Since immigration laws for non-EU citizens in Europe are getting stricter by the minute, if you’re really serious about moving to Europe and staying here, you’ll need a visa. Laws also change quickly, so please check the consulate or embassy page for up-to-date information.
How to Get into Europe
The EU is made up of two zones: the Schengen area and the non-Schengen area. The non-Schengen area consists of Ireland and the UK. The Schengen area consists of mostly continental Europe. If you travel within the Schengen territory, you don’t need to show your passport in each country that you enter. So if you fly from Rome to Athens, you’re not going to go through passport control.
Americans don’t need a tourist visa to enter the EU.
UK and Ireland: You’re allowed to stay as a tourist for a total of 180 months within a 12 month period.
Schengen Europe: You’re allowed to say for a total of 90 days within a 6 month period.
*In the past, a lot of non-EU peeps thought that they could stay in Italy or another country without a visa and leave the country for the a short weekend or a visit back home and come back in to renew their tourist visa. But that’s not the law. Some countries might seem to have lax border controls at the airport, but you don’t want to test them to find out. No one in Italy had ever asked to see my permesso di soggiorno in Italy, but whenever I flew into London, they always asked to see my permesso and asked me personal detailed questions about where I lived, where I studied, whether I was dating anyone in the UK, etc. etc. This shit is no joke.
The EU Blue Card:
This has been implemented in recent years and had I known about it then, I probably would have taken advantage of it. This is probably your best bet for getting a working visa if you want to move to continental Europe.
This visa is for highly skilled workers that want to work in Europe. Countries excluded from the Blue Card are Ireland and the UK. It entitles you to work and benefits in your country of residence and free movement within the Schengen area. It also allows you to apply for permanent residence between 2 and 5 years depending on the country you reside in.
Requirements for the Blue Card:
-must have completed higher education
-must have a work contract or a binding offer from an employer
*If you’re in the Schengen area on a student visa, you’ll be allowed to switch to a Blue Card visa provided that you find an employer.
Whether you want to do a university course or study the language long-term, you’re going to need a student visa. Depending on the country you live in, you may be allowed to work on a student visa.
UK: At the moment in the UK, if you’re on a student you’re allowed to work up to 20 hours a week. For those making applications from 3 August 2015 and on, you will not be allowed to work. The cost for a UK student visa is £322.
Italy: In Italy, you’re allowed to work up to 20 hours a week. There is no visa fee. Once you arrive in Italy on your visa, you are required to apply for a permesso di soggiorno. Most schools will help you with that. *The nice thing about this is that you would be able to make contact with employers while on a student visa and be able to apply for a Blue Card without them having to sponsor you for a work visa.
A work visa is one in which your employer sponsors you for a visa. This is quite difficult to get because under EU laws, the employer would have to demonstrate that you are more qualified for the job than any other EU-member candidate. So if you have a skill like able to speak Chinese or Russian than that would put you at higher advantage of getting your visa approved. BUT it’s not impossible and there are also a lot of American companies based in Italy and the UK that might have an easier time sponsoring you for a visa.
Elective Residency in Italy
This is a visa that allows you to reside in Italy, but not work. It is usually given to retirees who can prove that they can live without working. This is the visa that I got when I first moved to Rome in order to do a six-month internship. I applied through the consulate in London and maybe my Italian name and speaking to them in Italian charmed them because I don’t know how else I could have gotten it. I’m sure that if I had applied to through the consulate in New York, they wouldn’t have given it to me. I’ve read some places online that in New York they’re dicks (which I’m not surprised about) and you have to be a millionaire in order to get the visa. Go figure. As with any Italian visa, once you arrive in Italy, you must apply for a permesso di soggiorno.