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The process and ease of acquiring a work permit in a foreign country will largely depend on your nationality. Below you will find useful information on work permits and visas for different countries:


EU Countries

In many EU countries obtaining a work visa is a relatively straightforward and speedy process, especially if you have a job offer and hold a university degree.

If you are a legal citizen of an EU member state, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, you’re entitled to work in any other EU country without a permit.

If you are a non-EU citizen, you can apply for the EU Blue Card, a Europe-wide residence and work permit that allows highly qualified professionals from outside the EU to live and work anywhere in the EU (excluding Denmark and Ireland).

If you are a non-EU citizen and a qualified worker, you must also meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a university degree. In exceptional cases, 5+ years of relevant professional experience may be enough. According to the official website of the European Commission, only some EU Member States (including France, Sweden, Poland, Portugal, and Spain) may accept relevant work experience as proof of having higher professional qualifications.
  • Have an offer for employment for at least 12 months.
  • Meet the minimum salary threshold in your relocation destination. This is set nationally, and varies from country to country.

Processing of EU Blue Card applications typically takes a maximum of 90 days. The card is issued for the duration of your employment contract, plus three months, but never for more than four years. You can read more about the EU Blue Card rules here.

The EU Blue Card is not the only option though. Most EU countries offer alternative permits with far less paperwork.

For example, if you have an employment contract with a Netherlands-based employer, applying for a Highly skilled migrant residence permit might be a good alternative. Keep in mind however, that your employer must be a recognized sponsor by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). Depending on your nationality, you may additionally need a long-stay entry visa (MVV). Your sponsor (the company hiring you) can apply for both on your behalf, in one application.

In case of relocation to Finland for an IT job, you can apply for a residence permit as a specialist. In Estonia, a long-term (category D) visa or a temporary residence permit for employment is a reasonable alternative to the EU Blue Card. The list of options goes on and on.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you decide whether or not you should relocate to an EU country:

  • The EU is the best place to be for good work-life balance. Every EU country has at least four weeks of paid vacation, very few in the EU work over 40 hours a week, and in some countries they work even less.
  • Compared to the United States, software engineer salaries are typically lower. Depending on where you relocate however, it’s quite possible that a lower gross salary could end up being quite reasonable because other expenses, such as healthcare and apartment rental, are cheaper. Given public transport systems in the EU are generally a lot better than in the US, you might also not need a car.
  • When relocating from the United States, another important thing to be aware of is that most EU countries have higher income tax rates. The top income tax rate in the USA is 37% and Slovenia, Belgium and Sweden have the highest top marginal income tax rates among EU OECD countries, at approximately 60%. The lowest rates can be found in Czechia, Estonia, and Hungary (31-34%).
  • EU countries, especially Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland and Germany, boast a very high quality of life. This includes quality of health care and education, political stability, environmental quality, etc.
  • The ability to travel anywhere (especially within the EU) easily and very cheaply is also worthy of a mention.


Work Permit and Visa

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