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Work Abroad

Jan 22, 2009
A Guide to Working in Europe for Non-EU Citizens
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The chance to work in the European Union (EU) used to be so elusive for Non-EU citizens. A few years ago, EU countries were favoring EU residents over expats. Now, most EU countries are changing their rules about hiring non-EU citizens. A lot of countries in Europe are now advocating easier entries for skilled foreigners. This move is said to be a response to the EU’s dwindling native workforce. They now need skilled individuals, EU citizen or not, to fill manpower shortages.

Old EU work rules and regulations stipulated that preference should be given to EU citizens over non-EU residents. This meant that EU residents were picked first over expats. In example, if there were two applicants with the same qualifications, but their only difference is that one was an EU resident and the other was not. At the end of the day, the EU resident would be the one to land the job.

This was done in order to help the EU grow. Expat applicants were not favored because they most likely remit their earnings and benefits outside the EU. However, if EU employees hired EU residents, then the benefits would only go back to the EU. This was also a self preservation and a patriotic move for the European Union. It may have worked for some time – but now the rules are changing.

Necessary Permits

Non-EU citizens may need to obtain the following permits before they can work in Europe legally. Here are a few permits that employers usually ask from their non-EU citizen applicant.

WORK PERMIT – Having a valid work permit is necessary. In the past, it was virtually impossible for a non-EU resident to get a work permit. There were a lot of criteria to fill and most of the time only those who had valid work offers were given permits. Today, the laws are changing – they are becoming more lenient. Even expats who do not have a job offer can obtain a work permit as long as they have the desirable skills and the right educational background. The local government of the European country you want to work in will be the ones to grant you a work permit.

RESIDENT VISA – Aside from the work permit, EU countries also require their applicants to present a valid resident Visa. This Visa or Permit will assure the employer that their applicant is legally residing in the country. A resident Visa is usually granted to people who have reason to be in the EU. It could include fiancés and relatives of people who are already in the country. Students are also awarded this permit.

A lot of EU countries are now offering so-called ‘Eased Work Permits’. These ‘Eased Work Permits’ are permits given to expats who have a job offer in a certain EU country. Most of the rules applied to traditional work permits are still in place, but there are a few Key modifications. In the past, expats need to prove that no other suitable candidate in the EU was found to fill the position in question. That is no longer a problem in some EU countries today.

A Working Student in the EU

Today, the one easiest way for an expat to get into the EU is with the use of a Student Visa. A student Visa not only affords the individual the right to stay in a specific country, it also provides the individual with a chance to work. Of course, there are a lot of requirements to fulfill before one is awarded a student visa.

First and foremost, the prospective student must present proof that he/she is enrolled in an EU school. This proof could be the student’s enrolment slip. The schools may also assist their future students in attaining a student Visa.

Another requirement attached with a student Visa is that the student needs to have a certain amount of money to their name. This is practiced by most EU countries, although the amount required can vary from one EU country to another. This protocol ensures the government that the student applying for Visa can support themselves while they are in the EU. This is also an assurance that the student has something to go back to and that they wont stay as illegal expats.

In most countries in the EU, students are allowed to work. But, they are restricted to a set number of hours a week. After all, a student has travelled abroad to the EU to study and not to work. Some EU countries also offer their students health coverage. The UK offers students basic health coverage, plus dental.

Skilled Migration

There is a new trend among EU countries and they are following in the steps of Canada and Australia. This trend is point based immigration. Some EU countries including the UK are modifying their immigration laws to make it easier for skilled expats to gain work in the country. France is also doing the same thing. As long as expats meet the skill category set by the country – they can get work permits without much hassle.

Some skilled expats may enter the UK without a job offer. As long as they prove to be an asset to the UK, they can get a work permit. These includes business men, skilled artists, CEOs, etc. Other expats and foreigners still need job offers before they can be given work permits.


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