Advice for a US citizen to work in Europe ?

I’ve become inspired to work abroad and would like to investigate possibilities in Europe - Italy or Spain specifically. From what I can tell it is generally difficult for a non-EC citizen to find work in Europe. Add to that I am not bi-lingual and I think I may be looking at an uphill battle. However, I think this is something I want to try.

I have a four year degree from a Big Ten school and have obtained my CPA certification. I have 7 years of work experience in Accounting and Finance although I dont particularly care what I would be doing. I am not especially interested in teaching English although if that is the only way to go, I think I would make a decent teacher. I have worked with International students before but it was outside of the classroom.

So, any expatriots out there with a little advice to share ?

Do you have any recent Irish ancestry? Last time I checked, if one of your grandparents was an Irish citizen, you could claim citizenship. As an EC member, this would give you the right to work anywhere in the EC.

I’m not sure if any other EC members have similar policies.

As Random has posted, if you’ve got recent Irish (or Italian) ancestry, you may be eligible for residency.

Some other possibilities:

  1. You might want to consider working in a non-EU country such as the Czech Republic.

  2. If there’s a shortage of EU citizens with your job skills, an employer might be willing to sponsor you. This is easier in some countries than others, and I’m afraid I don’t know anything about accounting, but the folks at may be able to help you.

  3. You could always work for an American company with offices abroad, and try to get a transfer to the overseas office at some point.

I think that is a really good idea. All of the Big 5 accounting firms have offices in Europe. I know one person who spent a couple of years in Germany working with Ernst and Young.

Hello to a fellow CPA and good luck. I have always wanted to spend a couple of years in Rome.

Ah, the Big 5 trick. I spent 4 years at Deloitte & Touche and I’m not in a hurry to go back, but maybe with my recent work experience I could do something in their “consulting” practice. I guess I could go back into audit as well, the work wouldnt be very challenging, but at least I’d be overseas. I’ll check into my ancestory too, I think I’ve got some French in here somewhere…

Thanks everybody.

There are two difficulties. Lockfist mentioned the first, all others the second.

1.) Finding a job.

2.) Getting a work permit.

Finding a job is a matter of applying your skills, but in a more specialized setting. As suggested, a logical move would be to work for the Price Waterhouses of this world (which would solve 1 and 2 - but only if you insist and bring special skills that make you an ideal candidate for going abroad. Typically, the person hiring you doesn’t hire you to send you abroad …). There are also large law firms who specialize on international contract work, large tax firms in Europe usually need US problems solved, even a large multinational corporation might need someone in Finance who’s knowledged about US GAP (which are as totally alien to the typical European accountant as any currency different than a dollar is alien to an American accountant: “Whta’s that in real money?”)

Getting a work permit is a complete different matter. If you are an intra-company transfer, no sweat. Because there are treaties for that which allow international companies bring in their people. It needs some work and applications, but usually it’s quite painless. Lacking that, it gets a bit trickier.

If you are hired by a company that’s based in-country, then they have to apply for a work permit for you. Better charm them, because it’s a bit of a pain. I hired many an American when I ran a German company. Caveat: These are experiences from the mid to late 80’s, so things can change, but they rarely change in a fundamental way. We had to go to the “Arbeitsamt” (“Dept. of Labor”) and specify what we are looking for. The trick was to define the job as narrowly and as closely tailored to you as possible. Let’s assume (but not hope) you are a dwarf, a US CPA, and you know Hindi as a second language. Then we look for a guy who is a US CPA (because he must be licensed in the US to represent us in financial matters) who’s not taller than 1 meter (because we sell pipelines and he has to inspect them) and he must speak Hindi at least a bit (because we imported those programmers from India and he has to work with them). In reality it’s not as outrageous, and you get the idea. They call us ask why do we need a foreigner, and we answer with exasperation “Because we can’t find a good German for the job. If you have one, we’ll gladly take him.” They check their computer for a CPA, under 1 meter, speaks Hindi - and they draw a blank. We have a nice chat with the person at the Arbeitsamt, grumble something about what a pain it is these days to get decent help - Millions without work and nobody wnts to - , and for good measure we add “and imagine being forced to work with these Americans - none of them speak German, what a hassle.” They wish us good luck and you get the papers. With the papers in hand, you need yet another permit, and that is a temporary residence permit. If you have a work permit, and if you don’t come from a “suspicious” country such as Albania, Turkey, or what have you, the temporary residence used to be a cinch. Temporary, but renewable. And depending on your employment. If they kick you out of the company, you also must leave the countr (unless you find another victim).

Again, that’s how it was the way in the 80’s and it might have changed. Unemployment is high, and they prefer one of their own off the unemployment rolls. But comparatively it was less of a pain than getting a European into the US.

Everyone seems to have covered just about everything, but I just want to add a couple of things. First of all, the bilingual problem isn’t too serious, as most European companies need people who speak English. I know people who have gotten jobs here in France without knowing French. Sometimes the company will pay for you to take language lessons in the evening. Secondly, be prepared to wait AGES for your visa. I know many people who have had to wait between six months and a year for their visas. I know someone who waited nine months after getting his job for his visa. In his case, it was due to the Human Resources department taking months to send the forms out. The government offices were actually much more efficient. So it helps to periodically harass the Human Resources department. This was in France, which is a very socialist country. I know Spain is the same way, if not worse, and from my experience Italy is just slightly better. Plan things so that a long and indefinite waiting period won’t cause you too much stress.

This is scaring me. But I don’t need a visa. I’m married to a Swedishh citizen and their part of the EU, but I CAN’T GET A JOB HERE! What am I supposed to do there? Anyway, I’m going. At least I’ll learn swedish, and probably for free.

Its only a year. Its only a year…

The visa is not the problem. As a US citizen, you generally do not need a visa to enter a European country. Many/most of the times (depending on country) your passport is not stamped. And you can legally stay for 6 months. My wife (US citizen) and I (still German citizen) moved to Germany for 2 years, and in the first year, we didn’t bother with any papers for her, because she was travelling in & out anyway (resulting in 6 months every time), and if we would have been sticklers for rules, a quick trip to Belgium or Holland (30 minutes away) and back would have resulted in another 6 months. Which are not tracked.

They don’t need to track at the border, because everything is tracked inside the country. Work, taxes, social security, health insurance, every little move builds a huge database. In my wife’s case, it didn’t matter, and they didn’t bother, because she didn’t work. But I do not recommend to work without at least applying for the proper papers. If my wife would had been here by herself, she wouldn’t even have found a place to live. In Germany, you need to “register” wherever you move, another set of fields in the database, another requirement for actually existing here.

That’s why you need your work permit and temporary residence permit.

The enter-as-tourist gambit is as popular here as it is in the US. But I would get the application process going ASAP. To get paid, you need a tax payer ID, no papers, no ID, no money. An understanding employer may pay you in the US for a few months, but as Penny said, some HR departments work slower than the Government (and, I may add, work more according to the book than some government agencies.)

Invisible: If you are married to a Swedish citizen, the residency is a no-brainer. The work permit must be applied for separately. Go, find a job, and then apply. Most EU countries treat the US wives of their citizens with very well. Now, if you would be from Turkey … (Reason for the non-automatic work permit: Unemployment benefits are usually generous, and they want to keep you out of the system as long as possible. Once you’ve found a job and got you work permit - in that order - you can do what many EU citizens do: Get fired and collect unemployment benefits …)

Personal recommendation: Watch your driver’s license status. An international driver’s license doesn’t mean a thing, it’s simply a translation. You typically can use your foreign license for a year, and you can only apply for a local license after half a year, supposedly to gain local experience. (may vary and change according to European standardization…) You do not surrender your US license and you get a local one. According to international agreements, they have to give you one. Feel good about it: The guy in the car next to you had to study long for his license, flunked the test maybe 3 times, and spent more than $1000 for the whole thing. (Except in Belgium, where, according to European lore, you win it in the lottery. It’s not true.) Hold on to your license when you leave: When we left, the German driver’s license was good for life.

Whoa there. When you enter a European country from the US, your passport will definitely be stamped. If you move between countries it may or may not be (it probably won’t be between the Schengen countries, and between the UK and Ireland, but move from one of those categories to the other and it most likely will be). And the length of time you can stay in a country varies. Ireland for example only allows tourists three months.

Be aware that many countries have laws that state that you may not enter as a tourist and seek work, and a work permit application may be denied on that basis. You may find you have to leave the country before the employer files the permit application. Enforcement of these laws also varies, though.

Your post is totally misleading. Germany is part of the Schengen zone, along with the scandinavian countries, benelux countries, France, Spain,Portugal and Italy. You’re allowed to stay for 90 days (not 6 months) in any period of 180 days. In other words, if you have stayed for the longest possible period (90 days) in any of these countries, you can’t come back in any of them during the 90 following days. Just crossing the boundary to a non-Schengen country (say the UK) and coming back won’t make it.

AFAIK, the passports are actually stamped. Probably nobody will track you down if you overstay (say, you’ve decided to spend a 6 months long vacation in Europe). But if at some point you apply for a work visa, they’ll certainly check if you’re legal or not, and if they discover that you overstayed, they’ll most probably deny you the work permit. Better not to mess with immigration laws if you intend to obtain a work permit.

Also, the laws concerning citizenship vary widely from country to country. Since you were refering to a possible french ancestry, I must point out that franch citizenship is based on “land law” , similar to the US : roughly,you’re french if you’re born on french territory (as opposed to the “blood law” applied in countries like germany : roughly, you’re german if you’re of german ancestry). So, I’m not sure that french ancestry (except your parents) will help. You should check the consulate.

However, it’s true that if you can apply for citizenship in an EU country, you can work in any of them.

It is not true that American passports are always
stamped when entering an EU country from the U.S. Both
of the times I flew into France from the U.S., the customs
official merely glanced at my (American) passport without
stamping it. I suppose policies probably vary from
country to country.

I don’t believe the Schengen countries (of which France is one) have the authority to unilaterally set policies in this regard. What you probably encountered was a French customs agent who wasn’t doing his/her job. So insert the word “almost” before “definitely” in my previous post.

In any case, they can’t prove that you didn’t enter and leave via a non-stamping Schengen border. From personal experience, whether or not they stamp U.S. citizens at Frankfurt airport is completely arbitrary, which means that you can always claim that you came and left but they didn’t stamp. I have also entered Germany from Switzerland (outside the EU!) with nobody even standing at the border (Basel’s German Rail train station).

I even know an American street musician who has been in Germany for several years and in Europe for well over a decade with absolutely no status here. U.S. citizens are usually tolerated, probably because it is very difficult to prove that they do not enjoy tourist status. Of course if serious trouble of any sort were to occur (very unlikely), one might be “asked” to leave the country, but I have never heard of this happenening. I remember one broke student staying on for months after his student residence permit expired, hoping to be “sent home”. No such luck.

Let me just add that of course American citizens have surely be sent out of Germany/EU on many occasions for various offenses. I just mean to say that I don’t know of any such cases personally.

I (white)'ve been going to France with an Asian companion every year for 10 yrs., and most of the time the customs agents at DeGaulle don’t even open our passports to look at the pictures. A Taiwanese passport is a whole other ball of wax.

As for residency in France, some of the Americans I know who have been living there for 10 yrs. still haven’t legally registered.