Countries do pay the qualifying unemployed some money, but with the cost of living so high, this amounts to next to nothing and you’d be struggling to stay alive.

– So, best to stay on the legal side and earn your keep. Or if you can’t get into Europe legally, try finding a job with a European/International company in your country and become a specialist who can be sent out to Europe on behalf of the country.


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