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Updated August 2023
As the EU remains a hub of innovation, diversity, and global influence, individuals worldwide are drawn to its dynamic job market. However, realizing this dream requires a thorough grasp of the nuanced process of obtaining an EU work visa, as well as a strategic approach to building a prosperous career once on EU soil.
In this article, Wego delves into the requirements of EU work visas and their types, and offers valuable insights into crafting a successful and rewarding career journey within the EU’s welcoming environment.
Table of Contents
Working in the EU: an overview
Across the globe, job seekers are drawn to Europe not just for the various opportunities, but also for its exceptional work-life balance. The work culture in these nations encapsulate a lifestyle where work and personal satisfaction coexist harmoniously. Here, success isn’t just about careers – it’s about leading a life which is fulfilled in every aspect.
Here are some details about the work culture in European countries:
Getting a job in an EU country
In Europe, job applications are pretty standard. You can use your CV and cover letter to apply. Bigger companies might have their own procedures and portals for job applications.
Knowing the local language is a bonus for daily life and work connections.
Some EU roles, especially in the public sector, might need a Europass CV, but you can still craft your own CV to highlight your strengths.
Teaching English (TEFL) can open doors to work experiences and cultures. While not traditionally lucrative, it’s a cool way to explore. Just remember, TEFL gigs are often located away from busy cities or touristy spots.
In Europe, a typical work week might be only 35 hours (like in France) or even as short as 29 hours (as seen in the Netherlands). This is quite different from the longer work weeks often found in other regions of the world, like the US. Interestingly, Europeans put a lot of emphasis on taking breaks and living at a more relaxed pace. Lunch breaks in countries such as Greece can stretch for as long as 3 hours. This approach can help workers avoid getting too stressed out and burnt out. So, in Europe, work is about being productive while also taking good care of yourself.
In almost every other country, workers can expect 20 days of paid leave each year for wellness or vacation, in addition to sick leaves. Meanwhile, European countries often get an entire month of paid leave.
Countries like the US also have a culture of employees being somewhat available even on vacations, as they are expected to attend to calls, answer emails, etc. In European culture, it is common for workers to unplug from work whilst on leave completely.
After work hours
The same mentality applies to after-work hours as well, as employees are not expected to be available once they are outside regular working hours.
An example of Europe’s commitment to this practice is France, which has recently introduced a law known as “The Right to Disconnect.” This law applies to companies with over 50 employees and mandates specific periods when employees should not send or respond to work emails. The purpose behind this law is two-fold: ensuring that employees are properly compensated for their work and safeguarding their personal time to avoid burnout.
According to a Eurostat study conducted in 2021, here are some of the highlights of the compensation scenario in the EU:
- Minimum wages ranged widely, from €399/month in Bulgaria to €2,387/month in Luxembourg.
- Average hourly labor cost showed significant variety, from €7.0 in Bulgaria to €46.9 in Denmark.
- The Gender Pay Gap reflected disparities, ranging from -0.2% in Luxembourg to 20.5% in Estonia.
- Net Annual Income (Single Worker Without Children): Averaged €24,947 across the EU
- Net Annual Income (Working Couple with Two Children): Averaged €53,364 across the EU,
Best EU countries to work in
Combining prosperity and quality living, Switzerland enforces a 40-45 hour workweek with compensatory benefits for overtime.
As Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany upholds an 8-hour workday and enriches workdays with paid leave and paternity benefits.
With a robust workforce, Norway embraces a 9-hour standard work cycle and rewards extra effort with significant pay supplements.
Luxembourg thrives on a 40-hour workweek, generous paid leave, and a commitment to fair employment practices.
Denmark excels in work-life balance, entitling employees to a 37-hour workweek, ample paid holidays, and anti-discrimination safeguards.
What is EU Work Visa?
An EU Work Visa—also referred to as a work permit—is a legal authorization that allows individuals from non-European Union (EU) or non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries to work within the member states of the EU or the EEA. This visa grants the holder the right to live and work in a specific EU country for a defined period, usually tied to the duration of their employment contract. The specific requirements, application procedures, and permitted durations of stay can vary from one EU country to another, as each nation has its own regulations and policies regarding work visas for foreign nationals.
Do I need an EU Work Visa?
You do not need a work visa to work in any of the member nations of the EU if you fulfill the following criteria:
- you are a citizen of any of the EU countries
- you are self-employed in the EU
- you are in a family relationship with an EU citizen
If you do not fulfill either of these criteria, you will require a work permit to work legally in the EU. It’s important to note that your eligibility to work in an EU country depends on the specific national laws of that country.
An EU work visa, also referred to as a work permit, is a legal authorization that allows individuals from non-European Union (EU) or non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries to work within the member states of the EU or the EEA. This visa grants the holder the right to live and work in a specific EU country for a defined period, usually tied to the duration of their employment contract. The specific requirements, application procedures, and permitted durations of stay can vary from one EU country to another, as each nation has its own regulations and policies regarding work visas for foreign nationals.
EU Work Visa requirements
Please note that these requirements are the minimum for application for a work visa to any of the EU member countries. Depending on the country and the type of work visa you are applying for, additional documents might be required. It is advisable to consult the specific requirements of your country through their embassies or websites.
The standard requirements for an EU Work Visa are as follows:
- Completed visa application form of target country (2 copies, signed).
- Recent photos meeting EU visa criteria
- Valid passport not older than 10 years, with 3 months validity beyond exit date
- Round-trip flight reservation indicating entry and exit dates, if applicable
- Travel medical insurance, up to 30,000 euros, valid in all EU countries
- Proof of accommodation (e.g., rent agreement).
- Employment contract with an EU-based employer
- Academic qualifications (diplomas, certificates, transcripts).
- Language knowledge proof meeting the host country’s language requirement
EU Work Visa common types
Work permit options in Europe vary across different countries, each with its own set of regulations. While qualifications and skills play a key role in obtaining a work visa anywhere in Europe, stringent policies are often in place. Among the widely issued permits, the EU Blue Card stands out, applicable in 25 out of the 27 EU member states, excluding Denmark and Ireland.
Here are some of the most common work visas and permits in the European Union, and some of its member countries:
EU Blue Card
The EU Blue Card offers an opportunity for skilled individuals from non-EU countries to reside and work within the EU. This is granted based on advanced professional qualifications, including a university degree, and a substantial employment contract or job offer with a salary exceeding the average in the respective EU nation. “Additionally, individual member states may offer separate programs for highly qualified professionals, which may have conditions and definitions that vary from those set by the EU Blue Card.
To be considered a highly-qualified worker under the EU Blue Card:
- Have a work contract or binding job offer of at least one year.
- Demonstrate ‘higher professional qualifications’ through a university degree or five years of relevant professional experience recognized by the Member State.
- Engage as a paid employee, excluding self-employment or entrepreneurship.
- Meet the national salary threshold, at least one and a half times the average national salary.
- Possess necessary travel documents and health insurance for yourself and accompanying relatives.
- Fulfill legal requirements for practicing regulated professions.
EU Work Visa for Seasonal Workers
When considering seasonal work in an EU country, there are specific conditions to fulfill. You’ll need to provide essential documents such as a valid work contract, a passport or travel document, health insurance coverage, and evidence of arranged accommodation.
The subsequent step in this process is the submission of your application for a visa, work permit, or residence permit, depending on the country you’re applying to. Typically, this submission occurs while you’re outside the EU. Depending on the EU country, you or your employer might be responsible for this submission. The immigration services of the relevant EU country will then evaluate your application and endeavor to provide a decision within a maximum of 90 days.
Fees are generally borne by you or your employing company, depending on the circumstances.
Once approved, the validity of your visa or permit will typically be the same as the duration specified in your seasonal work contract. This period of seasonal work, however, varies across EU countries, spanning between 5 and 9 months within a year, as determined by the regulations of each specific country.
Germany Work Visa for Qualified Professionals
A widely issued work permit in Germany is the visa for qualified professionals. It’s designed for those who’ve gained education or vocational training outside Germany and want to work in the country. The permit lasts up to four years, matching the job contract’s duration if shorter. The key criteria for this permit are:
- Qualifications should be recognized in Germany or equivalent to local higher education standards.
- A confirmed job offer from a German company is needed.
- If you’re 45 or older and new to working in Germany, your annual gross salary must be at least EUR 46,530 (2022) or adequate pension provisions.
- Approval from the Federal Employment Agency (BA) is necessary.
- You must prove that no preferred EU or EEA workers are available for the job.
- Employment terms must align with local standards.
This permit offers a pathway for skilled professionals to contribute to Germany’s workforce and economy.
Austria Red-White-Red Card
Austria’s prevalent work permit, the Red-White-Red Card, caters to various categories including highly qualified professionals, skilled workers in shortage occupations, key workers, graduates of Austrian institutions, self-employed key workers, and start-up founders.
This card provides a 24-month validity, granting authorized settlement and employment under the specific employer mentioned in the application. Applicants must demonstrate consistent income capable of covering living expenses, with specific thresholds:
- €1,030.49 for singles
- €1,625.71 for couples
- An additional €159.00 for each child
Furthermore, applicants are required to hold health insurance covering Austria and furnish proof of accommodation or housing.
Spain Residence Permit to Highly Skilled Workers
Spain’s vital work permit is the Residence Visa for Highly Skilled Professionals, offering residence and work rights to:
- Management or skilled staff in large businesses, SMEs in strategic sectors.
- Management of business projects for general interest.
- Graduates and postgraduates.
A significant perk is the swift processing: visa decisions in 10 working days and residence permit decisions in around 20 days.
For more details on the different categories of work permits and conditions in each of the member states, please refer to the EU Immigration Portal.
EU Work Visa dependent policy
With a work visa, you can bring your dependents if you can financially support them and provide accommodation. The eligible family members typically include:
- Children (generally under 18 or 21)
- Children over 18 with severe health conditions
- Parents (dependent on you)
Certain EU countries might allow you to bring family members after a specific duration on a work visa, and the requirements for bringing dependents may vary in other countries. It is advisable to consult the specific requirements of your country through their embassies or websites.