The Ultimate Guide to Work Permits Across Europe

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Moving to a new country can be a stressful plan to carry out. If you’re planning to relocate to Europe, though, it can be much simpler than it seems. This article will show you how. Here’s a practical guide on work permits in Europe and how to get a work visa for Europe as a non-EU citizen or an EU work permit for US citizens.

You’ll learn what permits each European country requires so that you can start a new working life as an expat more easily. You’ll also learn about the situation in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, and Switzerland. Read on to learn how to get a work visa for Europe.


European Union Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is a specialised residence permit and work authorisation designed to attract highly skilled people outside the EU and EEA, including US citizens. It aims to address skill shortages and contribute to the EU’s competitive edge by making it easier for qualified workers to migrate. It allows you to reside and work in any of the 25 EU Member States participating in the programme (all 27 except Denmark and Ireland).

These are some EU Blue Card benefits:

To get an EU Blue Card, you basically need three things:

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Which countries are in the European Economic Area?

We mentioned earlier that the Blue Card is for non-EU and non-EEA citizens. All 27 European Union countries are also European Economic Area countries. Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are the only countries in the European Economic Area that are not members of the European Union. And remember that Ireland and Denmark don’t participate in the Blue Card program.


Specific Work Permits per Country

It’s important to understand that the European Union Blue Card doesn’t replace the specific work permits each country requires. So, if a country needs a particular work permit for a certain job or industry, someone with the EU Blue Card will still need to get that permit.

However, having the EU Blue Card can make it easier to get these specific permits. With it, you’ve already proven you have a university degree or equivalent qualification.

 Having cleared this up, let’s have a look at each country’s work permits in detail.


🇩🇪 Germany

Germany not only offers visas to qualified non-EU citizens who are already employed but also has one visa for self-employment and another one for jobseekers. Moreover, if you’re a tech professional, Germany is an excellent option for you to relocate as they offer a special visa for IT professionals. Let’s discuss each of them in detail:

🇦🇹 Austria

To work as a non-EU citizen in Austria, there are three options:

Keep in mind that currently, it’s tough for new foreign workers to find jobs in Austria because there are few openings. This is because Austria wants to make sure its economy stays stable and doesn’t experience boom-and-bust cycles. So, if you’re a non-EU citizen seeking employment there, keep a backup plan in sight.


🇳🇱 The Netherlands

As a non-EU citizen in the Netherlands, you can get what they call a “Residence permit for work as a highly skilled migrant”. Here’s a quick overview of what it consists of:

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🇪🇸 Spain

There are three types of visas in case you want to relocate to Spain. Let’s see what sets them apart:

🇬🇧 United Kingdom

The Blue Card program doesn’t exist in the UK, but there are other avenues for obtaining work permits based on your talent. International hiring in the UK can be pretty complex, especially after Brexit.

The Skilled Worker Visa is your ticket to work in the UK for the long term. Let’s see its implications and requirements:

You’re eligible if:

Its benefits:

Take into account that the application process takes time, so apply well in advance.


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🇮🇪 Ireland

In Ireland, there are two options you can rely on, which depend on your kind of job: the General Employment Permit and the Critical Skills Employment Permit. The first one is very popular among jobseekers because it covers more types of jobs than other permits and can be obtained for a one-year work contract. Any job listed under the Critical Skills Occupations List (CSOL) qualifies for this permit.

Let’s explore them both in more detail:

🇵🇹 Portugal

Northern Europeans will confirm that Portugal is a great country to relocate to, as the Portuguese are incredibly friendly and welcoming towards immigrants, and it’s a very affordable country. It’s easy to move around there even if you don’t speak their language. Portuguese usually have no trouble making themselves understood and making an effort to understand you as well. Also, a significant economic advantage of Portugal is its low taxes. Not to mention the food, which, if you like fish, will fascinate you.

So, willing to live and work in Portugal with advanced skills in your pocket? Consider the Highly Qualified Activity Visa (HQAV). This option, known as the Article 90 visa, is directed to non-EU citizens.

To obtain this permit, you’ll need:

Initially granted for two years, the visa offers the possibility of extensions in three-year increments, potentially leading to permanent residency after five years. This visa also allows you to bring your family.


Is the Portugal Article 90 visa only for investors?

No, the Article 90 visa is not a golden visa. Some outlets suggest this visa, labelled Article 90 by the Portuguese government, is a golden visa. Allegedly, you obtain this visa by investing more than €250,000 in the country. Still, if you read the details on the government’s official website, the Article 90 visa is for highly qualified activities, not for investors. It’s unclear if other outlets got lost in translation when they claimed this one was for investors. Or they could have mixed this one up with the 90-A visa, which is a golden visa indeed.


🇨🇭 Switzerland

While Switzerland might seem closed off to immigrants, there’s still a path for skilled non-EU/EFTA citizens like managers, specialists, and experienced graduates. The key lies in being highly qualified and finding an employer who recognises your value.

Here’s what you need to know:

Getting the Job: The process is employer-driven. To get your permit, your future employer must prove that hiring you benefits Switzerland economically and that they can’t find suitable personnel locally or from EU/EFTA member states. 

The Permit Process:

Depending on your nationality, you might also need a visa alongside the work permit. For more information, check the State Secretariat for Migration’s website.


Get European work permits with the help of an employer

The best way to get your permits is through an employer, and the best way to find that employer might be through, a platform and niche job board that connects tech companies with IT jobseekers who are willing to move abroad. Every company that posts a job ad on will hire internationally and help employees relocate.

What are you waiting for? If you’re a worker looking to relocate and be hired internationally, take a look at our job board.

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