How to Move to Europe Without a Job Offer: One of the most traditional ways to move to Europe is to get a job offer before applying for a visa. Once you have the job, you and your sponsor company can apply for a European traditional working long-stay visa which allows you to stay, live, and work in Europe for the duration of your contract.
That said, you can also move to Europe without a job contract in place. It may surprise some, but there are many other visa opportunities for you to get a taste of life in Europe. These include working holiday visas, job-seeker visas, freelancer visas, remote work visas, entrepreneur visas, and digital nomad visas. No matter your age, how many years of experience you have, your educational background, or your specific skill set, there’s likely an applicable visa for you.
Each European country offers numerous visa options for independent contractors, freelancers, remote employees, digital nomads, and people without a job as well. They offer various categories of visa options with differences in requirements and conditions, even when that visa is tagged with the same name as another country. For instance, the terms surrounding the digital nomad visa in Norway are quite different from the Croatian digital nomad scheme. Hence, you will want to make sure you are properly prepared and applying for the right visa, bearing in mind your short- and long-term goals for living in Europe. In this guide, we will share with you the numerous ways you can move to Europe without a job offer.
Plenty of Visa Options All Over Europe
The type of visa you can apply for depends on the distinct group considered for that visa alongside meeting the required income threshold and various other terms attached. Here are the four groups often considered:
- Job Seekers: These are individuals with no form of employment whatsoever and wish to apply for a local job in a specific country. Keep in mind that these visas have a set time limit in which you must start work with a local company or you’ll be obliged to leave the country.
- Freelancers and Self-employed: These are often individuals with one or more clients but have no formal employer/employee relationship. Applicants must submit proof that they have established working relationships with clients as well as a consistent monthly income above the minimum.
- Digital Nomads: Freelancers and remote workers use digital technology to work and often require no fixed workplace address. Due to the flexibility of their work, they can move regularly to new countries or cities. More and more countries are offering digital nomad visas every year.
Job Seeker Visas
Job Seeker Visas are typically issued for six months. It enables you to move to a specific country and spend the prescribed period looking for employment. Once you find work, you can apply for the EU Blue Card or the traditional work visa. We recommend that you already carry out your research on the kind of work opportunities to expect in the local market before moving. That way, you have a good picture of what to expect and how your skills match up to the opportunities in that place. Remember that if you can’t land a contract in the visa period, you’ll need to leave the European Union to apply for another visa. You will be required to show proof of having enough financial resources saved to support your stay alongside proven work experience. Some of the countries offering job seeker visas include:
- Germany has a job seeker visa which allows a stay of up to 6 months while searching for work. It requires proof of academic qualification recognized in Germany and up to five years of experience.
- Sweden offers a job seeker visa that can be issued for up to 9 months. You need a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or another advanced degree and must provide a well-laid plan for your job or business search.
- Portugal recently launched a Job Seeker visa that requires you to have saved up the sum of three guaranteed monthly minimum salaries. The visa is single entry and valid for up to 120 days and can be renewed for up to 90 extra days.
- Austria offers a 6-month job seeker visa which requires a range of conditions accumulated in terms of points from criteria like specific skills in informatics, mathematics, natural sciences, or technology. Other requirements may include post-doctoral qualifications, awards, German language skills, age range, up to 2 years of work experience, and/or six months of work experience in Austria.
Working Holiday Visas
A Working Holiday Visa allows you to move to a country and perform a short-term job for a period typically under one year. Usually, countries offer working holiday visas to promote young talent to move to other countries that offer reciprocal programs for their citizens. Here are some popular options:
- Ireland’s working holiday visa allows employment stays of 12 months and it’s possible to extend the stay up to 24 months total. The applicant must be a recent graduate or current university student.
- Germany’s working holiday visa is also called Youth Mobility Visa. It mostly applies to young people (aged 18 to 35 at the time of application) from countries with active exchanges with Germany. This includes the following countries exclusively: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Uruguay. The working holiday is a 12-month stay and you must have proof of funds of at least €2,000 in your bank account (or combined from multiple bank accounts).
Short-Term Digital Nomad & Freelancer Visas
Many expats live in Europe while working for a non-European company remotely. Others may do the same as an independent contractor or freelancer. Some countries offer independent contractor visas labeled as freelancer visas, digital nomad visas, self-employment visas, and remote work visas. Several countries actively improve these visa categories every year. These vias usually last between six months to one year and are often renewable. Bear in mind that many of them do not apply toward permanent residency and have specific rules in terms of whether or not you can emigrate with your family.
- Croatia offers a one-year residence permit for digital nomads, especially those working in communication technology for either a company registered abroad or as a remote employee for a company outside Croatia. You’ll have the possibility of renewal but must make a minimum income of about €2,363 per month. That said, this visa does not put you on any path to residency.
- Portugal’s digital nomad visa began in October 2022. It allows digital nomads to stay in Portugal for up to one year and is renewable. This is a “temporary stay visa for the exercise of a professional activity done remotely” and requires a minimum monthly income of over €2,800 per month, which is four times Portugal’s current minimum monthly wage of €705.
- Estonia offers a one-year remote work visa with the possibility of a six-month extension. You must have an income of about €3,504 per month and prove that you are either employed by a company registered outside Estonia or self-employed with your business registered outside Estonia. This visa also applies to remote entrepreneurs, who access Estonia’s e-services and banking and declare taxes without requiring residency. After remaining in Estonia for more than six months, you may be subject to local taxes.
- Finland offers a six-month self-employment visa with a minimum income of €1,220 per month. You can apply for this visa as an entrepreneur or for a Finnish Startup Permit, which has similar requirements The difference is that the Startup Permit applies to a new start-up company, whereas the entrepreneur permit serves for both freelancing and existing online businesses.
- The Czech Republic (or Czechia) offers a one-year Entrepreneur Visa intended for non-EU citizens who freelance or run their businesses independently. You may renew for up to three years in total. Remote employees may also take advantage of this visa alongside freelance contractors, such as English teachers. You will have to register at the trade office and become a trade license holder. You must have a bank account with €6,500 to be considered. You must also become a licensed taxpayer and register for social security and public health insurance as well.
- Iceland offers a six-month remote work visa aimed at high-earning remote workers from countries with a visa-free travel agreement with Iceland. You must earn over €7,000 a month as an employee of a foreign company or as a freelancer. With this visa, you won’t have to pay Icelandic taxes and would not be allowed to work for Icelandic employers.
- Romania offers a one-year digital nomad visa. You will have to prove that your clients, employer, or business is registered outside of Romania. You also have to show proof that you have earned a monthly income of €3,960 per month, three times Romania’s national average. As long as you have a tax residence in another country, you won’t have to pay tax in Romania under this scheme.
- Greece’s digital nomad visa allows you to stay for 12 months with the possibility to extend with a residence permit. It requires you to have an income of €3,500 per month. You are not permitted to work or freelance for Greek companies under this visa.
- Hungary offers a white card for non-EU digital nomads with remote employment outside the country provided you have a minimum income of €2,000 per month. The visa allows a one-year stay with the possibility to extend it. You won’t be allowed to work for Hungarian companies.
Long-Term Self-Employed, Remote Worker, and Freelancer Visas
Some remote work visas, most often termed freelancer or self-employed visas, offer lengthier stays. In some cases, they might require that you have clients from your host country, thereby obliging tax responsibilities. Much like the short-term versions, they also come with an income requirement and may or may not apply toward permanent residency.
- Norway offers a visa scheme for independent contractors who wish to live and work remotely in Norway. This visa is a bit different because you must have at least one Norwegian client and are required to pay local tax. The minimum income requirement is €3,000 per month and the visa allows you to stay up to 2 years.
- Portugal’s well-known D7 visa requires you to have a salary of at least €760 per month or a lump sum of €9,120 in your bank account to cover your stay for one year. The D7 visa is valid for 2 years and can be renewed for up to 5 years. After this period, you may apply for permanent residency or citizenship. Many remote workers have taken advantage of this visa in recent years.
- Malta’s Nomad Residence Permit allows you to stay in the country for one year as a remote worker or freelancer who works for companies outside the country. This visa can be renewed for up to three years in total. You would be exempt from taxes as long as you are paying taxes back home. The minimum income requirement is €2,700 per month.
- Spain’s Autonomo or self-employment work visa offers a one-year stay in the country. You can apply for 2 two year extensions for a total of five years. After five years, you can apply for permanent residency. Generally, you have two categories to choose from, either registering as a self-employed entrepreneur (empresario individual) or as a freelance professional (profesional autonomo). A self-employed entrepreneur is a one-person company suitable for small businesses without large annual incomes or many workers. A freelancer may have the same roles as the self-employed entrepreneur and may not always operate as a one-person company.
- France’s Entrepreneur/profession libérale requires that you make the French legal minimum wage of roughly about €1,709 per month as of 2023. It also requires that your work must be beneficial to the economy of France and compatible with public safety, health, and other requirements specific to the industry. This visa is good for one year and is renewable for up to five years in total.
- The Netherlands offers the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (DAFT), an excellent choice for a freelance worker. The visa offers a two-year stay, renewable for an additional three years. An initial capital deposit of €4,500 for your freelance business is required. You can also apply for permanent residency after five years total.
- Germany’s Freiberufler freelancer and Selbstandinger entrepreneur visas are typically issued for three months but can be extended for up to 3 years as long as you can prove that your business has been successful. Both visas have similar requirements such as the age restriction of 45. If above 45, you need to have a monthly pension plan of €1,332.32 for a minimum of 12 years or assets of at least €194,631. Both visas require that you provide a detailed business plan with projected earnings and losses and you must have at least two or three German clients. Both also require becoming a tax resident of Germany, which means you need to register with your local registration office and be issued a Tax ID. When applying for the extension, you must prove you are generating sufficient profits to cover your living costs.
- Germany also offers a self-employment visa (Gewerbe) for setting up a manual trade or retail business. You also need to show that you have adequate business management experience and that your business can generate money for the German economy. This visa is an excellent choice for startups and entrepreneurs. Typically, this visa is issued for three years after which you may apply for a settlement permit.
Make the Right Choices for Your Next Adventure
You don’t have to worry about having a traditional work visa or making asset investments in Europe before making the jump. Plenty of expats have made their dreams come true through freelancing, self-employment, or remote work with tons of flexibility. You must always plan with your long-term goals in mind, making decisions for or against seeking permanent residency or citizenship.
A carefully laid-out plan is the first and most important step to a successful move abroad. That’s why you need the experts at Expat Empire to help you visualize and plan your move down to the smallest details, whether you wish to work locally by first moving there or to follow the remote approach. For instance, there are tax implications to overcome, alongside the search for the perfect European location. Seize the advantage of our wide range of Consulting Services to explore the complete picture of how you can move to Europe without a job offer. If you eventually want to join the local job market, our International Job Search service helps you find targeted work opportunities based on your unique skills and competencies.