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.


Bulgarians heading for work in Ireland?

The Republic of Ireland has removed all restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens in order to work in the country, five years after Bulgaria and Romania became part of the European Union.

The development follows evidence of a big drop in the number of people from both countries travelling to Ireland to seek work. This comes months after the European Commission had asked the Irish Government to examine if the restrictions were necessary.

“It has become clear that the basis for the continuation of restrictions on access to the labour market for remaining categories of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals is questionable,” a statement last night from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said .

“As such, the Government has decided immediately to bring forward the transition date for access to the labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.”

Ireland becomes the 20th country from the EU and EEA to allow all access for Bulgarians to its job market, alongside Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

Since the beginning of 2012, Germany has opened doors to Bulgarian seasonal workers and people having a higher education degree.

UK job haven for low paid immigrants

Sometimes governments do interesting things with the tax money they get from us.
The UK government created this interesting podcast showing where migrants in the UK came from and what they do for a living. They’ve brought statistics to life.

It shows that there has been a huge increase in workers at the lower end of the scale and that workers from Western Europe perform highly skilled jobs, compared to lower skilled jobs performed by workers from Eastern Europe. But that was what people on the street in the UK already knew.

This video explains where the 1.5 million immigrants in the UK came from and what they do.

And this podcast shows that the number of jobs in the UK have dropped by a third compared to before the financial crisis. Government fired a huge number of people, who will have found employment in the private sector, based on the statistics. And there are still more open vacancies than former state employees can fill. Moral of the story: “Cut red tape, get more jobs.”

UK Immigration rules to be tightened

The UK government has announced over the weekend that they are planning to tighten up immigration rules by demanding that non-EU immigrants earn at least £18.600 per year in order to be allowed to bring a partner over to the UK. The partner will then also be ‘on probation’ for five years before a permanent residence permit is issued. And it becomes even harder when there are children around. The amount required then rises sharply.

Government Minister Theresa May announced this plan during a TV show on Sunday morning and you really wonder why she announced it on air. Is it to scare immigrants from considering coming to the UK? Or is it to grab some much needed headlines as the ruling parties are trailing in the opinion polls?

One thing is certain though. The current coalition government is becoming rapidly known for their u-turns. They announce one thing one day and then announce the complete opposite the following day, claiming that reality has forced their hands. As with so many governments these days plans are often not properly thought through and are frequently announced as a knee jerk reaction to bad showings in the opinion polls. So wait for the change in policy…..

When you look at the contribution to the economy of foreign born UK residents a rather different picture emerges. DWP statistics show foreign-born residents – at 13% of the population – represent only 6.4% of benefits claimants; 7% of foreign-born residents receive them, compared with 17% of UK-born residents.

A third of the population in London was born abroad and the South-Eastern part of the UK is the only region in the UK that contributes more than it receives from the national coffers. Migrants tend to contribute enormously to the economy, just ask any of the 400,000 French who have fled their red tape ridden country in order to have an opportunity to build a future without government controlling most parts of your life.

Might there be another reason for this I wonder? Statistics in the past showed that migrants tend to vote in larger percentages for the Labour party. Given the current mood in the country and the fact that the Conservatives are trailing in the polls it could be one of those little schemes to limit the number of potential Labour voters. Or am I too cynical here? Labour admitted in the past that this was one of the reasons for opening the borders…..

There is one thing this plan does not stop. Illegal immigration is simply going to continue at the current levels and thanks to the economic crisis is more than likely going to increase. It is not doing anything about that. Rather than creating more red tape Government should address the real issues that plague the UK. 20 – 25% of the nation is incapable of reading the Yellow Pages, despite record numbers going to university. If the UK is going to compete with China, India and Brazil the country better starts education it’s workforce. A low tech workforce is of no good in a high tech society!

European Blue Card

The European Blue card is meant to be the equivalent of the US Green Card. However it appears to be a rather elusive card. And it is not really a card at all. It is just a stamp in your passport.

No one really seems to know where to get it or how to go about getting it. There is some help at hand though. You can register your details on and then wait until a recruiter might find you. Not quite a recipe for success, but still.

The reason why it is so difficult to get a blue card is that the prospective employer needs to apply for it and has to prove to their national government that the person they want to hire can not be found in Europe.

European employers have an obligation to look for European employees first. Only when they can not find someone (and prove that they went to extraordinary length to find someone) they are allowed to recruit outside the EU. There is nothing you as an applicant can do about this. You’re at the mercy of some faceless bureaucrats who will decide whether you succeed or not.

Every nation has different requirements and demands, so it’ll be difficult to work out where you qualify, unless you know which country you want to work in. Check out the various country websites to get a better idea as to what your chances are.

The ONE thing you should NEVER do is to pay someone to organise a blue card for you. A, it’s illegal, B it’s a scam, and C you will never get the card that way at all. You will lose your money and if you manage to make it into Europe you will discover that you can only work illegally, so you’re at the mercy of the people that smuggled you into Europe. You won’t earn enough money to send a single penny home.



Working in Turkey

Economic strength
With countries in the European Union economically struggling, it might be interesting to look a bit further afield to find a job. There are countries within Europe and on its edges where the economy has been growing despite the global financial crisis. One of these rare countries is Turkey. There economy grew by 8% last year.

Although Turkey is not part of the European Union, it has a close trading links with Europe and large numbers of (formerly) Turkish citizens live in Europe. There are for instance, more than 2 million Turks living in Germany and other EU nations have equally large percentages of Turks within their borders. The country is situated partly in Europe and partly in the Middle East, forming a natural bridge between continents and cultures.

Turkey is a secular country where the vast majority of people are Muslim. Contrary to what is generally accepted in many European countries, headscarves are banned in schools, universities and government offices.

Work permits
The Turkish approach to issuing work permits is quite similar to that of the European Union. They’re similarly battling with large numbers of unemployed people, despite their economic growth, so they’re not that keen on issuing work permits to just anyone. The Turkish government have created a double application process where both the applicant and the prospective employer have to apply for a work permit within 10 days of each other. You also have to prove that the vacancy can not be filled by someone locally. (Just like in the EU.) Only companies registered in Turkey can file an application.

The Turkish government has also decreed that for a number of jobs only local people can be employed. The jobs for the locals are in:

•    Diving, maritime navigation, working on ships, extracting wreckage, exportation of fish, other sea creatures, sand and pebbles
•    Mining
•    Working as executive director in travel agencies
•    Professional occupations: medical doctor, nurse, midwife, dentist, vet, careers, pharmacist, optician, executive director in hospitals, judge, lawyer, prosecutor, security guard, notary.

Red tape
Red tape is notoriously slow in Turkey, but government has recently attempted to make the whole process faster. However, as a consequence, the application form has grown significantly in size and now includes questions about criminal charges, illnesses that “threaten” public health and substance abuse problems.

Required paperwork for a Turkish work permit
Work permits for Turkey are either granted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (within Turkish borders) or if abroad, through the Embassy/Consulate of the Turkish Republic.

Documents required:

  • Passport and copy
  • Completed Visa Application form
  • Proof of a job offer in the form of a letter from employer
  • Passport photographs
  • Visa fee + work permit document fee (varies depending on type of permit applied for)

Normal processing time of an application is about two months. The applicants are notified when they have been successful and they then have three months to get their passport stamped with the work permit at the Embassy/Consulate.



EU Schengen Visa is NOT a work permit

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what the Schengen visa really is.

The Schengen Visa was created by members of the European Union to enable visitors to travel freely between the member states. It has made traveling between its 25 member countries (22 European Union states and 3 non-EU members) a lot easier and contains a lot less red tape. Gone are the days that you had to get a visa for all EU countries you wanted to visit.

When you travel on a Schengen Visa you can travel to any (or all) member countries using one single visa. The Schengen visa is a “visitor visa”. It is issued to citizens of countries who are required to obtain a visa before entering Europe. A Schengen visa allows the holder to travel freely within the Schengen countries for a maximum stay of up to 90 days in a 6 month period.

However, the Schengen visa is NOT a work permit. You can travel on a Schengen visa to go on holiday or on a business trip. It does not allow you to work in the Schengen countries. In order to work in the EU you need a work permit issued by the individual member state.

You can only get a work permit if you qualify based on the criteria defined by the individual member state. The company who wants to employ you needs to apply for the work permit and indicate why they can not find anyone in Europe to fill that position. Only then will a work permit be issued. The chances a company will obtain a work permit are very small as unemployment levels in Europe are very high and countries are trying to ‘protect’ their work force. (Read: protect the votes they would get in an election.)

Once you are lucky enough to obtain a work permit, you are stuck with the company that hired you. If you want to leave the company in order to join another company for a job anywhere in the EU, the whole process starts all over again. Your new employer will need to prove to their government why you deserve a work permit. If they fail to obtain it, you’re on the next plane home.

Some Schengen countries such as Norway, which is not a member of the EU, issue Skilled Jobseeker Residence Permits which allow you to live in Norway for 6 months and search for jobs & interview with employers. As with all work permits, this is limited to a certain period of time and once the period is up you are expected to leave the country again. Note that this is not a Schengen visa.

If you want to qualify you will need a Vocational training/Craft course/University Degree or a higher Special qualification from a Recognised University that meets Norwegian standards and is relevant to the job you are nominated for.

You must also have sufficient funds and medical insurance worth at least €30,000 to live in Norway for the duration of your intended stay. The funds required currently correspond to 107,450 Norwegian Crowns for a period of six months, which is approximately 17,000 US Dollars or 950,000 Indian Rupees.


European Blue card – or is it a Red card?

What is the European Blue Card?

Basically, it’s a copy of the American Green card. How surprising is that? Don’t expect Brussels to come up with something new! It took the European Union some time to streamline their approach to immigration. As there are a load of independent countries involved, you can imagine the resulting cacophony! Nothing moves fast in the European Union….

So, in May 2009, after years of difficult negotiations, the EU Member States agreed on common rules to govern the immigration of highly qualified workers from outside the Union. But not all states, as usual, will take part. The UK, Denmark and Ireland are not taking part in this scheme and given the rise of the far right in various countries in Europe, some might even drop out before it’s implemented.

The other countries agreed that the Directive on an EU-wide work permit for high-skilled non-EU citizens (“Blue Card”) has to be implemented by the Member States by 2011.

Given Europe’s history of speedy implementation of Directives, can we expect this to happen?

I might be a little cynical when it comes to Europe, but it looks as if the Blue Card scheme might actually happen.

Following the publication of the directive in the Official Journal of the EU, the member states (except Britain, Denmark and Ireland) had two years to incorporate the Blue Card provisions into their domestic legislation. This means it was to be implemented by 19 June 2011.

Spain has already implemented the directive (Ley Orgánica 2/2009, on 13 December 2009, and a revision of Ley Orgánica 4/2000) – incorporated the Blue Card into Spain’s national law. However, Spain does not yet accept Blue Card applications and has not yet made public what the requirements will be. Surprise huh?

So what do you need to get a Blue Card? You will need to meet the following criteria:

  • A recognised diploma, and:
  • Evidence of at least three years professional experience, and;
  • Offer of an EU job contract with a salary of three times the minimum wage.

It is expected the EU Blue Card scheme will be open for twenty-five European countries, each allocating a set number of Blue Card visas available to highly skilled workers each year.

Britain, Denmark and Ireland do not participate in the EU Blue Card initiative.

Wondering why?

They already have their own ‘high-skilled’ immigration schemes. The British scheme is so ludicrously tight that highly skilled foreign PhD’s, who are are offered fellowships by universities such as Cambridge, are refused a work permit on the basis that they don’t get enough points.

Recently, Dr Prashant Jain, an Indian researcher who holds a PhD in materials sciences, was offered a fellowship by the Department of Materials and Metallurgy to continue his research work at Cambridge. Dr Jain required 75 points to qualify for a visa. His doctorate entitled him to 45 points. To secure the remainder, he would have needed to show proof of an annual salary of £25,000 – a sum that is considered to be beyond what researchers typically earn at such an early stage in their careers.

Well, as usual, European countries don’t make it easy to work there. Makes you wonder why Europe is struggling economically when they can not even attract people who have the potential to drag Europe out of a recession…….

EU residency/workpermit rules

Are you allowed to work in another EU country if you have a permanent residence permit in another EU country?

Let’s look at this example:
You are a non-EU national, meaning your passport has been issued in a country outside the European Union and you have a permanent residency status in Italy. You now want to work in Germany.

In order to be able to work in Germany you need a residency permit issued by the German embassy. The fact that you have a permanent residency permit for Italy is irrelevant for German purposes. You can also not apply for one whilst you might be in Germany. You have to apply for it in Italy or another country outside Germany.

(If you are a citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway you have the same freedom of movement as EU nationals. If you are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Korea (Republic), Japan, New Zealand or the United States of America, you can apply for your residence and work permit after arriving in Germany.
But: if you already have a job offer, you should make sure that your employer will have a work permit ready for when you are to start work. If you want to start work immediately after your arrival in Germany, you should apply from abroad.)

If you are married to a German or EU national you should be able to obtain a residency permit as your partner ‘supports’ your application. Your partner should also move to Germany for work. But you still need to file your application at an embassy outside Germany

If you and your partner are both non-EU nationals, the normal requirements apply, i.e. you need to apply for a residency permit. The fact you have a residency permit in another EU country has no effect.

If you have a Schengen visa you can travel freely throughout the EU, but only work in the country for which you hold a residency (work) permit.

Which non-EU nationals can apply for a residency permit then?

There are three different categories of residency permits:

1. General employment

A residency permit in the general employment category is based on the economic needs of the Federal Republic of Germany. The two basic requirements are:

  • A vocational qualification
  • A concrete offer of a contract of employment

2. Specialist professional

The Federal Republic of Germany is interested in attracting specialist professionals to work and live in Germany. This applies particularly to:

  • Graduates with special professional knowledge and experience
  • University teachers with outstanding career profiles
  • Experienced managers with an offer of a job carrying a salary of not less than 86.400 Euros per year

On top of that applicants should fulfill the following criteria:

  • Ability to integrate into German society (i.e. be able to speak German)
  • Sufficent funds to maintain themselves without claiming benefits
  • A concrete offer of a contract of employment

3. Self-employed

To work on a self-employed basis your proposed business must:

  • Fulfill the needs of the Federal Republic of Germany or fulfill specific regional or local needs
  • Have a beneficial economic impact
  • Be fully covered by your own capital or bank loan for which there is a written confirmation

Requirements 1 and 2 will generally be fulfilled if your investment is worth 1 million Euros or more and creates 10 new jobs. To ensure the sustainability of your business project, the following criteria will also be taken into consideration:

  • Viability of your business plan
  • Your relevant business experience
  • Amount to be invested in Germany
  • Impact of your business project on employment and skills
  • Contribution of your project to innovation and research

Please note that these rules are also broadly applicable to most other EU countries.

For more information contact the German embassy in your country. (Or the embassy of the EU country you want to work in)

Want to work in Europe?

So, you want to work in Europe?

Whatever your reason for wanting to work in Europe, you will first need to overcome a big issue.

It’s called a work permit…..

Let’s face it. Politicians want to keep their voters happy. Voters tend to be scared of newcomers who “steal” “their” jobs. Politicians will want to take that feeling away by insisting newcomers have a work permit. It’s the same all over the world, whether you’re in the USA, Australia, India or in the Middle East. They’re all playing the same game. (They’re politicians after all…..)

What’s the situation in Europe?
The countries that make up the European Union all abide by rules defined in Brussels. There might be some local flavours of the EU rules decreed by Brussels, but being able to work in Europe generally comes down to whether or not you have a local EU passport (or can get one), live in a country that the EU doesn’t see as a threat to their workforce or if you have skills that are in demand locally in Europe. Otherwise, tough luck, you won’t be allowed to work in the European Union.

I’ll work there illegally then.
Tens of thousands of people try to get into the European Union illegally. Bad choice! What they don’t realise is that although they can earn a “lot more” illegally than they would ever be able to legally at home, the cost of living in the EU is astronomical in comparison and the extortion racket that got you there will take a big chunk out of your “earnings”. You might not be left with much after you’ve paid for everything.

Almost everything you would “earn” will be spend on paying off whoever smuggled you into the EU, on paying for squalid ‘living’ accommodation and the little that’s left goes on food. The chance that anything can be sent home is extremely small. If you have something left to send, Western Union and other money processors will take their cut, reducing the amount even further.

Needless to say that anyone trying to get work illegally in the European Union will be held over a barrel by the criminal gangs running the human trafficking trade. And if you’re found by the police, you run the risk of being expelled with a big debt to your smugglers and no chance to ever earn enough to pay them back.

It is not a nice truth, but you’d better know the real harsh truth instead of looking at Europe through rose tinted glasses.

There is one way out though. Education! Train to become a specialist in your industry, join a European company (or American, Australian, Canadian or whatever country you favour) and eventually when you’re enough of a specialist, it will be beneficial to the company to send you to your chosen place. That way it’s legal and you will be left with a good income (and a future).

It’s long way to go, but the only way to get into knowledge driven societies of the West.