Working in Europe is more complicated these days. Now that Britain has left the EU, we’ve lost the freedom of movement that used to make it much easier. So if you’re travelling to an EU country for business or a new job, you’ll need to be up on the new changes. From work permits to countries offering short term visas – here’s our post Brexit guide to working in Europe

Rules as of January 2021: The overview

Under the withdrawal agreement, anyone from the UK living in an EU country before 1 January 2021, will retain the right to work as long as they continue to live there. But if they leave for more than five years, that would end.

Britain has three separate agreements with European countries that have freedom of movement, including non EU countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The key thing to note for almost every type of working situation is there isn’t really a one-size-fits all now, so you’ll have to take care to check the rules for each member country you’re planning to work in or travel to for business.

What are the Rules for Business Travel to the EU?

All previous arrangements for business travel to the EU have been replaced by the The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

The rules on business travel are determined by two main factors: the length of your stay and the nature of your trip. If you’re going for a short stay of under 90 days in any 180 day period then you won’t have to have a work permit or goods declaration. But, that only applies if you’re going for marketing purposes or for a meeting, you can also attend cultural and sports events. So you can go to a trade or a conference event as a delegate, but if you’re selling anything or being paid to give a talk, you’ll need a work permit.

But, if you’re going for over 90 days in an 180 day period, or you’re going to be selling good or working, you’ll also need to:

  • Declare if you’re taking more than €10,000 in cash
  • Check you have all relevant documentation in place before your trip including work and goods permits and customs declarations
  • Make sure your qualifications are still recognised in the EU/ your destination country

How Do I Apply for a Work Permit?

The first question to answer is ‘what kind of work permit will I need?’. The quickest and most accurate way to answer that is visit the EU Immigration Portal to find out which category you fit into. These include:

  • Highly qualified workers (these fall under the EU Blue Card, more on that later)
  • International service providers – including contractors and temporary workers
  • Intra-corporate transferred (ICT) – people working in a non-EU company who had been temporarily transferred to an EU branch or multiple branches.

Other categories include researchers, seasonal workers, students and volunteers.

Once you’ve established the right category, applying for the relevant permit will involve checking the rules and requirements of your destination country, and to help with that you can start by contacting the UK-based embassy.

Suggested Activity
Cheapest Way to Transfer Your Money Out of the UK
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to send money internationally from the UK is TransferWise, tried and tested by our Cheapo team. It's fast and reliable. ...

The main thing to bear in mind is the process can take a while, and varies by country but the general advice is that you should apply at least two months ahead of your trip, as Embassy staff can take up to six week process a permit. Costs will vary depending on the country and permit type.

What is the EU Blue Card and Who Can Apply?

One of the best ways to work in the EU is to apply for an EU Blue Card. This is an employment designed for highly qualified workers and allows successful applicants to work in 25 of the 27 EU member countries for up to four years.

This only applies to people with a job contract of at least 1 year, so freelancers and entrepreneurs don’t qualify. The EU website is frustratingly vague on what constitutes a highly qualified worker, but think senior management positions, legal jobs and technical positions.

Application criteria also includes:

  • You have a recognised ‘higher professional qualification’ i.e. master’s degree or five years’ professional experience.
  • Your annual gross salary must be at least one and a half times highers than the national average (except where lower salary threshold applies

You may also need a visa, and your employer will have to submit the application on your behalf and you should get a decision within 90 days. If you are successful, you can bring your family with you and you can also move to another EU country after 18 months – although you’ll need to reapply for an EU blue card if you do.

Which European Countries Offer Short Term or Digital Nomad Visas?

If you’ve read this far and you’re feeling a bit deflated about all the additional red tape (or in this case, blue tape) involved in working Europe, don’t get too down. There are already several short term or ‘digital nomad’ visas in several EU countries, and it’s likely more will follow. These are a great option for freelancers, remote working contractors and entrepreneurs who don’t meet the EU Blue card requirements.

There are currently short-term visas in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Estonia, Czech Republic, Croatia and Iceland

Each country has its own requirements, but broadly speaking, the visas range from a few months to three years with some that can be converted into permanent residency after a few years. Some require you to have proof of accommodation as part of the application process, and for example for one of the German self-employment visas (there are two types), you’ll need a couple of clients based there to show contribution to the local economy.

Common requirements across the countries include:

  • Proof of a minimum earning threshold
  • Evidence of earrings or proof of financial means for 3-6 months
  • Submit a criminal background check
  • Valid passport

There will also be fees to pay, and you may need to visit the country’s embassy or consulate as part of your application process.

What Are the Tax Rules for Working in the EU?

As with visas and work permits, there isn’t a universal rule on working in EU countries. But the things to keep in mind is how much time you’re staying in a country, in general if you’re in a country for more than 6 months in a year, you may be considered tax-resident.

Depending on your residency status, you may continue to pay your UK tax and National Insurance contributions. Vist the GOV.UK website to fill out a P85 form which lets HMRC know that you’re moving abroad and check your destination country for its tax agreements to avoid getting stung by ‘double taxation’.

Further Info

For more information tips on visiting the EU, check out our guide to post Brexit travel to Europe.

Offical Sources used:

Disclaimer: while we do our best to ensure the info in this article is up-to-date and accurate some of this information may no longer be correct, so please verify with official sources.

Get all the info on what's on in London direct to your inbox every month