Over the years, many people have approached me saying, “I wish I could live overseas!” or “how amazing would it be to move abroad and live in Amsterdam” or “I am so jealous of your life living in a foreign city!”? It is possible.
I believe life is all about priorities. If you want something bad enough, you will make it happen. Naturally, the path may not always be easy – there will be obstacles and hurdles to overcome – but where there is a will, there is a way.
Manifestation is a topic that has come up time and time again, especially in the last six months. I wanted to move overseas. I wanted to publish a book. I wanted to move to California. I dreamed about what I wanted to do, outlined a plan and expectations, used my passion and desire to fuel the emotions, and made it happen. It wasn’t always a piece of cake, though.
How exactly did I move abroad to Amsterdam?
When I first moved to the Netherlands, my company hired me as an intern and then later extended my contract as a highly skilled migrant work. Once I decided to work for myself, my then partner and I had a samenleving (living together) permit. Because I have my own business registered in the Netherlands, I could have stayed on the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (see below). Please note: I do not believe the samenleving is a viable option for Americans moving to the Netherlands now. I was grandfathered in, as I applied before they changed the laws.
A few options exist to move abroad, which I have outlined below.
One of the best and easiest ways to live abroad is by pursuing a(nother) degree. If you attend school, you can easily obtain a residence permit. Plus, you are learning alongside people from around the world. You are immersed in a new culture, have the opportunity to gain new perspectives, and further your education. Worried about the finances? Scholarships are available to help ease the burden, and at least in the Netherlands, the student visa allows you to work a few hours per week (not very many, I think it is 10, but any little bit helps).
Land an Internship
When did you graduate? Internships are a good way to get your foot in the door at a particular company. Once the company sees how (well) you perform, they are more likely to sponsor your visa and hire you on a full-time basis (not guaranteed, but definitely helps). With this option, you have to show that your internship is required for your schooling and that you are enrolled somewhere, either in a college or university.
Secure a Job
This is probably the most challenging option, and this part of the process will be very discouraging, but if you want to make it happen, don’t give up. A work permit requires you to have a job lined up. As an American in Europe (or at least in the Netherlands), a majority of jobs fall under the highly skilled migrant permit, which has a minimum salary requirement. The company must also prove that no one else in the EU can do the job. These two requirements are what makes it so difficult. Employers are also apprehensive to sponsor someone without knowing their work ethic. The best advice I can give to you with this one is to just apply, apply, apply. You have no idea how many rejections I received, but all it takes is one “yes.”
International companies are a great starting point. Because they are international, they need or want native English speakers. You may even be able to transfer from an American company to their counterpart in Europe. Try looking into local agencies that help with employment. Have a knack with the country’s language? Teach English. Even if you do not speak another language, you can teach it! Network, network, network! Use your connections – LinkedIn, Twitter. Ask for help. See if someone knows of job openings. The worst thing that will happen is someone will say no, they do not know of anything, or they cannot help. But in the off chance someone hears of something and you do qualify, it’s a step in the right direction.
Start Your Own Business
If you decide to go the freelance route or start your own company, you can work from anywhere, but then you need to work on whichever permit you can come over on and that ties specifically to which country you want to live in and how long you can stay. The Netherlands, for instance, has a Friendship Treaty with the United States, which allows Americans who do business with both the Netherlands and the US to start a business in the Netherlands and stay on that permit. With this option, you need to have a business plan, show that you do work with both countries, and have adequate financial means (proof of bank statements).
Proof of Financial Security
I don’t know too much about this option. I believe you can enter and work in a country if you can show financial proof that you can sponsor yourself (basically having a stated amount in your bank account). I didn’t qualify for this when I first started looking, because it was quite a significant investment and I had just graduated from university, but again this minimum depends on the country and your own situation. With this type of permit, you can apply for work anywhere and there are no (salary) requirements for a company to hire you. This means you can find something temporary (i.e. in retail or hospitality) if you are looking for something more permanent in your line of work (i.e. Information Technology).
Proof of Ancestry
Again, this is one option I have heard people mention, but don’t know too much about it. If you have a grandparent with a European passport (i.e. if their grandfather is Italian) and you can show proof of citizenship, you can apply for a EU passport. Again, by obtaining an EU passport, you are given free reign to live and work in the EU and getting that passport (i.e. in this instance, an Italian one). That enables them to easily live and work in the EU.
Fall in Love
Find a foreign partner in your country of choice and marry them. Okay, this is a half joke. You should not get married for a visa, however, if you do happen to meet “the one,” by marrying or obtaining a registered partnership, you obtain full working and residence rights in that country.
Now that you know the different options….
- Where do you want to go? Which country? City? This will help you determine the requirements for living in that place and the options available to you. You can do research on their government website, and if there is a consulate in the area, you can schedule an appointment to learn more about your options.
- How long do you want to stay? This will dictate your visas, as well. There are different options, like three months, six months, one year, etc. Sometimes you can do a holiday visa or you need a highly skilled migrant permit that is tied to your contract duration.
- What do you want to do? Study? Work? Freelance? This will identify the type of visas and permits you need.
Good luck embarking on your next adventure! Make your dreams come true.
Disclaimer: keep in mind this is not expert legal advice. I do not know all the rules, and I can only speak from my own experience and (limited) knowledge. Additionally, this is from my perspective as an American living in the Netherlands. My suggestions may or may not apply to other countries inside and outside the EU. Rules and regulations vary by country. You should always do your own research and, if need be, consult with an immigration lawyer.