We constantly get asked the same question: “How do you get a visa/work permit for Europe?”
Let’s clear one misconception first. A visa is not a work permit. If you are from outside the EU you might need a visa in order to enter a European country to visit it for a business meeting, holiday, family visit, etc. This does not mean you can work and live in the country you want to go to.
If you are from outside the EU and want to work in a EU country, you will most likely need a work permit as well as a visa.
So, how do you get one?
You can’t is the simple answer. If, and only if, you fall into certain categories defined by the country you want to work in, the company recruiting you can request a work permit. You generally can not apply for a work permit yourself.
Companies will have to prove to their respective governments that they can not find anyone within the European Union who fulfils the requirements for the job. Only when the government agrees they might issue a work permit.
Given that in some EU countries the unemployment levels are above 50%, it seems unlikely companies could not find anyone in the EU to fill the job. This might be true for 99.99% of all jobs advertised, there are still some highly specialised jobs for which EU governments will hand out work permits.
In order to find out if you qualify, visit the work permit section of the official government site of the country you want to work in. Don’t use any of the consultancy services that claim they can get you into the EU, as long as you pay. These tend to only charge you and won’t get you anywhere.
Here are some links for EU government sites where you can find out more:
Switzerland (Not in the EU!): http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/asia/vlka/ref_visinf/visalk.html