Frequently Asked Questions: How Americans Can Move To Europe – Part 1

Exploring the Beauty of Europe - Frequently Asked Questions: How Americans Can Move To Europe - Part 1 by Expat Empire

This is Part 1 of our guide on how Americans can move to Europe. The second part can be found here!

Frequently Asked Questions: How Americans Can Move To Europe – Have you ever wondered what it would take to move to Europe? Moving abroad might be tricky, but it’s actually easier than you think. No matter your age, income, interests, or other unique circumstances, there are tons of visa pathways to make your long-term move to Europe stress-free. We often consider moving to Europe because it boasts of affordable healthcare, a lower cost of living, a high quality of life, and even cheaper housing prices

Even if you aren’t moving abroad for these reasons, the Harvard Business Review wrote that geographic moves are a great way to build skills, acquire knowledge, and build a strong network of friends and colleagues. That said, you don’t have to be rich or have a company sponsor your visa to move to a European country. In this guide, we’ll take you through the most vital information you need to move to Europe with clear expectations. 

Beautiful Architecture in Europe - Frequently Asked Questions: How Americans Can Move To Europe - Part 1 by Expat Empire
Frequently Asked Questions: How Americans Can Move To Europe

Multiple Visa Options to Make Your Move to Europe Seamless 

In most European countries (including those members of the Schengen Area), short stays of up to 90 days in one 180-day period are allowed without a visa for American passport holders. However, if you wish to live in Europe, you need a long-stay visa and/or residency permit. 

You can choose any of the long-stay visa options that apply to your situation, including the work visa, retirement visa, investment visa, student visa, business/entrepreneur visa, start-up visa, talent visa, self-employment visa, citizenship by descent, spousal/partner visa. Keep in mind that some of these visas may not lead to permanent residency or citizenship, instead requiring you to leave the country after the visa expires. Always make sure a specific visa is right for your long-term goals before beginning the application process.

Work Visas

Work visas are the most common type of visa, but they can be tricky because most European countries prioritize local talents over accommodating American expats. Approach this visa if you have an in-demand skill that is valuable to your European destination. In that case, work visas can be a great option. For example, work visas allowing you to teach English in countries like Spain and Czechia may also offer paths to long-term stays in those countries, so they are worth a look.  

Self-Employment Visas

As a current or aspiring business owner, visa applications have gotten easier. Tons of countries like Portugal, Germany, and Iceland now offer both the regular self-employment visa to entrepreneurs, and freelancers. This allows you to live in that country for one or two years, with opportunities to extend your stay for up to 5 years. After the fifth year, you may also become eligible for permanent residency or even citizenship in these countries. So, whether you are an artist or a freelance writer, self-employed visas are an excellent bet.

Digital Nomad Visas

The number of expats transitioning to a Digital Nomad lifestyle is growing each year, thanks to a growing list of countries that offer specific Digital Nomad visas. These include Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, and Iceland, some of the most forward-thinking European countries for expats. Digital Nomad visas are typically valid for up to 1 year, so they aren’t the best route for achieving permanent residency or citizenship. However, they can certainly be your gateway to Europe given the right circumstances!

Talent Visa

Countries like France offer talent visas for accomplished technical and cultural professionals wishing to move to these locations. If you are early in your career and have exceptional talent in fields such as arts and culture, digital technology, and academia and culture, this visa option is a great pathway to permanent residency. Usually, it involves an intensive interview and presentation to prove your talent.

Start-Up Visa

Self-employed visas are a great option when you own your business. If building a new business in Europe is your idea, start-up visas are a wonderful option. Portugal, Estonia, and France offer start-up visa programs, allowing would-be entrepreneurs to move and launch their businesses. Unlike traditional business visas, you don’t have to have a lot of money in the bank. 

Student Visa   

If you opt for a student visa, realize that it may not necessarily entitle you to work in Europe. Different countries have laws about how many hours per week you’re allowed to work with a student visa alongside laws you must follow to qualify for permanent residency after completing the visa. Some student visas may allow you to take advantage of paid and volunteer programs usually organized through private organizations, for gaining employment in summer and seasonal jobs. Some highly specialized skills may also provide access to a special EU Blue Card, which allows you to work while studying as well as easier opportunities to move to a different EU country. 

Exploring History in Europe

Frequently Asked Questions: How Americans Can Move To EuropeChoose European Countries with Favorable Income and Tax Opportunities 

One of the biggest questions we are often asked by the budding expats we work with is: is it hard for an American to get a job in Europe? Unfortunately, it’s hard to give a simple answer to that question and the truth is that your unique circumstances will determine how easy or challenging it is. 

A work visa is relatively easy to obtain when a foreign company can sponsor it. The work visa also allows you to reside in that country for a specified length of time. However, you must follow a more rigorous strategy, such as getting a master’s degree in an in-demand field or having highly specialized skills. 

Alternatively, you can consider many remote work job opportunities that won’t directly affect where you reside in Europe (unless your company has some restrictions). Remote work or freelancing are always excellent ways to work and live anywhere in the world, as they offer immense freedom and flexibility. 

Regardless, always remember that your income and taxes go hand in hand. As a U.S citizen, you’ll have to pay the U.S. income tax every year no matter where you are. At the same time, you have to file taxes in your new home country. So, you want to pick countries with the easiest tax policies to make the process more efficient and affordable. 

Countries like Malta, Belgium, The Netherlands, Ireland, and Monaco have favorable tax policies and deductions for expats. For instance, Belgium allows expats to deduct the cost of furnishing their new home on due taxes. Ireland provides tax relief for school fees for children. The Netherlands allows up to 30% of your salary to be exempt from taxes. France and Italy also offer considerable tax savings for expats and skilled workers. Portugal provides the Non-Habitual Residency tax program, which taxes Portuguese income at a flat rate of 20%, and any income received abroad is tax-exempt, all for up to 10 years of having a residence permit in Portugal.

European Countries with Hassle-Free Immigration Policies 

Although every country has its own immigration policy, some countries are much easier to move to than others. European countries like Portugal, Spain, Estonia, Georgia, and Croatia are great choices for expats and remote workers, partly due to their relatively open immigration policies. Portugal and Spain also offer the fastest route to residency alongside their lower cost of living and vibrant culture. 

If you are a freelancer or own a business, the Netherlands and Germany are excellent options. The Netherlands and the U.S. have a special treaty allowing the influx of American entrepreneurs and freelancers to gain Dutch permanent residency for 2 years by building their business there. 

If your biggest concern is your budget, then countries like Portugal and Spain are the most affordable in Western Europe. Other budget-friendly and expat-friendly countries are in Eastern Europe, such as Georgia, Bulgaria, and Poland.

Let Us Help You Learn More and Stay Tuned!

You may have some questions and that’s perfectly natural. We want to make sure that you know you always have a helping hand in Expat Empire. Make sure to check out our personalized consulting services as you think about where your move might take you. Schedule a free consulting call with our team so we can get you on the right path or connected with our wide network of international partners.

So ends the first part of our guide on how Americans can move to Europe. Continue reading by following this link and learn about even more pathways toward European residency, how to adapt to local culture, and many more tips we’ve used ourselves when moving abroad!

As the founder of Expat Empire, David McNeill is focused on inspiring people to move abroad and showing them how to do it. David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. He left the United States in 2014 and has since lived in Tokyo, Berlin, and Porto.