How to Get an EU Work Permit

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of a clipboard containing a document titled with 'Permits', an ID card and a blue passport-sized document with the EU flag

Working in Europe is everyone’s dream. Whether you want to be a writer working on his novel from coffee shop Venice or an investment analyst in the London financial market, moving to Europe for your career is one of the greatest things you could ever do, should the opportunity arise.

But is it as easy as hopping on a plane and finding a job? Unfortunately, no. From knowing how to get an EU work visa to planning your move, there are many factors involved in your continental transition. 

Some are easy steps, and others are a bit more complicated. Is it impossible to work abroad? Of course not! All it takes is some due diligence, a bit of research and paperwork to fuel your career advancement in one of the greatest regions of the world. 

So, grab your beret, schnitzel and cup of tea, err, espresso, and find out how to get a work visa with this comprehensive step-by-step guide. 

1. Understand the difference between a work permit and a regular visa

A work permit is different from a travel visa. With a travel visa, you can enter a country, but you cannot work there legally. But with a work permit, you are allowed to work in a specific country even if you are a non-citizen. Also, it is critical to keep in mind that you must have a valid job offer to qualify for a work permit. Therefore, the first step is to find a job and an employer who is willing to sponsor your application for the work permit as this will make the process much easier. 

2. Obtain employment opportunity

In order for your work permit application to be approved, you will first need to have a valid job offer. Because it is an extensive process, it is better to make sure that you have a position ready with a legitimate employer in the European Union. Otherwise, imagine going through the painstaking application process only to be turned down. It would make you want to cry! 

So, the employer must either be willing to sponsor your work permit or should be in a position to provide a letter clearly stating that you are there to work for them. 

Suffice it to say, you cannot land in Rome or Berlin to initiate your job hunt

3. Use legitimate resources

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers out there who fool people into believing they will get their work permits or visas quickly. This is not only relevant to the eurozone but to also a lot of other major economies, such as the US or Canada. They make tall claims and give guarantees, but don’t fall for such scams; You do not want to deal with people who may make your case worse and get you into the country illegally or through false paperwork. It is extremely important to educate yourself about the EU work permit process and follow the easiest way: Apply directly to the country’s primary authority that issues visas and work permits.  

Put simply, you must never go through a third party because you could sabotage your relocation endeavours. 

4. Gather all the necessary documentation 

Since this is a government-related application, you should expect being asked to hand over personal information and identification. In other words, gather all the necessary documents and paperwork. 

Indeed, this is a very important step, and it could make or break your application. Therefore, it is imperative that you refrain from rushing through this step by ensuring that you carefully read and understand all the requirements.  

So, what are the standard documents that you will likely need to provide? Here are just some of the few:  

  • A completed application form, which should be printed twice. You also need to sign both copies before you submit.  
  • A complete and legitimate employment contract that is signed by you and your new employer.  
  • All your diplomas, certificates and transcripts as proof of your academic qualifications.  
  • Proof of your language knowledge and fluency as most countries have a specific level of language knowledge that they require you to have before they issue you a work permit.  

5. Get your passport and photographs ready

In addition to documentation, you must have your valid passport, as well as government-issued photographs. But that is not all. First, your passport must have a minimum validity of three months on the date you plan to exit the region where you intend to work. Second, two current photographs that are no later than three months old and which meet the requirements specified in the application.   

6. Obtain a flight reservation, insurance and accommodations

It is not as easy as booking a flight and moving to Europe for a few months to expand your career horizons. You need to ensure that you have three things when you are planning to relocate to the European Union: flight reservation, travel medical insurance and accommodations. 

Here is some specific information in relation to these aspects. 

  • You will need to provide proof of flight reservation which would clearly indicate the dates and flight numbers for both your entry into the territory and your exit.  
  • You will also need travel medical insurance which is valid in all the European Union, including all Schengen countries.  
  • You will need to show proof of accommodation, clearly showing where you will be living during your time in that region.

7. Apply for the work permit

Now that you have the fundamentals ready, it is time to apply for the work permit. 

Once you have carefully completed your application and extended all the details honestly and accurately, you will need to submit your application at the regulatory authority that processes and completes work permits in the country where you intend to work. Remember, you will be applying from your country of residence; you will not be allowed to go to the country and work until you have a permit in your hands. 

For most countries in the European Union, you can get a work permit from the country’s embassy in your home country. You also have the option of visiting a consulate or its visa application centre if it is in your area of residence. It is generally advisable that you apply for the work permit at least two months before your trip to account for any unforeseen delays or in case the bureaucrats need any other information from you.  

Overall, you can expect to wait for approximately six weeks for these European countries to process a work permit. So, once again, you will want to ensure you have ample time for the process to be completed. 

8. Pay the fees

Sorry, it is time to divvy up a few dollars to go work in Europe. There are 28 countries in the European Union, but they all have different work permit processing fees. Here are some of the differences: 

  • France: The work visa costs around €99. 
  • Germany: The work visa is available for €75. 
  • Spain: The work visa is more costly for €190.  

Moreover, rates may vary depending on your citizenship. For instance, US citizens pay a different fee structure, compared to Canadian citizens. In the end, it is best to understand the various costs and the way the country outlines the fees. Otherwise, if you fail to pay the correct amount, you might experience a delay. 

9. Reapply if you have been denied

Unfortunately, despite all your hard work, your application could be denied. Your submission could be rejected for a wide range of reasons, but the most common cause is that it’s missing some crucial information. Whatever the case, the rejection letter you’ll receive will inform you. 

When faced with visa rejection, you are allowed to reapply immediately. In fact, there is no limit to the number of times you can apply. 

10. Extend your work permit 

Once your visa has been approved, and you are on your merry way to Europe, you might soon realise that your stay could be a lot longer than you initially anticipated. What now? Don’t fret! Most people can get their work permit extended if they need to; nobody in the bureaucracy is vindictive enough to shut you down. Like anything else, the regulatory authorities will need some additional information. 

Here are just a few extra pieces of information that will be required: 

  • Provide documentation to prove your employment contract has been extended. 
  • Offer supporting documentation to show your continuing accommodations. 
  • Show that you have a return flight based on the new dates of your employment contract.  

It is easy to get a work permit if you already have a job. While different European countries have different requirements, you will be approved for a work permit if you have proof of employment. 

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to make sure all the information that you provide is true. If you do not provide the right information, you could not only delay the process but could also spoil your chances of getting a permit in the future. Also, be aware of the requirements of the specific country you intend to travel to because different countries in Europe have different rules and regulations.  

This might all seem like a hassle, but the benefits of working abroad supersede any headaches you may attain during the application process. 

Have you ever had to apply for an EU work permit? Can you provide some tips based on your own experience? Share them with us in the comments section below!