Can my American parents live in Europe after they retire?
September 30, 2014 9:41 AM   Subscribe

My American parents are looking forward to their retirement in a few years, and for a variety of reasons are contemplating retiring in Europe - likely the UK, or possibly Germany/Austria. Is this possible?

Could they rent an apartment in the UK for the year, say, and leave every couple of months for a quick trip to the Continent and back, so that they wouldn't overstay their 3- or 6-month limit (if they're on a tourist visa)? Is this allowed? It looks like it's not, but I thought I'd ask.

Would they be more likely allowed to stay if any of the following: (1) if they bought property in the UK rather than rented, and/or (2) if they had a certain net worth, and/or (3) if one of their children married someone British, and/or (4) if one of their children had a UK degree and work visa, and were working in the UK, and/or (5) if my mom were able to get EU citizenship from her grandfather, who came to the US during the interwar years?

I'd love any advice or resources that you can point to on this, or things that they should think about (healthcare, etc.). Is there anything that they can possibly do to be allowed to live in the UK (or maybe Germany/Austria) in their retirement, either for a few years or indefinitely?
posted by ClaireBear to Work & Money (22 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are various countries which have retirement practices for overseas residents where you can prove financial solvency by depositing various amounts of money in bank accounts in that country, or showing guaranteed lifelong income from a pension fund. There are also countries which allow retired foreign residents to purchase property or invest in businesses to gain permanent or temporary residency. YOu want to look under their "apply for settlement" rules and regs, or the "UK ancestry visa", not "tourist visas".
posted by poffin boffin at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sorry, no, I think perhaps the UK ancestry visa is only for people from Commonwealth nations.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2014


I'm pretty sure you can live wherever you want. The residency thing comes into play when you start hitting up the government for stuff, like healthcare, permission to work, etc.

Here's the official website.

It seems Ireland might be a good bet.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2014


If they invest €250,000 in "residency bonds" from the Hungarian government, they'll be offered Hungarian passports, which would entitle them to live anywhere in the European Union. Here's a Reuters article on this. And here are some more details. The 250k is returned to you after five years and you can keep the passport.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:54 AM on September 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


Spain is currently issuing residency visas for people buying property over a certain value.

If one of their children was legally living in the EU, they might be able to reside in the same country, if they can prove they are dependent on you. This generally only applies if you're their caretaker though.

Many EU countries also allow a long-term tourist visa if you can prove that you can financially support yourself while there. This does not generally qualify one for any social programs, however. Germany will not issue a visa without proof of adequate health coverage (travel medical insurance does not usually meet the requirements).

If they still have a number of years until retirement, maybe they can look into having one of their employers relocate them to the UK. After 5 years, I believe you can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Like most things, this is a problem that can be solved with sufficient wealth.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:03 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure you can live wherever you want.

If you overstay a Schengen tourist visa, and are caught, you will be fined and barred from entering the Schengen area for a period of several years. This will affect the ability to get future visas from Schengen and non-Schengen countries.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2014 [17 favorites]


I'm pretty sure you can live wherever you want. The residency thing comes into play when you start hitting up the government for stuff, like healthcare, permission to work, etc.

No it's not, you really do need permission just for living here regardless. That's what residency means. All that other stuff needs extra permission as well, but a third-nation citizen can't just turn up and stay in any EU country as long as they want without involving the Government somehow (I'm non-EU and have lived in Ireland and Germany btw). I'm not saying it's not possible to live here because it clearly is and it might not even be difficult, but it's not some kind of default right to live in a country you don't have citizenship in even if you can support yourself.

Getting EU citizenship would be the easiest thing, it makes all the other problems go away. Then you really can go and live and work anywhere you want in the EU. So I'd investigate that option first.

The UK used to have good details online about all their immigration and residency options but I've noticed the new website is a lot less detailed. That's still the first place to start looking though as it theoretically has the definitive word on the rules. There should be info there about where to ask for more specific information depending on your location and circumstances.

This is the similar website for Germany. I found it moderately useful before moving here but also not very detailed. It should give some ideas of what to start looking at though.
posted by shelleycat at 10:09 AM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


Oh also the term to research for your points three and four is 'family reunification'. There are rules allowing this in certain situations, slightly different for the UK or for Schengen areas, but I don't know how or if they would apply to your parents.
posted by shelleycat at 10:14 AM on September 30, 2014


Germany will not issue a visa without proof of adequate health coverage (travel medical insurance does not usually meet the requirements).

However, the cost of purchasing private (non govt provided) health insurance in many european nations is often very reasonable, especially compared to US health insurance costs.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:16 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Agreeing with everyone else: easiest way forward is if they can get an EU passport. Lots of problems go away then.

The new gov.uk website sucks, but I seem to remember that living as a non-Brit EU-passport holder pretty much didn't raise any flags unless you started drawing on certain benefits...
(Found it! Using the Internet Archive)
Public funds:
You do not need to work while you are living in the UK. But if you do not work, you must be able to support yourself and your family in the UK without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds.


They will also want to consult with a lawyer or financial adviser about how to manage their retirement funds and taxes. As US citizens, they will still be responsible to file US taxes every year - however, they would unlikely have to pay any.

The UK, and many other European countries, take non compliance of residency rules very seriously, like the US. I have an Australian friend who overstayed a year without a visa - he had to leave under a big kerfuffle.
posted by troytroy at 10:26 AM on September 30, 2014


It might be ok in the short term but with politics going the way it is I think these sorts of arrangements are going to get a lot tighter over the coming years (for all but the very wealthy, I suspect)

It wouldn't be much fun to be involved in a car accident and need to rely on an NHS service that has you down as a "benefits tourist" or the victim of a crime when the police see you as an "illegal immigrant" US passport or no.
posted by Middlemarch at 10:40 AM on September 30, 2014


(1) if they bought property in the UK rather than rented, and/or

I believe rmhsinc is an American who is resident in Ireland at least 6 months a year, and I vaguely remember this is the mechanism in play. He would be worth asking about this option.

(5) if my mom were able to get EU citizenship from her grandfather, who came to the US during the interwar years?

It is extremely unlikely she is eligible, but should she be successful, the outcome will vary. In Ireland your dad would be immediately eligible for residency. In the UK, he would not and would have to apply from the US.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:44 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are many books on the subject. I'm not familiar with them, but How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well (for Less) Abroad is an Amazon best-seller. Here's a page of links from AARP.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:34 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Re: the Hungary solution-- when you invest in the bonds there, you get a residency visa. This can be converted into a permanent residency card/passport after six months. What this permanent residency card does is allows you to move freely among the Schengen countries, as well as to live and work in Hungary.

It does *not* automatically qualify you to purchase property and live in any other Schengen country, however.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:11 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


the US embassy in Vienna provides this summary and overview with links

This is an Austrian government website
What they would need for Austria is a on the Permanent Residence Permit

Generally speeaking it is not at all advisable to remain in the so called Schengen countries once your tourist visa expires.
I am quite sure the UK is no different form Austria in that regard, especially if you want to take up residency it is not advisable at all to ignore those regulations and jeopardize future reentry.
posted by 15L06 at 1:32 PM on September 30, 2014


leave every couple of months for a quick trip to the Continent and back, so that they wouldn't overstay their 3- or 6-month limit (if they're on a tourist visa)? Is this allowed?

This was a method a lot of Americans I met in Vienna in the 80s and 90s used. They lived in Vienna, rented a flat etc, but went to Bratislava every three month. It worked until Austria became part of the Schengen agreement in 1995, and is now illegal.
posted by 15L06 at 1:45 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have spent two (discontinuous) years living in France, each time on a long-stay visa for nonprofessional purposes. This is a one-year visa that requires proof of income, medical insurance, and lack of a criminal record, as well as a reason for being in France that is acceptable to consular authorities. (In my case, it was sabbatical research in French libraries and archives, but I have heard that retirement is usually acceptable as long as you have sufficient resources.) At the end of the year (or, more accurately, about 4 months before the visa expires), you can apply for a residence permit (titre de séjour) that is renewable annually, as long as you continue to meet the initial requirements and have not gotten in trouble with the law.

You can't get around the 3-month limit (Schengen) or 6-month limit (UK) with short trips abroad. Technically you are supposed to stay away for the same time before a subsequent short-entry visa may be issued. UK border officials can be quite nosy these days if they suspect someone is trying to circumvent the rules, as I discovered in 2012 when I did a couple of trips to the UK from Paris.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:46 PM on September 30, 2014


P.S. I know the question was about the UK, Germany, or Austria, but I imagine that other EU countries have similar nonprofessional long-term visas/residence permits.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:46 PM on September 30, 2014


Although things may always change, the UK is one of the hardest countries to get into now. There have been a lot of immigration changes recently to make it even tougher. This makes some of the answers above, wrong or outdated.

Ruthless Bunny links to a UK site where you can renew your existing retirement visa. The distinction is important. The UK eliminated the retirement visa category in 2008.

melissaurus mentions that "maybe they can look into having one of their employers relocate them to the UK. After 5 years, I believe you can apply for indefinite leave to remain." but the Tier 2 - Inter-Company transfer route explicitly does not lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain. That route was cutoff in 2010.

The larger problem is that immigration rules are constantly in flux. By the time your parents retire existing routes may be eliminated and new routes may appear. The only sound advice I can give is:

1) Save as much as they can. The size of bank accounts/savings will always be looked at to decide if they will not be an excessive burden on the state.
2) Retain proof of income/finances starting now. Historical proof that they have been living independently will always help the case.
3) Get EU citizenship if they can get it through ancestry. This will allow them to live anywhere in Europe and even use the available healthcare systems. Establishing residency in only one country (e.g. Spain) as a non-EU national will not necessarily allow you to move about in Europe.
posted by vacapinta at 2:57 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


However, the cost of purchasing private (non govt provided) health insurance in many european nations is often very reasonable, especially compared to US health insurance costs

For a little perspective, I had private health insurance in Spain from 2009-2012, and as a woman in her late 20s, it came to less than 300€... a year.

My 65-year-old mother-in-law's insurance isn't much more expensive. Everything in Germany costs more than it does in Spain, so give or take a hundred euros.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 4:21 AM on October 1, 2014


Really, do not overstay on a Shengen visa. I've bent the rules in a country that makes it easy to do so, but Europe really does pay attention and it will screw with you later if you want to keep traveling.
posted by Che boludo! at 5:26 AM on October 1, 2014


Yellowcandy's notes on the Hungary thing are correct. Apparently, the initial plan changed quite a bit and, had I read my own second link in its entirety, I'd have seen that. The other big change from the initial plan is that it now costs 300,000 euro. You get 250k back after five years. So basically, you give the Hungarian government 50,000 euro and loan them 250,000k interest-free for five years and you get a permit to live and work In Hungary and you can travel freely within the Schengen countries.

Not quite as awesome as originally billed. But living in Budpest doesn't sound bad AT ALL.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2014


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