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sarge56 Jul 4th, 2007 09:23 PM

Advice...Move to Europe?
Want to open this, as I am giving it much serious consideration.

I have a job that is internet-based, so can do it from any place where I can access the internet. I have always wanted to travel and most of those desires center around Europe (west and east). I am trying to fill in my knowledge base with enough information to make a rational decision. Could I move to Europe for 2 years? If so, where? (I do believe Italy would be my first choice.) What would the average monthly cost be for rent/food/etc? It would be just me, a 50yr old female (quite self-sufficent, thank you). :) I really think I could visit all of the places I have wanted to go, from Budapest to Scotland, by living and working in Europe for two years.

So these questions are especially to those of you who now live, or have recently lived,in Europe. Costs? Anyone know what the procedure is regarding working in another country, but for an American firm? Do I need any special papers/permissions? I just have no idea as to where to begin, other than asking my company if they would support me in this move. (Since the hours difference would affect my ability to participate in conference calls/etc, would they allow me to work in an "altered" position during "my" daytime? If not, am I willing to work in the "off hours", etc.)

Any thoughts/comments/ideas would be much appreciated. Please feel free to email me directly at [email protected]

Thanks bunches!

flanneruk Jul 4th, 2007 09:46 PM

The short answer is that it's practically impossible to do what you're planning legally. And there's simply no point debating whether Santorini would be more fun than Shetland until you've understood the problem.

Every country has different laws about all this. But, just as in America, none are at all friendly to foreigners running home-based businesses.

Most European countries allow conventional companies to import staff from other countries. But to do that, the properly established (say) Italian operation of Globalcorp Inc has to apply for an Italian work permit. And unless Globalcorp Italia SAS is trading properly in Italy and has all the right registrations, it won't get an Italian work permit. You can't just set up Sarge56 SAS, then apply for a work permit for yourself. Nor can your employers easily set up SargeEmployersItalianOffice SAS, unless it really intends trading, gets fully registered for taxes and pays all the appropriate insurance contributions.

You won't get get an ordinary visa to live and work in any European country because they're given only on the express condition you don't do paid employment. And running an internet-based business, or working for a foreign company, counts as paid employment.

So you're left with four broad options.

1. You can apply for a visa as a retiree or as an investor. Both require you to show (and use) substantial funds. Each country's rules are different. Britain's tend to be far more supportive of professional immigrants than elsewhere, and a list of all the schemes are available in one place, in English, at:

The UK principles for retirement and investor visas are broadly similar to those elsewhere in Europe (though the sums involved vary), but other posters might know of favourable exceptions

2. You can get your employers to set up a genuine office in the country of your choice.

3. You might be eligible for a visa under the British Highly Skilled Migrant Programme. Though this allows you to work only in Britain, you can then get up to 180 days in Schengen (during which you may not work, but no-one monitors what you're doing with your laptop in that Tuscan villa) a year.

4. Or, in the absence of any of this, you can try living in the shadowy world of coming in for 3 or 6 months, then trying to overstay or hoping you'll be let back in again. Highly unreliable, and not at all a way to run a proper business

Incidentally, the British HSMP scheme makes it a great deal easier for some Americans at least to do what you want than for any Europeans to do it in the US.

eliza3 Jul 4th, 2007 10:41 PM

As flanneruk has correctly pointed out your problem is wanting/needing to work and this is very difficult to do legally. We have recently moved from Australia to Spain and are on long term residency visas which need to be renewed each year. We chose Spain as it was easier than Italy or France basically! However, neither of us is working here - or indeed is allowed to work here. I work out of the country and my husband is here fulltime.

We looked into moving to UK very very seriously but for us it proved impossible. We may have succeeded under the HSMP but at that time the delays were huge and although we qualified neither of us have any particularly highly sought after skills. As I recall the retiree scheme was for over 60's and the investor required an investment of 350,000 GBP and other conditions. All of that, coupled with the weather and the cost of living stopped us - although we love Britain and plan to spend a lot of time there.

Good luck - I hope you work something out.

djkbooks Jul 4th, 2007 11:49 PM

I have many friends who have moved to Europe for one or more years - but always by finding a position in a US company that assigns them to a European location. (Or, already working for a company that has offices abroad.) The US company handles work permits, etc., and is enormously helpful with relocation - where to live, costs proportionate to earnings, assistance with tax implications, health care, etc. Being fluent in a foreign language is helpful but not always essential for acquiring such an assignment.

If you are highly, and specifically, skilled, and shop like the dickens for a company with positions to fill in Europe, you could get lucky.

For many years, I worked with a computer system and software in an automotive dealership (where my position was Controller/CFI). Off and on, over the years, I was offered the opportunity for a position installing and consulting in Europe. I still receive the occasional offer. This company provides adequate wages to find a nice home and live nicely, and provides all sorts of relocation services and assistance.

A dear friend of mine went with her husband when he was tranferred to France for five years with a hi-tech company. She was not able to work, so took culinary programs, seminars, classes all over. Upon returning home, she had a whole new career doing cooking demonstrations at various kitchenware shops and consulting with them regarding inventory.

My husband's company has outposts all over the world, with many employment opportunities, should we wish to relocate. Again, the company provides all sorts of assistance with work permits, housing, health care, etc.

As others have mentioned, it is neither easy nor impossible to do this on your own, but there are many significant contingencies. I know many who have managed to earn a living in Europe for years, not complying with all laws, rules, regulations, but flying under the radar and not encountering any significant difficulties either. Not that I would recommend this.

The better bet, for you, might be to save up lots of money, "move" to your location of choice, planning only to live there the legal limit, and see how it works out for you, especially considering whether or not your employer will cooperate.

Of all the folks I know who "moved to Europe", nearly all were happy to come home after six months.

hetismij Jul 5th, 2007 12:24 AM

If you go to it explains in detail about movng to the Netherlands. These rules are pretty much the same throughout Europe. As you will read you age is against your for getting in on a highly skilled migrant visa.
If you really want to do it you will have to find a company that is prepared to employ you.
Nearly every country in Europe requires you to register with your local town hall, and to have a residents permit. Whilst it is possible to do it all illegally is it worth the risk?
The only way around all of this is if you qualify for an EU passport through your parents/grandparents.
But Before you decide all this - do you speak any language other than English well enough to be able to make friends, deal with bureaucracy, and just live well in any country? If not then you will be in for a very hard time. As someone who emigrated to the Netherlands trust me on this one.

bellacqui Jul 5th, 2007 12:57 AM

For information regarding living in Italy as an expat, you can go to the following website:

Everything is there, from taxes to visas to apartment hunting.

WillTravel Jul 5th, 2007 01:03 AM

If you have an Internet-based job, you could satisfy both your work responsibilities and your desire to travel and remain legal with a little compromise.

Of course consult an attorney before relying on any Internet posts.

The way I see it, maintain your residency in the US, so don't actually formally move to Europe. Then just travel here and there, because you are interested in moving around all over Europe, and the various and different time constraints provided by Schengen, the UK, non-Schengen EU countries, and non-Schengen/non-EU countries should keep you busy and legal for a long time. Two years might not be possible, so you would have to break your journey to Europe. But then you could take the opportunity to visit Canada (for example), or Asia, or some parts of the US you would like to see.

Just as an example - 3 months in the UK, 3 months in Paris, 3 months in the Czech Republic, 3 months in Turkey, etc. But do whatever is legally required to maintain your status as a US resident.

The challenge would be keeping the right health insurance, and I wouldn't recommend trying to hide what you are doing.

The other possible large expense could be Internet connections, depending if you need these for a long period each day. I presume you'd want rentals for the cost savings, and you'd have to get Internet connections. Or stay wherever, and decide if you are comfortable scouting around for free wi-fi.

PatrickLondon Jul 5th, 2007 01:03 AM

Just a gloss on flanner's option 4, as regards the UK:

Airport immigration officers are alert to the possibility of people trying to do this, and if they spot that someone has been coming and going quite a lot, they may well start asking awkward questions and going through baggage to look for signs that someone intends to work or settle in the UK when they're coming in as an ordinary tourist. I distinctly remember a TV documentary series about IOs at Heathrow that had more than one case of this kind - including Americans.

JudyColo Jul 5th, 2007 01:31 AM

I'm an American, married to a dual Brit/Amer citizen and I'm living in Amsterdam for a few months before we move to London. My husband took a job with a European company but they are moving his office from Amsterdam to London. On the visa point, I'm in Amsterdam legally because we're here less than 3 months. He has permission to work because he is an EU citizen - that makes life much easier on that front. I have friends who came to Amsterdam from the states, but they both worked for a Dutch multi-national that had US offices. Even then, they had a lot more paperwork to fill out to get legal to live and work in Amsterdam. When we go to London, I get a spousal visa. Again - life is much easier because my husband is a UK citizen. With the spousal visa, I can live and work with no constraints.

From a lifestyle standpoint, I will say that being an expat (and I"m still pretty new at this) is exciting but wearing. Don't romanticize it too much - it is tough learning a whole new culture and way of doing things. Although everyone here speaks impeccible English, everything is written in Dutch. Not a problem in London - but certainly a hurdle in Amsterdam. From a travel accessiblity standpoint, I'd take Amsterdam over London any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Schiphol is a dream to get to, get through and get around the continent. Heathrow is the other end of the spectrum and an absolute nighmare. Cost of living also has Amsterdam beating London hands down. What everyone says about the cost of living in London is true - it makes NY seem like a bargain. And if you can get permission to work in Amsterdam legally, there are some adventageous tax schemes. As an American expat, you should be aware that the US taxes your income no matter where you earn it. There are some measures to minimize the double taxation, but they aren't perfect. If your company is accustomed to sending expats abroad, they should have HR folks that know the drill. Otherwise, it is confusing and expect to spend a lot of time on the internet. There are some excellent message boards - is one i use a lot for the Netherlands. I've also found an excellent board for the UK - Many of these message boards have primers on the immigration basics for those countries, as well as advice on settling in and getting used to the local customs.

JudyColo Jul 5th, 2007 02:43 AM

And two other thoughts - as noted above, immigration officials are quite astute to the possibility of illegal workers. I was grilled when I arrived in Amsterdam and get regularly questioned, in depth, when I go to London. I'd think three times before trying to just fly under the radar. Also, it's next to impossible to have a day-to-day existence in the Netherlands without a Dutch bank account. Grocery stores, for example, don't take credit cards. You can't get a bank account until you get a so-fi nummer (the Dutch equivalent of a social security number) and proof of residency. The Netherlands may be unique in this regard.

amy_zena Jul 5th, 2007 02:56 AM

"The short answer is that it's practically impossible to do what you're planning legally." I think flanneruk is right.

I'm an American living in Italy. I started off on a work visa that my employer obtained for me, and then married an Italian and switched to a family visa. Neither of these types of visas is easy to obtain. There is no way I could have gone through all the government agencies and completed/submitted all the correct documents alone. It was extremely exasperating for my employer and husband to do!

I work for American and international schools, and they are fed up with all the stuff they have to do to get american teachers legally into Italy. As a result, most of the American and international schools have changed their hiring policy to only hire EU citizens or those who have already obtained the right to work in Italy. It's not worth it for them anymore to go through all the hoops to get Americans into Italy for work.

Having said that, I am not familiar with the policies of corporations (American or otherwise) here in Italy on the hiring of Americans. I can only speak for schools hiring teachers. Maybe there are some other expats in Italy that are here sponsored by their company that can comment on that.

As far as costs go...that really depends on where you live in Italy. Milan, Florence, and Rome are quite expensive. You will pay anywhere from 700 euro to 1100 euro a month for a 1 bedroom in the center of these cities. Plus utilities, which are not cheap here...add about 200 euro per month for that (including internet and SKY satellite tv).

In the smaller cities (like where we live), rent is generally about 600-700 euro for a 1-2 bedroom apartment, furnished. If apartments are not furnished in Italy, they are REALLY not furnished. No kitchen sink, no fridge, no oven, nothing...only walls.

I have found most food items in the supermarket to be equivalent in price to U.S. prices. Getting a hair cut/color is about the same as in the U.S. I would count on almost everything being about the same cost of living as the U.S. Except gas/petrol is about double price.

You have a lot to think about (healthcare, visas, permits of stay, etc.) and unfortunately for you, I think it's going to be a big uphill battle for you. For the most part, you can't just move to italy to work when the idea strikes you (unless you are independently wealthy and will not have to work here.) Or unless you do it illegally - which means leaving Italy every 3 months when your tourist visa expires and re-entering. But I don't even think people get away with that anymore, although I have known people who have done that a few years back. If you did this, you wouldn't have healthcare/insurance because you have to have established residency and obtained your permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay) in order to take advantage of the national healthcare here... quite risky really.

Have a look at the forums at for more info.

amy_zena Jul 5th, 2007 03:04 AM

If you're interested in seeing apartment rental prices, have a look at the following websites:

Not sure if they have english versions or not. Affitto is "for rent" and vendesi/vendo is "for sale"

I think you will find that when you convert euro to US dollars, the rents are bit expensive for what you get here in Italy.

alanRow Jul 5th, 2007 03:12 AM

The problem with willtravel's suggestion is that it's eventually going to look very suspicious to immigration officials who will wonder why you hop from country to country - always just as your tourist visa finishes.

I suspect that sooner rather than later you will be refused entry which will effectively bar you from every European country.

Plenty of people - even Americans - do work illegally but they do so by avoiding officialdom as much as possible.

I'd also check the terms of any insurance you have, I have heard of cases where a claim has been refused because the person wasn't in the country legally and hence the insurance was invalid

hetismij Jul 5th, 2007 03:53 AM

The point JudyColo makes about banks applies to nearly all if not all European countries. it is part of the strcit rules to help counteract money laundering and tax avoidance.

I honestly think you would be better off visiting for a couple of months and seeing the places you want to see. If you are working here you will not have that much time, or money to get around Europe and see everything. It is not clear from your post if you have ever even been to Europe before. If not then I strongly advise you to have a holiday here before comitting yourself to anything.

sarge56 Jul 5th, 2007 04:23 PM

Thank you all so much for your very informed comments and suggestions. I probably neglected to mention that my company DOES indeed have a European branch in the UK, and a few years ago I checked into the possibility of "transferring" to that branch. At the time, I did not get any discouragement from the UK HR person I spoke with. Yes, it involved paperwork, but did not seem to be a big issue for them. SO, if I had to take the UK, it's not a down-side for me. I would love to live in the UK for two years. I'd still have access to travel across Europe more frequently and for less money than I would if living in the US. And, while I love my 3-bed, 2-bath home here in the US, I'd be happy to take a 1-bed flat for the short time I'd be living there. I think financially, it is pretty much a wash for me, whether I live in US or UK. (I'd also want to bring my 3 kitties.) :)

I also have family members in Croatia. So I had been thinking about locating maybe to Zagreb or thereabouts. Does anyone know if that is easier, say, than a EU country and/or is there any advantage to having relatives in the country you are moving to?

I will look at all the websites you've kindly suggested. I would be happy to take any further comments/advice/ suggestions that come via this chat.

Thanks again all! I'm not going to let a little difficulty in paper deter me. But please be assured...I would never do anything illegally in this regard. Not worth the stress of looking over my shoulder, and I suspect there are reasons countries have rules. I strongly support US laws on that, and would not take lightly any other country's, either. :)

Thank you all!!!

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