What you need to know about working in Europe

What you need to know about working in Europe

13 November 2023 Corporate

Are you planning to work in Europe and wondering what requirements you need to meet? Whether you’re an EU or non-EU national, knowing the legal and administrative requirements is crucial to a successful expatriation. We’ll look at the different types of work permit and the sectors in demand.

Working in Europe as a European Union national

If you’re a citizen of an EU member country, the process is relatively straightforward. Thanks to the free movement of people within the European Economic Area (EEA), you can work in any EU country without needing a work permit. This open border greatly facilitates professional mobility within the Union. However, some countries may require you to declare your presence or register with the local authorities.

There are also a few other specificities for regulated professions, which are subject to different legislation. The latter varies according to the length of your professional stay in the host country and whether or not you wish to work in the public sector.

For a short-term stay

If you are planning to spend a short period of work experience in another member state, there are a number of formalities to be completed. In particular, you’ll need to provide a written declaration and, where appropriate, have your qualifications validated. The European Professional Card (EPC) can facilitate these formalities for certain professions, such as nursing.

For a long-term stay

If your aim is to settle permanently in another member state, requirements may be more stringent. You may have to take tests or examinations to have your professional qualifications recognized. Here again, the European professional card can simplify the process.

Choosing the civil service

The public sector is also an option for EU citizens wishing to work in another member state. However, certain positions, particularly in the fields of security and governance, may be reserved for citizens of the country in question.

european citizen work
Image de Freepik

Conditions for foreign nationals wishing to work in the European Union

Unlike EU citizens, non-EU nationals need a work permit to work in most EEA countries. The type of permit varies from country to country, depending on the type of job and the length of time spent working in the country concerned. In some cases, a visa or residence permit can be used as a work permit. They may also fall into several other general categories:

  • Standard work permit: this is the most common type of permit, usually linked to a specific employer and a specific job. The duration of the permit depends on the employment contract.
  • Work permit for seasonal workers: this permit is intended for workers employed in seasonal sectors such as agriculture or tourism. It is generally valid for up to six months.
  • Work permits for researchers and students: some EU countries offer work permits for researchers and students wishing to work during or after their studies. These permits are often easier to obtain than standard permits.
  • Work permits for seconded workers: this type of permit is for employees who are seconded to an EU country by their non-EU employer. They are often valid for a limited period and may require the approval of the original employer.
  • Work permits for entrepreneurs and investors: some EU countries offer work permits for entrepreneurs wishing to set up or invest in a business within the country. These permits can offer a pathway to permanent residency.

Each EU country has its own rules and procedures for granting work permits, so it’s important to consult official resources for specific information.

France as example

France offers several options for non-EU nationals wishing to work in the country.

  • Long-stay visa equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS)

Foreigners entering France with a VLS-TS can work without having to apply for an additional work permit. This visa serves as both a residence permit and a work permit, greatly simplifying administrative procedures.

  • Residence permit for employees and temporary workers

Foreign nationals holding an “employee” residence permit or a “temporary worker” residence permit are authorized to work in the occupation for which they obtained their permit. However, to change jobs or professions, a new application for authorization is required. Each employment contract must be accompanied by a work permit, which means that career options are somewhat rigid.

  • Residence permit for seeking employment or setting up a business

This type of residence permit is particularly interesting for people wishing to either seek employment or set up their own business in France. A separate work permit is not required, but there is a financial condition: the monthly salary must exceed €2,518.42.

As for all other destinations, we advise you to find out about the conditions and restrictions associated with each type of residence permit, to avoid any legal problems.

Exceptions apply to certain non-EU nationals

While the need to obtain a work permit is often the rule for non-EU nationals wishing to work in Europe, there are several notable exceptions. These exceptions are often the result of bilateral agreements, specific conditions linked to certain countries, or even family ties with EU citizens. Let’s take a look at these exceptions, which enable some non-EU nationals to bypass the usual work permit procedure.

conditions work in europe
  • Nationals of Turkey

If you are a Turkish citizen, your rights to work in Europe are governed by the national laws of the EU country where you wish to work. However, once you have worked legally for one year in an EU country, you can apply to renew your work permit with the same employer. After three years, you are free to change employers, provided the job requires the same qualifications. And after four years, you have free access to any job in the country in question.

  • Swiss nationals

The agreement between the European Union and Switzerland on the free movement of persons is a notable exception in the European work permit landscape. The agreement provides a degree of flexibility for Swiss and EU nationals wishing to work on either side of the border.

Thanks to this agreement, Swiss nationals have the right to live and work in any EU country without needing a work permit. This freedom extends to all sectors of activity, giving Swiss nationals privileged access to the European labor market.

  • Bilateral agreements with the EU

If you are a national of certain countries that have signed agreements with the EU, such as Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Russia, or certain Balkan countries and African, Caribbean and Pacific states, you benefit from the same working conditions as citizens of the EU country where you are working. These bilateral agreements can greatly facilitate your access to the European labor market.

  • Family ties with an EU citizen

If you have family ties with an EU citizen, you can work without a permit in the EU country where that citizen lives. In addition, you are entitled to equal treatment, including social and tax benefits.

These exceptions offer interesting opportunities for non-EU nationals wishing to work in Europe.

What about the demand for labor in the European Union?

The European Union is a dynamic economic area offering a multitude of career opportunities. However, the demand for labor varies considerably from one sector to another and from one country to another. A recent report by the European Commission (EURES) highlights these disparities, highlighting areas where foreign labor is particularly in demand, and those where it is less so.

High-demand sectors

According to the EURES report, skilled manual trades, medicine, IT, engineering, transport and education are the sectors most in need of foreign labor. In the construction industry, for example, trades such as bricklayers, carpenters and plumbers are in high demand in the vast majority of EU countries.

The healthcare sector, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, is also experiencing a significant shortage. Professions such as doctors, nurses and care assistants are in high demand in most EU countries.

Sectors with lower demand

Conversely, the administration, arts, communications and social sciences sectors are less inclined to recruit foreign workers. These fields, which are often saturated and highly competitive, have a surplus of manpower, making the task more difficult for expatriates.

The aging of the workforce in certain professions is also driving recruitment in European Union countries. Faced with these challenges, several EU countries have begun to relax their immigration rules for foreign workers with rare skills. Initiatives such as the EU Blue Card in Germany and special work permits in Ireland are aimed at attracting foreign talent to sectors in short supply.

Working in Europe can be a rewarding experience, provided you prepare properly. Knowing the different conditions and requirements will give you the best chance of achieving your goal.

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