6 Things You Wish You Knew Before Applying for a European Visa – whether you are going to Europe on a short adventure or planning to live abroad for the long term, many intricate details can make or break your visa application.
Aside from acquiring the necessary documents, and timing your visa application, there are many more elements you must consider to enable positive results for your visa application. It is worth noting that a European Union/Schengen visa can often be used as a substitute visa for many more countries around the world. Meanwhile, an EU passport is considered one of the most powerful, offering visa-free access to many countries across the globe. We’ll talk about how to assess your priorities in finding the right European country, sort out where your best options might be, and put a plan in place to get things started. Let’s cover six important details to consider when applying for a European visa and make your application goes as seamlessly as possible.
Know the Differences Between European Visa Types
All European visas are organized into two categories: short-stay and long-stay. When applying for a short-stay visa, you might try for the Schengen visa to visit or stay for less than one year in any of the 26 Schengen countries or for a short-stay visa from specific non-Schengen European countries. Typically, a short-stay visa allows you to stay within a given country for up to 90 days, usually within a 180-day period. When using the Schengen visa, it generally means you can travel throughout any of the 26 countries that make up the Schengen area without going through internal border controls when leaving one country and entering the next.
The short-stay visas of the Schengen Area can be used for tourism, business, visiting friends and family, traveling as a part of scientific research, sports or cultural exchange programs, short-term study courses, and transit through an airport of a country in the Schengen Area. Again, if you are visiting countries in the non-Schengen Area, you will need to apply for a visa for that country specifically.
However, if you intend to live, work, or embark on a long-term study in Europe, then you don’t need a Schengen visa to visit Schengen countries. What you need is to apply for a temporary residency visa, national visa, or long-term visa from your destination country. Hence, each country has its own eligibility requirements, document requirements, unique processing times, and more to access residency permits. A good way to start preparing is to find out what these requirements might be by consulting the local consulate’s website for the specific European state you have in mind before applying for the visa. All that said, a long-term visa for a country in the EU or Schengen Area will give you freedom of travel throughout the region during that period and may lead the way towards permanent residency or citizenship.
Not All Long-Stay Visas Lead to Citizenship or Permanent Residence
Think about your short and long-term goals when selecting the right long-stay visa to apply for. This is especially important if you wish to seek permanent residence or citizenship after staying in that dream destination. Applying for a particular visa now may create a challenge when applying for citizenship in the future.
Even as the EU often operates in many ways like a single entity, immigration rules and naturalization paths also vary from one EU member state to the next. So you should expect differences in how one visa type will influence your path to citizenship versus the same visa type in another EU country. These differences are often expressed in:
- residency requirements
- dual nationality restrictions (e.g. countries such as the Netherlands may not allow dual nationality)
- whether you must have proven proficiency in the national language
- whether you need to be physically present for most of the year in that country
- additional integration tests (e.g. the “life in the UK” test, the French test on culture, politics, and history, need to have done volunteer work in Sweden)
- the ability to live and work freely in other countries aside from the temporary residency permit (for example, Ireland’s residency permit allows you to live and work freely in both the UK and the EU following the Brexit transition period in January 2021)
There are also different application procedures for circumstances like family reunification, in the case that a direct family member is an EU citizen. As said earlier, some countries have easier paths to citizenship than others. Having a crystal clear path from your original long-term visa selection (1-year or 2-year long-stay Europe visa) will enable you to prepare ahead.
Your Source of Income in Europe is the Basis of Your Visa Application
It’s important to research every long-stay visa type. This will help you discover what choosing that visa type means for your job and career opportunities today and how it will still affect your career a few years down the line. For instance, some people may wish to transition to remote work after emigrating on a work visa, or vice versa. Some others may secure start-up visas or talent visas due to their high skills and wish to build a business, only to later desire part-time work. Others may also dream of owning a brick-and-mortar business at some point after moving with a work visa. Many others even have plans to rent out a portion of their rented or acquired home when they finally move. You must have clear answers when applying for a European visa to make the best of your situation from the onset.
Fortunately, many European states offer diverse visa options, including entrepreneurship visas, freelance visas, digital nomad visas, job-seeker visas, investment visas, talent visas, partner visas, treaty visas (e.g., the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty visa), start-up visas, working holiday visas, and the classic student and work visas.
Make sure to research the restrictions, especially how they apply to you in the long term, so you can plan accordingly. Assess the investment, business, and job opportunities available in the European state(s) you wish to reside. It cannot be stressed enough that every European state defines similar visa types differently, with appropriate restrictions. For instance, one state may define a passive income or digital nomad visa differently from another European state and have limitations on how you can freelance or build your consultancy business with that visa. Don’t forget that your choices may also influence the visa interview questions applicable to you. Consider all possible questions and narratives that apply to your work, job, and career choices. Building an in-depth awareness will help you play your cards right and minimize the risks of being in the grey area of the law or outright going against the law.
The EU Blue Card Has Its Pros and Cons
The EU Blue Card is a residence title for employment in the European Union. It is a type of work visa aimed at encouraging the immigration of highly qualified professionals and should typically allow you to work freely anywhere in EU member states. Generally, the number of years using the EU blue card in one EU state could count towards the working time in another EU state to aid in obtaining permanent residency in that new EU designation. But the reality is that if you move to another EU member state, you must also apply for a Blue Card there. Every new state you move to will have its own directives on how they use or do not use that EU Blue Card, even when they are among the supporting countries for it. Thus, different EU states have their own methods of processing the Blue Card, alongside specific requirements.
Depending on your unique circumstances, it could be challenging to make the time you’ve already spent using the EU Blue Card and working in another location count towards the new destination. You may also deal with complex bureaucratic processes that make it difficult to even try applying to make your time spent in the new location count. Expat Empire’s founder, David, had similar challenges when emigrating to Portugal from Germany and had to give up the 3 years already spent using the Blue Card in Germany.
Review your long-term plan and always check to ensure that your EU Blue Card will help towards permanent residency in other EU member states and whether the pathway to making it count is tricky or not. That said, some circumstances might require a traditional work visa for your destination EU country and the need to remain there for the period required to acquire permanent residency.
Your Unique Situation Influences Your Visa and Residency Pathway in More Ways Than You Think
Aside from your age, wealth, education level, and occupation, many other specific details about you might influence how you apply for a European visa and which countries make the path to residency and citizenship seamless for you. Think deeply about your needs and wants and ask yourself questions in areas such as:
- How can you leverage tax reduction opportunities and fit them into your long-term plans?
- Should you make property investments to qualify for an investment visa or simply focus on finding a comfortable home?
- Are you planning on having children in the not-too-distant future?
- Are you planning on purchasing a car or renting one when you need it? Will you need to obtain an international driver’s license?
- Will your partner or dependents require a family reunification visa?
- Are you willing to learn the local language?
- What level of health care do you need and how much are you willing to pay?
- What level of spending are you comfortable with especially considering consumer goods like gasoline and how does it fit into your job and retirement plans?
- If you are retiring in less than 10 years, will there be enough amenities to keep you content in that location?
Even the tiniest details like where you got married can influence your visa application, as it did our founder’s when he moved to Portugal. You need to lay out the cards to make the best choice for yourself.
An Immigration Lawyer Might Be the Secret to Your Successful Move to Europe
Immigration lawyers are experts in local immigration laws, which are often complicated. They interpret the law according to your needs, help you realize your legal rights and responsibilities, and advise you on the best steps to take depending on your unique situation. Your immigration lawyer will also ensure that your visa, work permits, and citizenship applications are devoid of errors that may lead to delayed or rejected visa applications. It’s often easy to overlook tiny errors on your own when you don’t have years of first-hand experience applying for visas according to the unique rules of that country.
Your immigration lawyer is also grounded in precisely what you should do at every step of your visa application process. For instance, even if you already know the documents you need, such as your marriage license, you may not know the precise way your marriage license should be translated, notarized, and given an apostille. The right immigration lawyer will also help you navigate legal complexities, going as far as securing the right permits for your property investments. Finally, the right immigration lawyer would act as a liaison with the immigration offices and advocate for you, making sure the immigration officers are always prioritizing your application to ensure a speedy and successful visa application.
Start Applying For a European Visa Today – Explore Your Options!
Living in Europe can be a rewarding journey and adventure. First, you must find the most suitable country for your unique situation and get a realistic view of what your visa application would look like. Understanding the obstacles that you might encounter before applying for a European visa will help you overcome them and make the best decisions as you plan towards moving and living abroad. As you consider your options, make sure to check out our expert consulting services as well as our Expat Tools to help you make the right decisions about moving to Europe and beyond.