scooter outside house in europe

By Rebecca Brown, RoughDraft

A Migrant’s Guide to Working in Europe

Working in a European country is a dream of many as it allows you to gain broader work experience, travel extensively, and enjoy a rich culture—all at the same time. However, if you are a non-EU citizen, there are a few obstacles you need to overcome first.

Obtaining a Visa

If you want to work in a specific European country, check the visa requirements for citizens of your home country as not all European countries have the same work visa requirements.

Travel Visa

You don’t need a separate visa to travel from one EU country to another. So, if you are an American who wants both to explore Prague and learn about its mysteries and legends and visit Paris to enjoy its famous French wine and cuisine, you can do it all in a single trip without much hassle.

The Schengen Area

Most EU countries (and a few others) share a uniform travel visa policy that completes the ‘Schengen Area’. The ‘Schengen Area’ is an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. If you are from the US, Australia, or New Zealand, you can travel to Schengen Area Member countries without a visa and stay for 90 days in total.

The immediate benefit of the Schengen Area is that you won’t have to deal with long queues at the border and you won’t have to schedule visa appointments at a few different embassies if you want to travel between EU countries.

Work Visa

In some European countries, you may not need a standard work visa to find a job. For instance, investors, entrepreneurs, and people with medical or engineering degrees can apply for an eased work visa in some countries. And, in some countries, such as Germany, some skilled trades (like butchers or locksmiths) can also apply for an easy work visa.

The UK, Hungary, Luxembourg, and Ireland have more finance jobs available, making it easier to get a working visa. If you are a lawyer, you have a great chance of successfully applying for an eased work visa in Estonia or France.

In the United Kingdom, entrepreneurs, investors, some graduate students, and people with exceptional talent can participate in a point-based visa system. You should apply early if you are considering this as there are limited visas available.

If you don’t qualify for a “fast-track,” visa, you still may be able to get a standard work visa. To get such a visa, first you need to schedule a visa interview at a consulate or embassy in your home country. Whether you’ll get one still largely depends on the type of work you do, so it pays to check the countries skills shortage lists before you apply.

Be sure to schedule an interview at least 1 or 2 months in advance as appointments can book up fast and cost between €35 and €60. Also, make sure to bring a valid passport and a passport-style photo with you.

In most European countries, a standard work visa is usually valid for one year. If you want to extend your stay, you’ll have to renew it on time.

Freelance Visa

If you are your own boss, you may be able to get a freelance visa lasts 2 years in some European countries. To get such a visa, you’ll need to prove that you are able to support yourself. Moreover, you will likely have to obtain the right professional licences for your line of work. Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands are the best countries for non-EU freelancers.

Females talking about work in cafe
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Finding Job Opportunities in Europe

Even though it may be difficult to get a work visa in Europe, there are still plenty of job opportunities for foreigners in the old continent. If you’re lucky enough, you may land an employer visa sponsorship.

Network

If you are adamant about working in Europe, you need to start making contacts abroad and attending international job fairs. You don’t necessarily have to go to Europe for that.

Try finding an international job fair in your country. Do note that international job fairs are usually organized by industry. If you are interested in working at a specific company, reach out to them by mail.

Consider Teaching English

If you are a native speaker of English or proficient in the language, you can obtain a TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and try to find work as an English teacher. There are many TEFL centres across the US, NZ, and Australia where you can get your TEFL certificate. You can even get one online.

When it comes to applying to teach English as a second language, native speakers have an advantage. If you are having a hard time landing a full-time job as an English teacher in Europe, you could try applying to be a camp counsellor at an international camp.

shop in Europe
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Shop front in Europe
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Job Application Tips

You must learn what your Unique Selling Propositions (USP) are before applying for a job in Europe. What makes you a one-of-a-kind candidate? Why should someone hire you?

In many EU countries, employers are required to prove that they were unable to hire a local or EU citizen in order to hire a foreigner. Moreover, most European employers won’t be interested in hiring non-EU citizens who have little or no work experience in Europe.

Before applying for a job, you can get your foot in the door by pursuing a volunteering opportunity, study program, internship, as well as a language course. Learning the language of your desired destination will get you far.

If you really want to ensure your success, apply for an internship at an EU agency or consultancy. Spending a couple of months familiarising yourself with one of the EU institutions will help you land a job in Europe.

The good news is that some internship programs like that accept non-EU citizens. Even if you can’t take part in such an internship, you’d want to do what you can to gain sectoral knowledge of a European institution, department, or policy area. For instance, if you have a diploma in environmental studies, understand relevant EU policies and speak the local language, you have a great unique selling point.

CV

In Europe, just like anywhere else, a good CV is a must, so you should make an effort to compose a good CV; but, you must do it the European way. You’ll need a Europass CV which is the standard EU CV format and is suitable for both academic and vocational graduates.

Make sure to translate your qualifications and your CV into the host country’s language. The Europass CV is the best way to communicate your skills and aptitude to EU employers.

housing in Europe
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The Interview

When you go to a job interview in Europe as an expat, you need to bring a lot of documents with you. Typically, you need:

  • Valid ID
  • A copy of your birth certificate
  • A couple of passport photos
  • University degree or other qualification
  • A certified translation of your diploma
  • Several copies of your CV

You will also need to illustrate how your attributes and skills fit the job description. Make sure to learn what you can about the company. Be ready to ask questions about specific aspects of the job as well as the company itself.

Be prepared to speak the language of your host country at the interview. Even if the interview takes place in English, your employer will likely ask you to prove your command of the native language of the country. If you have poor command of the language, don’t give up. Use your own vocabulary, even if it is limited, and demonstrate that you are willing to make improvements.

In Europe, interviewers like to see how candidates act in real life situations so your interviewer may come up with some real-life scenarios. Answer them with the STAR technique.

Don’t prepare just one example of how you would deal with a real-life situation. Prepare several potential solutions to a problem you expect they will present to you. If you don’t know how to answer a question, explain how you would try to find the solution or the answer.

European Business Etiquette

Congratulations, you’ve landed your first job in Europe! But your journey is not over. To make sure you get on well with your coworkers, you must master the European business etiquette.

It will take you some time, and sometimes there are some differences between European countries when it comes to business etiquette. So, for starters, stick to the basics:

  • Greetings: In Europe, handshakes are the standard. When shaking hands with someone, maintain eye contact. Gentler handshakes are used with women, and firm handshakes are customary between men. Avoid addressing people by their first name (unless invited to) and use titles.
  • Punctuality: People are more punctual in some parts of Europe than in others. Nevertheless, even if your host is not punctual, you should be. For instance, business meetings in Italy often start late, but you are still expected to arrive on time. They’ll give you a grace period of a couple of minutes in France, but you’ll leave a good first impression if you arrive on time. In Germany or the UK, it’s best to arrive a few minutes early to a meeting.
  • Dining and entertainment: Business breakfasts are not common in Europe. But, being invited to dinner or lunch is common. In most European countries, talking business during lunch is the norm. However, if you are in Greece, Italy, or Czechia, don’t talk business unless your host initiates such a conversation. Most Europeans consider a dinner invitation to be a sign of esteem, so refusing a dinner invitation may be considered impolite. During dinner, Europeans usually avoid business talk.

Now that you’ve got more insight into what it takes to get a working visa in Europe, you should be confident enough to take the steps to understand what you’ll need specifically for each countries visa requirements.


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