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Home » How to Move to Europe as an American: The Ultimate Guide

How to Move to Europe as an American: The Ultimate Guide

How to move to Europe

Picture this—you’re strolling along charming cobblestone streets, sipping espresso at a quaint café, and immersing yourself in the rich tapestry that is European culture. Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Dreamy as it may sound, taking the leap across the pond isn’t impossible—far from it actually. With the right information and a well-executed plan, moving to Europe as an American doesn’t have to be a far-off dream. We’ll let you in on a little secret—it’s totally doable. 

From unraveling the intricacies of *deep breath in* visa requirements *deep breath out* to choosing the perfect pais, we’ve got you covered. So grab your beverage of choice, dust off your largest suitcase, and get ready to explore the ins and outs of making your European dreams come true!

How to move to Europe as an American

vespa in italy

Simply put, Americans can move to Europe. What stops many are the myths around doing so. “You have to marry a European,” “You have to be rich,or, a fan favorite, “You can only teach English.Although these are options, they aren’t requirements. 

 

To move to Europe you need to figure out these four things:

  1. What does your life in Europe look like? – Moving to Europe means different things to different people. Get clear on what you want—this is your chance to create a life you truly love! A move abroad is the prime opportunity to reinvent yourself and the way you live. When you close your eyes, what do you see? A big bustling city? A bright beach town?
  2. What about the money? – Going in with a game plan on how you will financially support yourself is a must when moving to Europe. Take note of your savings, create a budget, and estimate your income during your expected stay. If you plan on continuing to work, start looking at virtual jobs from the US, try landing a job abroad (visa-permitting), or even talk to your current employer about going remote.
  3. Where do you want to live? – There is no one-size-fits-all country. Just because you see your Preschool teacher’s daughter vlogging her van life in Portugal doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you. Evaluate your interests and needs, matching them with the visa that you qualify for, to narrow down the search. If you’re looking to move to Europe check out my digital book that covers the 18 easiest countries to move to in Europe based on 50+ viable visa options. 


Want some help?
A lot, and I mean a lot, of questions will come up as you do your move abroad research. So if you feel as though: 

  • You’ve been Googling, trying to make sense of the process – but it’s all so confusing.
  • You’re not sure how to continue to work and make money while living abroad. 
  • You’re too old and it’s too late. You don’t know anyone–over 30–who has moved abroad. 

I encourage you to sign up for my 4-day Moving Abroad After 30 Masterclass. We’ll be covering these topics, busting those limiting beliefs, and more! This is a fast-track way to see if a move abroad is possible for you and how to get started.

Visas for Europe

Let’s delve into the intricate tapestry of European visas. From the wonderful 90-day Schengen tourist visa to longer stay visas such as a work visa, there seems to be a visa for everyone and every situation. European visas are split into two main categories:

  • 90-Day Schengen Tourist Visa – This visa allows US citizens with a valid US passport 90 days within a 180-day period in the Schengen Zone, a group of 27 European countries that allow free travel between them. There is no application for this visa and it starts on your date of entry and ends on your day of exit.

     

  • Long-stay visas of 90+ days – These visas typically allow you to spend a year, if not more, within Europe for a specific purpose—i.e. studies, work, business. You will apply through the embassy in the US of the country you are planning on living in. If it is a country within the Schengen Zone, you’ll be granted access to freely travel through all of them—cool, right? 

Types of visas for Europe

For those of you interested in long stays of 90 days or more, here is a non-exhaustive list of the most popular visa types in Europe. Take note of which of these long-stay visas may best fit your needs, keeping in mind these are just some of the most popular ones and that requirements can be updated:

    • Student Visa –  A student visa allows you to live in your desired country for the duration of your studies, either by enrolling at a university or certain approved learning centers.

    • Work Study Visa – This visa allows individuals to both work and study in a European country simultaneously. It is designed for international students who wish to gain practical work experience, and make some extra income, while pursuing their education abroad. 

    • Work Visa – A work visa is extremely difficult for Americans to obtain but if you’re lucky enough to land a job offer and visa sponsorship from a European company, this is a great ticket in to living in Europe!

    • Digital Nomad Visa – This is a relatively new type of visa that caters to individuals who work remotely. It is designed to attract location-independent professionals, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to a country for anywhere from several months to a year. Check out these digital nomad visas for Europe.

    • Self-Employed Visa – This visa allows entrepreneurs to establish and operate their own business, or work as a self-employed professional, in a European country, contributing to the local economy. Requirements vary but often involve demonstrating a viable business plan, proving sufficient savings, and showing relevant experience.

    • Non-lucrative Visa – Sometimes called a retirement visa, this allows foreigners to reside within a country without engaging in paid employment, nor partaking in business activities within that country. It is popular among retirees with pensions or people with sufficient savings.

    • Golden visa – AKA an investors visa, this dazzling visa offers residency or even citizenship to foreign investors who make a substantial financial investment (real estate or other) in a host country. It aims to attract capital and stimulate the local economy, providing benefits such as visa-free travel and potential pathways to citizenship.

Can you move to any European country?

Well, not exactly. Some countries are harder than others to stay in for an extended period of time as not all European countries offer each of the aforementioned visas. A few of the most notoriously hard countries to move to for Americans are the Nordic countries—Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland—as well as the United Kingdom.

Which country is the easiest to move to in Europe?

Unless you dream of sizzling in the saunas of Finland for months on end, there are a handful of other European countries that make it much easier to jump the pond. Here are some European countries with streamlined immigration processes, favorable policies for expatriates, and welcoming environments that make starting a new life overseas a smoother and more accessible endeavor:

  • Georgia & Albania – It doesn’t get easier than these two European countries which allow American citizens to live there for 1 year without a visa. That’s right, no applications necessary, just book your flight and go.

     

  • Portugal & Spain – These two Iberian countries have been the easiest and most popular among Americans in recent years due to their generous visa offerings and affordable living costs.

     

  • France & the Netherlands – Another pair of countries that offer several visas and have relatively low bars of entry. The Netherlands in particular has a neat one called the DAFT visa which allows self-employed Americans to establish and run a business within the Netherlands. 

If low bars of entry are your thing, checkout my digital book that covers the 18 easiest countries in Europe to move to based on 50+ viable visa options. 

What is the fastest EU citizenship to get?

If you want to stay in Europe long-term you may want to start looking at pathways to citizenship instead of just year-to-year visas. On average, US citizens are eligible to apply for citizenship in a European country after legally living there for 10 years. Portugal is the fastest country, requiring just 5 years of residency to be eligible to apply for citizenship. 

building in europe

There are some countries with special pathways to citizenship. Take Italy for example. If you have demonstrable Italian ancestry, you may be eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by descent, a process called Jure Sanguinis. Ireland also offers citizenship by descent.

Keep in mind, if you score citizenship in one Schengen country, such as Italy, you have access to all. This means freedom to move, freedom to live, and freedom to work in any of these 27 countries (plus non-EU countries: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland). 

Best places to live in Europe

Determining the “best” places to live in Europe is seemingly impossible as it depends on individual preferences and priorities. While some of you may be looking for a city rich in history, full of unique restaurants, and complete with all the modern amenities, others are dreaming of simply renting a shared apartment in a quiet town by the sea. 

Here are some common priorities that you can think about:

  • Low cost of living – Previously, Portugal and Spain took the cake in this category but prices have been rising, especially in the more popular areas such as Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Porto. Greece and Albania are good alternatives if you’re searching for the lowest costs in Europe.

  • Highest quality of life – Switzerland consistently ranks as having the highest quality of life in Europe due to its strong economy, high standard of living, excellent healthcare and education systems, and breathtaking natural beauty. It is renowned but it’s expensive and difficult to qualify for a visa.

If you’d like to dive deeper into the top places to live in Europe, check out our list of the top cities in Europe for Americans

How to move to Europe permanently

When you’re looking at how to move to Europe as an American for the first time, it can seem daunting and discouraging—to say the least. But as you’ve seen, Europe offers such a diverse array of destinations, and visas, that cater to so many unique lifestyles and preferences, you’d be crazy not to try.

Whether it’s the cosmopolitan charm of cities like Paris and Barcelona, the tranquility of the Scandinavian countries, or the historical richness of Rome and Athens, there is a place for everyone. And remember there is no one-size-fits-all place to live in Europe. Where you end up depends on your own needs, priorities, and qualifications.

If you need more help with you move abroad, check out our resources:

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