European Work Permits and How to Get Them

To work in another country you generally need some sort of permit that allows you to work, rather than just visit that country. There are ways to work while on a tourist visa by getting paid under the table, but this is not recommended. Even if you don’t get caught, you will not have any legal protection if you run into employment issues or if you do not end up getting paid. If you do get caught, you will be deported and the deportation will go on your record, making it extremely difficult for you to get entrance to other countries in the future.

Categories of Work Permits & Visas

Every country has very different rules for immigration and work visas, but they can generally be divided into three different categories:

  • Standard skilled or unskilled worker visas
  • Student visas
  • Temporary, migrant, or Working Holiday visas

Standard Work Permits

The first type of work permit is the standard work visa for either skilled or unskilled workers.

Of course, you are going to have a better chance of getting one of these permits if you can show a viable skill that is needed in that country proven either through education or previous work experience.

This is also generally the hardest and most expensive type of permit to get since it allows permanent immigration to the country as well. But if you are hoping to permanently move to that country, this type of visa certainly makes that whole process much easier.

What makes this type of visa especially frustrating to try and get is that in many cases you need to be sponsored by an employer to get the visa. Of course, it is difficult to find an employer when you are not in the country. What many people do then is go to the country on a tourist visa and begin looking for a job. Once you find a job, you can apply for the immigrant work visa while you are in the country.

Student Visas

The second type of visa that may allow you to work in the country is a student visa. The rules and regulations for this type of visa are very different from country to country, but generally you need to be enrolled and have an endorsement from an academic institution in that country. Some countries may also specify the minimum number of hours of coursework per week, where you can work, or for how long you can work each week. Some countries, although not all, will allow a student visa to be rolled over into an immigrant visa if you have an employer sponsor you.

Temporary Worker Visas

The third type of work visa is generally called a working holiday or temporary worker visa. This type of visa encompasses au pairs, teaching English under contract in some countries like France, and working holidays. This is generally the easiest type of visa to get and should be the one you look at the most closely if you only want to move to that other country for a few months to a year.

Americans have an especially difficult time getting visas of this type since currently the States do not hold any reciprocal working holiday agreements with any other country. Canadians, on the other hand, can get a working holiday visa for:

  • Germany
  • France
  • Czech Republic
  • The Netherlands
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Belgium
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • The UK

But even if your country does not have reciprocal working holiday agreements, there are organizations like BUNAC that can make the arrangements for you instead.

This help does come at a fairly steep price however so be prepared to pay. But in some cases this may be your only option.

There are always country specific visas as well that you should look into, such as the ancestry visa from the UK that allows you to go and work there for five years if one of your grandparents was born in the UK. Another example is the private business work permit in France that you can apply for if you start up a private business in the country. If you don’t think that you will qualify for the standard work visa, and you don’t want to go as a student or only temporarily, these specific visas may give you the opportunity you need.

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