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How to Get a Work Visa for Europe

Work Visa for Europe

Europe has a bit of a reputation for being a difficult market for American jobseekers to get a European work visa. Just like in the US, European labor laws are meant to protect local labor and provide preference to residents of the EU. The reason why you’ve never got a response to a job application in Europe—not matter how experienced you are—is because businesses in Europe must first consider national and EU-wide candidates before even considering a foreign worker. 

Remote Working in Iceland Self-Portrait

However, this doesn’t mean a determined and skilled American worker could never find themselves working in Europe. In fact, out of 44 European countries, there are 11 countries that are easier to get a European work visa for than the others!

While it won’t be easy it’s definitely not impossible. We’ve done the work so you don’t have to; keep reading to learn about your best options for how to get a European work visa.

Is it easy to get a European work visa?

Unfortunately, getting a job in Europe if you’re from the US isn’t easy. For an American to work in Europe, you’re going to need obtain a work visa. To do so, you’ll need a job offer from a company in Europe that meets certain criteria and a company that is willing to sponsor your visa. If you want to more details about work visas—and other types of visas—in the 18 easiest countries to move to in Europe, check out our visa guide to Europe for Americans. It goes in depth on 50+ different visas, their requirements, and how to apply. 

The problem with getting a work visa in Europe is that there are some obstacles to overcome and most employers aren’t willing to spend the extra time and money to deal with these obstacles when they can hire a local. You see European and British labor laws are strict. All countries in the EU need to carry out a labor market test before they can consider employing someone from outside the 27 EU member states. A European resident will always have priority over an American. The same goes for the UK, British residents will always be given priority. 

How to get work visa in Europe if you're an American

There are thousands of US citizens working in Europe, so if you have your heart set on the continent you’ll be pleased to know it’s not impossible.

One of the most popular ways to move to Europe is by teaching English. In some countries like Spain and the Czech Republic teaching English is in demand, however it may not be as lucrative as you think. Plus it’s an over-saturated market, there are tons of Europeans who speak English fluently and don’t need a work visa sponsorship.  

Apart from teaching English if you have a remote job in the US you may be able to take your job abroad. You will need a digital nomad visa to do this and we’ve got the lowdown on 11 countries in Europe that offer digital nomad visas.  

women working at a long desk

But when it comes to US citizens who want a work visa for Europe, those who have had success usually have done so through special work visas called highly-skilled worker visas and through labor shortages. In the next section we’ll cover the 11 European countries that offer these work permits.

Here are some industries that fall into the highly-skilled and labor shortage categories and where you may have an easier time securing a work visa in Europe. 

  • Tech
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Consulting
  • Management
  • Research
  • Hospitality

11 Easiest Work Visas for Europe

We want to stress that getting a job in Europe isn’t an easy feat, however, if you’re looking for your best shot these are the 11 European countries to focus on. If you don’t see your desired country on this list, then that means it will be extremely difficult to get a work visa sponsorship there. You may want to see if you qualify for a different type of visa, we encourage you to check out our visa guide to living in Europe to read about all of your viable options. 

1. Work visa for the UK

While the UK may not be part of the EU anymore it’s still a part of Europe. And with Brexit, they are no longer beholden to EU labor laws, and as a consequence of leaving the EU they have created a skilled worker shortage. This shortage has inspired lawmakers to expand opportunities for work visas. All good news for Americans!


The UK is a booming economy, which focuses mostly on services. London, for example, rivals New York when it comes to banking. There are  prominent IT companies calling the UK their home too. This is because the country provides an ideal base of operations for serving the rest of Europe. 

Your ticket into the UK will be through the Skilled Worker Visa (previously known as Tier 2) or through the the Self-Sponsorship Visa and Global Talent Visa.

Some of the requirements of the Skilled Worker Visa include a minimum annual salary of £25,600 and an approved role. However, there are over 8,000 jobs that are eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa! Manufacturing, IT, musicians, tax experts, photographers, medical experts, and more are in demand in the UK. Even jobs you wouldn’t expect such as florists, fitness instructors, and window dressers are eligible. The main catch is that you can only work for an approved company

Learn more about working in the UK in our American’s guide to living in England.

2. Work visa for Ireland

Ireland has a long-standing relationship with the US, with many people claiming Irish heritage. If you’re looking to work on the Emerald Island you may just be in luck! At the moment the country is facing labor shortages in the following industries:

  • IT
  • Healthcare
  • Engineering
  • Business 
cilffs of moher

For US citizens you may be able to score a work visa through the Irish Critical Skills Permit. Every so often, the Irish government releases a list of industries that are in dire need of employees. Most positions will be in the sectors mentioned above, however there are unique roles that are in need of talent e.g. animation, art directors, sports coaches, and more! 

Jobs on the Critical Skills Permit do not have to go through a labor market test, meaning you don’t have to first compete against local talent. If you can secure a position that pays at least  €32,000 per year (and pay the €1,000 application fee) you may have a permanent route into Ireland. 

If you’re interested in becoming an accountant Ireland also offers a pathway to work through the Stamp 1A visa. Learn more about all your Irish work visa options in our guide to finding a job in Ireland for Americans.

3. Work visa for Germany

Germany has a strong and stable economy leading to its robust job market. Unlike the UK and Ireland, you may struggle with learning a new language, however don’t fear, there are plenty of roles that demand English speakers.

Germany is one of only a few countries that allows you look for employment in country on your 90-day tourist visa. That means you can fly to Germany, apply to open roles, interview, snag a contract, and apply for a work/residence permit without having to leave the country or request special permission!

While Germany doesn’t have a specific skilled-workers visa, not all roles will apply, shortage occupations and highly skilled professionals will have a better chance of securing a work visa: think technology, medicine and natural sciences. 

If you don’t have luck scoring a work visa, then Germany has another option for you, the Self-employed and Freelance visa. Learn more about all of these visa options and more in our visa guide to living in Europe

4. Work visa the Netherlands

Often the Netherlands gets overlooked as one of the top destination to relocate to, however, put it on your radar because it’s a hot spot for finding work. 

Through the Highly-Skilled Migrant Visa, employers are able to fast-track residence applications for talented foreigners. The main requirement is that you must seek work with a government-approved sponsor (there are thousands of them, with dozens more added each week) and meet the salary requirements of €3,672.00 – €5,008 a month depending on your age. 

Certain industries are more in demand than other, this generally means the fields of medicine, IT, engineering,  science, agriculture, and clean energy to name a few. 

Learn more in our guide to living in the Netherlands for Americans

5. Work visa for France

When it comes to work visas for France there are few great options to choose from. And while having a working level of French will help open doors, fluency is not always a requirement. For Americans, France offers a Talent Passport, French Tech Visa, and Self-Employment Visa.  

The Talent Passport is a type of highly-skilled visa for individuals who have the potential to make a “significant contribution” to the French economy. What that exactly means isn’t clear but there are 10 categories that fall under this offering. Skilled recent graduate, employee on assignment in France, researcher/scientist, and  economic or financial investor to name a few. 

pink building in france

The French Tech Visa actually falls under the umbrella of the Talent Passport and provides a visa fast-track for non-EU tech employees, founders, and investors. If you’re looking for a tech job, have a great idea that you want to launch, or have a lump sum of money you’d like to invest this is one of the quickest ways to get a work visa for France. 

The Self-Employment Visa is an option for freelancers and small businesses owners who want to work in the French market. 

Learn more about all these visas and more in our visa guide to living in Europe

6. Work visa for Portugal

Lots of Americans are moving to Portugal on the country’s D7 visa and the new Digital Nomad Visa, however if you’re looking to move to Portugal to work, take a look at the Portuguese Highly-Skilled Work Permit.

Positions that are considered highly-skilled are:

  • Executives
  • Managers
  • Directors
  • Engineers
  • Scientists
  • Health Professionals
  • Teachers
  • Legal Experts 

A few things to note are all open roles must be listed publicly for at least one month before it can be offered to a non-EU citizen. So some of the best opportunities may never be available to you. While English is widely spoken in Portugal, having a basic understanding of Portuguese will give you a competitive edge. Last compared to the other countries on this list, Portuguese salaries will be below average. For example the average executive salary is €3,730 a month.

Portugal also offers a Tech Visa which allows innovative companies to hire highly qualified candidates from around the world. Learn more about all the visas mentioned here and more in our visa guide to living in Europe

7. Work visa for Czech Republic

If Eastern Europe is more your cup of tea or pint of beer then the Czech Republic will be your best option! Most US citizens who live here are on the Zivno Visa.


The Zivno is essentially a self-employment visa geared towards freelancers. Not all roles qualify; your work must meet one of the many classifications. Teaching English is quite popular, if you have teaching qualifications this may be a great option for you! Other industries that meet the requirements are IT and the arts. 

 

Similar to Portugal, salaries in the Czech Republic are below average for Europe with the average monthly salary being around €1650 a month. Additional requirements for this visa are, but not limited to, proof of funds, an immigration interview, and obtaining a trade license. Learn more about the Zivno and how to apply in our visa guide to living in Europe

8. Work visa for Switzerland

Like the UK, Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, however it is a part of the Schengen Zone meaning that most Europeans can work in Switzerland without needing to obtain a visa…making it harder for you to have a competitive edge over the local labor market. 

However when it comes to highly-skilled individuals and industries with a skills shortage, companies have can to skip the labor market test! Given that, the Swiss government’s work permit quotas only allow a small number of permits to be issued each year.

Skill shortage occupations include:

  • Executives
  • Engineers
  • Scientists
  • Healthcare professionals
  • University professors

Additionally, highly-skilled roles include the financial and pharmaceutical sectors. 

The challenge to getting hired in Switzerland is that most of the positions are very competitive. While most of the labor market in these fields speak English, knowing the local language of the canton in which you will be working, as well as languages in general, is a big plus to your candidacy.

If you’re lucky enough score a job in Switzerland you can be sure to be well-compensated. Employees in in Switzerland are among the highest-paid in the world! 

Learn more about this work visa and other visas for Switzerland in our visa guide to living in Europe

9. Work visa for Denmark

Denmark has some of the toughest immigration policies making it extremely difficult foreigners to get hired. The one way into the Danish labor market may be through the Positive List for Skilled Work.

The Positive List for Skilled Work is a list of skilled professions in Denmark that are facing a shortage of qualified professionals. Some of the shortages are the typical engineering and science roles, however Americans can find a route into Denmark as a chef, landscaper, cabinetmaker office assistant, and more! Check out the full list of job titles that are in demand. This list is updated twice a year, in January and July.

 

Denmark has one of the highest English fluency rates of all non-English countries, and because Denmark is so small, a ton of its work is done with neighboring businesses and on a global scale. This means that you don’t even need to speak Danish to work here, although having basic Danish skills is always a perk. 

10. Work visa for Finland

Finland is a difficult labor market to break into if you’re an American. First, work visas are difficult to come by and second, Finnish speakers are preferred.  

However, very recently, Finland launched the its Fast Track – Residence Permit creating a pathway that makes it easier for foreigners to be hired. The Fast Track, as it’s name implies, is one of the fastest visas to obtain; you can be approved in as little as two weeks!

The list of positions that qualify are vague but it includes:

  • Specialists
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Top or Middle Management

Learn more about the Finnish Fast Track Residence Permit

11. Work visa for Malta

Located in Southern Europe, the island nation of Malta, has become a playground for the wealthy. And if you want to work here you’re going to need have skills in specific high-yielding sectors.

Malta’s Highly-Qualified Persons Visa wants to fill the gaps of labor shortages in the financial, gaming, aviation, and assisted reproduction sectors. Most roles that qualify are at the c-suite level and must must meet a minimum annual salary of €88,242. 

Marsaxlokk Malta old fisherman village

Learn more about the Highly Qualified Persons Visa and all qualifying roles and if you’re interested in other visa options for living in Malta and beyond check out our visa guide to living in Europe

Europe working visa

While Europe isn’t an easy labor market for Americans, there are plenty of opportunities for skilled-workers to find a path that might work for them. Luckily age is on your side, the more work experience you have under your belt the more it can help you compete with the local market the EU. Not all countries is Europe are viable option but these 11 are the easiest countries to obtain a work permit in Europe. Why not start your job search today?

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