Paths to EU permanent residence / citizenship without a job offer?
August 25, 2014 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm an Israeli citizen completing a Ph.D. in the US. I'd like to move to the EU, and am seeking work there, but I want a Plan B in case I don't get a job offer. Which countries make it least difficult (or even possible) for a foreigner to move there without employer sponsorship and eventually gain permanent residence or citizenship? I would consider entering another degree program in this scenario if student status would help.

For example, I just found out that in Denmark, I would probably be eligible once I have my degree for an 18-month work/study visa without needing a previous job offer, and that 5 years residence with 3 years' worth of work and/or study allows you to apply for permanent residence.

What other EU countries have schemes of this sort?

If I were to go the student route (and yes, starting another degree right after a Ph.D. sounds crazy, but I'll basically do whatever it takes to not have to move back to Israel), which countries offer the lowest tuition rates for international students from outside the EU, and allow students to work during their program?

What else should I be thinking of? I've looked at the naturalization through European descent route, but I don't qualify for this in any country; and marriage to an EU citizen would obviously be the easiest route to a residence visa, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards, unfortunately.
posted by zeri to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The immigration rules for every EU country are online, the best thing is to dust off your google and start working your way down the list. Euraxess is a good place to start (particularly the job listings), but it's specific immigration details are often out of date. It should give links out to the relevant government websites for each country though, at least to get you started. Euraxess has people you can contact and ask these kinds of questions if you get stuck, helping researchers move around in and work in Europe is part of what they do. Or you can ask us again if you're getting stuck on specific countries, but there are so many and the info is not that difficult to find so it will get you a lot further now to just google.

Denmark is the only place I'm aware of with the kind of scheme you're talking about and everywhere else requires a job offer. But I haven't looked intensively at all the applicable countries plus laws change every few years, so I may be out of date.

But with a job offer it's generally easy given you have a PhD (assuming you're offered a job that uses that qualification), particularly in the Schengen countries but some others too. I'm a non-EU citizen and had no problems with immigration to do postdocs in Ireland then Germany (where I live now), it was super straight forward and easy. Getting the jobs was also a bit more difficult but not overly so, first postdocs are still relatively easy to get (staying employed after is another story).
posted by shelleycat at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to recommend a post-doc, especially in Germany, but shelleycat beat me to the punch! If you're interested in Germany, the DAAD website has a lot of good information and I know they have special funds earmarked for Israeli citizens. Coming with a PhD is certainly a plus, although I'd look at how to market yourself as filing a particular niche as an international, American-trained academic, etc. (In some ways, American doctorates are seen as superior to European ones and in other ways they're seen as less valuable. I see them as equal albeit somewhat different but it's good to know how and where to best focus your energy when applying.) I can also send you another, more private link about Germany so please do memail me if you're interested. Anne Ditmeyer of Design Sponge and beyond has a good, honest guide to living in France as an ex-pat.

Is there a particular reason you want to move or a place you'd like to live? It's super hard establishing a life for yourself in Europe, but definitely worth trying now if it's a dream of yours!
posted by smorgasbord at 1:39 PM on August 25, 2014

What field is your Phd in? There are very different options for different studies, and they change all the time.
Also, being from Israel, are you Jewish? Because some of the countries in the east, where the demand for all types of scholars is huge, are unfortunately also somewhat ridden with antisemitism
posted by mumimor at 2:58 PM on August 25, 2014

Response by poster: My Ph.D. is in a very impractical field (linguistics of classical languages); I'm looking for academic jobs, but I want to come up with a backup plan in case I can't get one.

I'm (nominally) Jewish, and I'm aware of the recent rise in antisemitism. I probably wouldn't want to live in Eastern Europe, anyway -- the language and culture barriers would be too high. I should have phrased the question to refer specifically to the western EU.
posted by zeri at 4:05 PM on August 25, 2014

How old are you?

If you're under 31, you can get a 1 year any-work-you-want visa in Germany, even without the PHD ( - they're generally bilateral, but it only mentions Germany, South Korea and NZ on there for Israel).
From there, check out the requirements for a Resident Permit, not sure how hard it is after that.
posted by Elysum at 6:44 PM on August 25, 2014

If you're of Sephardic descent, see here. Cons: our economy is still rather crappy and employment opportunities scarce. Pros: Once you're an EU citizen, you can go anywhere else.
posted by sukeban at 11:18 PM on August 25, 2014

Best answer: The Netherlands offers an orientation year for people who have PhDs from certain universities outside the Netherlands. After that year, you can apply for a residence permit.
posted by neushoorn at 12:34 AM on August 26, 2014

If you have German Jewish heritage, you have a right of return to Germany.

*Edit - actually sorry - only applies if you are in a former Warsaw Pact country.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:47 AM on August 26, 2014

If you finish a degree in Germany, you get a similar deal as you have in Denmark to find a job. I forget exactly how long the time period is, but it's a little over a year I think. And, you get to apply for jobs as if you are an EU citizen, which means you don't have to go through the German central authority.
posted by colfax at 3:21 AM on August 26, 2014

Germany gives 18-month job-seeking visa after finishing an academic degree here. I don't think a post-doc counts, though.
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 1:30 PM on August 26, 2014

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