Where to go? Immigration to Europe.
January 18, 2017 12:30 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I would like to move with our infant son to Europe for at least ten years if not forever. Which (preferentially Western European) countries are considered relatively simple to migrate to? Details inside the fold. TIA!

For various reasons, this instinctively feels like the right decision for our family. My boyfriend and I are willing to sacrifice a few creature comforts for this potentially new chapter of our lives. Our goal is to have my work (scientist at a biotech) transfer me to the country of choice, and then after a few months my husband/ infant son would join me. The specific countries we would consider would (ideally) have the following or some combination of the following in order of importance.

1. Relatively uncomplicated immigration laws/ requirements For example, Denmark/ Norway are challenging, prohibitive immigrant environments, and I would not want to waste too much time attempting to settle there with family (please correct me if I am wrong in assuming this.) My company has a pretty extensive European presence, so I'm not too restricted. They also allow some remote work.

2. My boyfriend (he works in hospitality management and will be my spouse by then) being able to find work as the spouse of an immigrant worker. Migrating would likely be a dealbreaker if this is not possible.

3. Cost of living lower or comparable to Southern California (for reference, we live comfortably in San Diego.) We will be a single-income family until my boyfriend is able to find work.

4. Immigrant access to subsidized healthcare, childcare and other benefits.

5. We are a South Asian/ African American, US citizen family, and would prefer to raise our son in a diverse, metropolitan city that is largely... inclusive.

6. What considerations would you factor in when you begin to plan a move like this with a child? My boyfriend and son would move back to his hometown where he still has family so he'll have help with childcare while I work until I'm able to move them over. What other things should we consider outside of inexpensive childcare help and savings?

I understand that we live right now in a state of heightened tension where immigration is concerned. We are giving ourselves two years to see this through. Other Western countries like Australia (too far) and Canada (I grew up there, not interested) are out. Weather is not really an issue. I've looked at other questions on here but not too many reference immigration with family.

Thank you in advance, MeFites! I appreciate your honesty, insight, and personal anecdotes as these are much more useful than reading government webpages on immigration.
posted by Everydayville to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just to be clear, you're talking about moving, and then marrying your boyfriend (turning him into your husband), and that this is a son that you have together, right? Not a polyamorous arrangement with a boyfriend and a husband as separate people, and the son belonging to you and the husband? That's what I assumed at first. But then you said there was a boyfriend and son...and I got confused about how many sons there were.
posted by spelunkingplato at 1:04 PM on January 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


That comment made me giggle a little at how complicated that sounds. My boyfriend and are planning to get married soon, well before we move. We have one son together. So yes, one man and one boy.
posted by Everydayville at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


I would suggest you do not currently want to transfer to the UK, which is basically going full Trump and is pretty scary at the moment.

Our goal is to have my work (scientist at a biotech) transfer me to the country of choice

If your company is willing to transfer you, this is all a lot easier. You don't need anything close to a two year timeline; a couple of months is enough time. You could come to Ireland, for example; if you and your partner were married, he would be eligible to work immediately as a spouse. We have a very large hospitality industry. So that's #1 and #2. In terms of #3, the cost in Dublin would be slightly less; anywhere outside of Dublin would be vastly cheaper than San Diego. However, outside of Dublin #5 is more of an issue as there is less diversity. Having said that, we live in Cork and my Black friend from the US who was here for 8 years and just moved again says this is the least racist city she's ever lived in.

My boyfriend and son would move back to his hometown where he still has family so he'll have help with childcare while I work until I'm able to move them over.

I don't really understand this. It isn't necessary. Why not move together and your partner looks for childcare and a job at the same time? Is he unable to care for your son on his own for some reason?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2017 [13 favorites]


I would suggest you do not currently want to transfer to the UK, which is basically going full Trump and is pretty scary at the moment.

I'd humbly suggest that's true of England, but Scotland remains relatively civilised despite being dragged along clinging to the tail of its crazy horse neighbour. Other corners I can't speak for (am English born & raised, living in Scotland for past 9 years).
posted by penguin pie at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2017 [6 favorites]


Does your husband speak a European language other than English? If his ability to find (meaningful?) work is the deal breaker you suggest, you may find your list of countries and locales heavily restricted.
posted by ryanbryan at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


I don't really understand this. It isn't necessary. Why not move together and your partner looks for childcare and a job at the same time? Is he unable to care for your son on his own for some reason?

That would be in the event that I had to work overseas for a few months before I could get them over - I know with some countries the migrant worker goes first and is only able to bring family over after 6 months, etc. He would continue to work in the States to add to our savings, and thus we'd need childcare in the interim. Will stop threadsitting now!
posted by Everydayville at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2017


I had good experiences with the German immigration officials, as a foreign (non EU) student in a small Bavarian town. All along, I felt like it was comprehensible, clear and predictable (not arbitrary, not kafkaesque at all) in terms of the bureaucracy that was involved. I know that other MeFites have had different experiences, but this is mine. Now, incoming foreign workers are subject to a different vetting process than students, so my experience does not compare with 1:1 yours and YMMV. Oh, and depending on the job, you/your spouse may need to speak some German or their permit may be conditional on their taking a certain number of German classes on arrival (it was the case for a friend of mine).

1. Especially if you have a job offer, it is very possible for skilled workers from the US (this link actually has a number you can call to speak to a real person who can help you) to get a residency/work permit (called "Aufenthaltstitel"). They require the job offer to be above a minimum pay grade, and the Federal Employment Agency (AA) needs to give their approval. Here is a good source/manual in English from the German Federal Employment Agency. On page 7 and after you will find the criteria the AA uses to issue these permits, and it's easiest if the job is on this list.

2. You are allowed to immigrate with dependents and your spouse is entitled to get their own work permit after you have yours (p. 28 of the BAMF manual).

3. After almost ten years in Germany, it has been a huge shock to move to the Canadian Pacific in terms of cost of living. I can't speak for California, but I have the distinct feeling that in Germany it is waaaay easier to live with less than in BC.

4. Immigrant access to subsidized health care is definitely an awesome thing in Germany. If you're someone who's in awe of Canada, you'll be moved to tears by the German system. Workers (yes, even foreigners) with a regular (not "minijob") contract are entitled to the standard subsidized health care coverage, half of which is paid by your employer. I don't think it's even legal to opt out of this. If you make more than a certain amount (it used to be €40.000 a year, but it may have changed), you have the option to get private health insurance instead, which works a little differently (you pay in advance and get reimbursed), but it gives you a better hospital/doctor experience in general.

Now, about childcare, I just don't know. I had no personal experience with it, so I'll leave it to other MeFites to answer.

5. Yes, some Germans can be racist, but it's not something I encountered on a regular basis, even as a visible foreigner in my conservative, small Bavarian town. Berlin is awesome, Frankfurt is multicolored, even Düsseldorf/Köln/Essen are exceptionally diverse. If you choose well, you can live in the city of your dreams.

In sum, I think you will find Germany at least worth exploring as an option. With all the ups and downs, I loved my time in Germany and still miss a lot of the best things about it. Good luck and all the best to you and your family!
posted by ipsative at 1:47 PM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


That would be in the event that I had to work overseas for a few months before I could get them over - I know with some countries the migrant worker goes first and is only able to bring family over after 6 months, etc.

I believe you are confusing legal immigration with refugee status.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


How comfortable are you with languages? That would be a big part of the decision, I imagine? I basically think Barcelona is the best place ever, so yeah, that would be my choice. Except it's not really that diverse. There are probably jobs in hospitality though!

And don't rule out London! It's an amazingly inclusive, diverse city that is not Trump-like at all, and it's basically it's own fiefdom in the UK (others can correct me on this, but that's how it feels to me.) It's just prohibitively expensive, but if you're OK in San Diego, you could make it work. I like the idea of Edinburgh, which is lovely and cheaper than London (though still pricey). The weather shock would be huge from San Diego though.

Would also suggest Dublin, and while I love Ireland, it's not particularly inclusive in my opinion -- easy to make acquaintances, more difficult to make friends, and not particularly diverse as a city.

I would also consider moving as a family, unless there's something else I'm missing? It would really be hard on both of you, and it might be nicer to tackle the new adventure as a team when you first arrive.
posted by caoimhe at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think stating the UK has gone "Full Trump" is somewhat sensationalist. The Brexit situation is emotive at the moment, but it's still a prosperous, safe and tolerant country and I believe will continue to be (I'm a remain-er btw). At the moment it is difficult to get a working visa if you are non EU, as successive governments have tried to cap immigration in the face of freedom of movement from the EU. That will probably change in your favour after Brexit however.

You'd need to look at the Tier 2 visas here. You can get sponsored by your company, and have to earn roughly $30k or more. If you can't get sponsored then you are out of luck I think. You can bring dependents as well from day one, and I'm pretty sure they are allowed to work.

The major cities are multicultural, safe and vibrant. There is no gun crime. Each non EU adult pays I think about $300 a year for unlimited access to healthcare (the NHS). This is a high quality system, and totally free at the point of use, but is no-frills and waiting times can be long. Your child will have completely free healthcare and schooling until 18. Schools can be patchy, especially in London, but are generally of a decent standard internationally.

Downsides? Brexit uncertainties. Most British people are reserved and appear initially unfriendly. And the weather! If you're coming from SoCal it will take a lot of adjustment. Think 5+ days of continuous grey, overcast, damp weather followed by maybe a couple of days of sun. And that's just summer! We're used to it, but when I was at college we had an exchange student from California for a term. After a couple of months the weather got to him and became really quite depressed.
posted by derbs at 2:38 PM on January 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


Is there a particular reason you have chosen the EU? Have you been there? Worked there? I'll say that all EU countries have roughly similar immigration requirements when you boil it down as the EU requires them to mostly. And tbh you won't find as multi cultural a city as San Diego in the EU. I'm an EU citizen and I know people will argue but I have lived in SoCal and several places in Europe and I don't think you will. You don't say why you want to move but it would help a lot if you did. There are ethnically diverse cities in the EU for sure but that doesn't make them liberal or tolerant in the way you seem to be looking for?
posted by fshgrl at 3:06 PM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


I chose the EU because it is relatively close to the east coast of the United States, where both my boyfriend and I have family. And yes, I spent three years of high school in the UK and loved it, but I have no network there currently. As I mentioned earlier, Australia or Asia are too far from our families.

I'm hesitant to go into details on why we want to move there as it could potentially devolve into a debate on which country is better, etc. Suffice it to say that both my boyfriend and I believe that many kids growing up in educated families in Europe and even in Asia have a global perspective and an awareness of their place in the world as global citizens that we see as beneficial. This may sound elitist and pretentious, but it is in no way meant to imply that all European children are super cool global citizens, or that American kids are the opposite. I speak from personal experience when I say that having been raised and educated in Europe and Asia before moving to the U.S for college has given me immense social and educational benefit. In the course of his hospitality career, my boyfriend has also worked with individuals that have a background similar to mine, and we'd like to give our son that exposure. I speak French and Spanish as well as two languages native to my motherland, and that sort of immersive experience is important to us as a family. Finally, there's Trump and if nothing else, I'd prefer not to spend the next few years in a country controlled by Republicans, waiting for a horrendous recession. Europe isn't perfect, I know.

As for San Diego... I'm not sure how long you lived here, but even many Americans who move to SD from say, Northern California, or progressive Midwest or East coast cities will say that SD quickly becomes utterly stifling and boring. It is a mostly conservative, military city. It is definitely not as diverse as, say, LA (I lived there for 13 years), or New York or Chicago. If we didn't move to the EU, we 100% would plan on moving out of San Diego to somewhere more progressive, in all sense of the word.
posted by Everydayville at 3:24 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


As (sort of) stated above, anywhere within the EU will welcome you if you meet the visa requirements, and you should be able to bring along your family right away if you earn a living wage.
Also, anywhere you would like to live in Europe will be relatively expensive compared to almost anywhere in the US. On the other side, everywhere has healthcare for everyone if you have work, and there are good schools almost everywhere.
You will earn more in Northern Europe, but costs will be higher, too.
In Europe, it's a lot like in the US: the larger cities are more liberal and more diverse. For instance, in the "Øresund" region, comprising Southern Sweden and Eastern Denmark, diversity is valued and racism is rare. Same with London, obviously, and Edinburgh, and the whole metropolitan area in The Netherlands, and Bruxelles.
In France and Germany, you need to speak the languages. And though I love Berlin and it is filled with expats, I feel Munich is somehow more open to immigrants who are settling: it's a paradox, but I think it can be explained, in Berlin they feel overrun by expats from all countries, and the Berliners tend to isolate themselves. In Munich, they are more conservative, but when you are in, you are in.
Paris is a truly diverse city, but it is harsh. I'm not certain you will find what you are looking for there, but in a way, that goes for London too. Maybe it is because I see it as a European value that we can take our time, listen to one another, see our kids, not just race on all the time. In France, maybe look at Lyon.
Because of Brexit, things will change: maybe Dublin will become a much more international city, or maybe Frankfurt will. Maybe Spain will become more attractive than it is now, from an economic perspective, or maybe they will spiral down, depending on how trade and tourism relations with the UK develop. (I agree that Barcelona is an amazing place to be and probably also live, but Spain has not yet recovered from the crash).
Since you are in biotech, Switzerland is a realistic option. One of my friends just moved there and is very happy. Switzerland is great in many ways, but it is extremely expensive and very little happens there. With a small child, you might not need things to happen, and you may well get a wage that meets the costs of living.
posted by mumimor at 5:10 PM on January 18, 2017


I would move to Copenhagen if possible. And it's probably not possible but that would be my choice because Danes are happy. And they have great benefits. And then I would go find an American women's club so I could meet some Americans because probably the Danes would never talk to me. At least, when I lived in Sweden none of my friends with two exceptions were ever Swedish because Swedes are hard to make friends with. But I hear that's true of Seattle as well.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:52 PM on January 18, 2017


I think if you could tell us to what countries your existing company could transfer you, you might get more helpful answers. The EU is 27 countries so you're not going to get a good picture of life with a random sampling of answers to your questions.

The unifying theme is that a work transfer to an EU country is quite straight-forward. The company applies on your behalf in the host nation and you supply some documentation. Your spouse can get a dependent visa allowing him to work. The process is a matter of weeks not years. Your family can immigrate with you; the EU recognises the natural rights of the family. After 5 years, you can apply for residency for your family that is not tied to your job.

Individually, countries will vary on the details that are important to you. In Ireland for example, we have a public health service but your job will probably also come with private health insurance on top of that. Costs are fiddly to compare because for example, you will get €140 per month in child benefit and there is no US equivilant to compare that to. You will also get one free year of daycare (creche). You can also have an au pair here, which costs you about €100 per week after room and board. I know more than one family who have opted for a 3-bedroom home over a 2-bedroom home as the cost difference is far less than the savings from having a live-in au pair.

If you are working for a company like Pfizer, further information depends enormously on which Pfizer site you might transfer to. Ireland is big on biotech and there are 7 Pfizer sites across the country. The fact that Dublin has a non-Irish born population of 15% makes zero difference if you're in Sligo. The same is going to be true for France, Germany, etc; I assume you can't just live anywhere in any country where your company has offices.

This would also be true for the UK of course. Again with a company like Pfizer, what life is like in London is irrelevant if you're in the research facility in Sandwich, Kent. And, as correctly pointed out, a posting to Scotland, Wales or NI would be very different than one in England.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:02 AM on January 19, 2017 [5 favorites]


1. Relatively uncomplicated immigration laws/ requirements
The Netherlands might be an option for you because of the highly skilled migrant program. It requires you to have a job offer that meets certain requirements, including minimum salary. The process is straightforward because, for the most part, it's handled between the employer and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (the IND).

2. My boyfriend (he works in hospitality management and will be my spouse by then) being able to find work as the spouse of an immigrant worker.
If you are approved as a highly-skilled migrant, he can apply for a residence permit that authorizes him to work anywhere (no minimum salary requirement or anything). However, he might have trouble finding work in the hospitality industry without being able to speak Dutch.

3. Cost of living lower or comparable to Southern California (for reference, we live comfortably in San Diego.)
From what I've seen, cost of living is slightly lower in Amsterdam than in San Diego; the same probably goes for the other big Dutch cities. It would be even less in smaller cities/towns because housing is cheaper than in the large cities.

4. Immigrant access to subsidized healthcare, childcare and other benefits.
No restrictions there.

5. We are a South Asian/ African American, US citizen family, and would prefer to raise our son in a diverse, metropolitan city that is largely... inclusive.
Dutch cities are... medium-inclusive, I guess? Not as diverse as someplace like London or Paris. It might help to see if there are groups on Facebook or other sites where you can connect with people in similar situations and talk about their experiences.

6. What considerations would you factor in when you begin to plan a move like this with a child?
I didn't immigrate with a child, but based on the experiences of people I've known, a factor to consider is the type of school you want your child to attend (public, private, religious, English-immersion, etc.).
posted by neushoorn at 5:58 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


Hopefully-not-too-bitter 2 cents: this is all going to depend on your job and where they are willing to transfer you and what relocation services they have in place already. You should be talking to HR and not some internet strangers in order to assess how feasible such a transfer is :)

Then it's about your husband's language and intercultural coping skills. As I am sure you already know, it is harder to get a job as an immigrant than someone who already has cultural competencies, networks, and experience in that country. And that's if you're fluent. The same, I imagine, would be true of you switching biotech firms.
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2017


Please don't take this as any kind of praise for the current state of US race relations (weeps)... but I would also underline that European multiculturalism / diversity is very different than in the U.S. (I write about this and so does Flavia Dzodan and so does David Theo Goldberg and Grada Kilomba) "Inclusive, open minded" Berlin is demographically by far the least diverse place I have lived, including 6 years in San Diego. And in many ways, the most racist. Sure, there's no military presence, but there are a lot of people asking "where are you from?" and weird looks and not feeling safe in small towns. My brown husband grew out his beard and was asked every single day over the Christmas holiday if he was a Syrian refugee, point blank, on the subway. Data point.
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:30 AM on January 19, 2017 [4 favorites]


Finland is okay to move to if you can show that you have a job & can support yourself financially (and don't mind winter). We have free schools, health care, dope maternity leave, and are hella safe & clean etc. (but these pretty much apply to Sweden, Norway and Denmark? ..Iceland?) but. BUT. Finns cannot, for the life of them, tell a Chilean from a Syrian. like if you head over to a smaller town. So there's that. It's also dark as fuck a lot of the time. maybe these two things are connected (Helsinki isn't that bad)

Aand as far as i can tell, studying in uni might not be free in the future, and they are working on tightening immigration laws – so if you wanna head over, do it quick!

There is also France, which is just amazeballs in so many ways, but i have no idea how it is to actually live there. Luxembourg is right next door, small and full of banks, and gets overlooked, but i like how you can always leave and go visit 3 countries in no time. I would also consider moving to Croatia, but i'm weird.

Was going to say that generally, Europe is in a bit of an upheaval at the moment, but then i remember what day it is tomorrow, so ..um. yes.
posted by speakeasy at 9:29 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


Lots of things to think about here, thanks everyone!

Does your husband speak a European language other than English? If his ability to find (meaningful?) work is the deal breaker you suggest, you may find your list of countries and locales heavily restricted.

This. Somehow, this factor slipped through the cracks. He can muster up some Italian from when he lived there with his military stepdad. We are definitely restricted, and even though he's willing to learn a new language, fluency is an issue.

I think if you could tell us to what countries your existing company could transfer you, you might get more helpful answers.

My position is such that, were I to pick a sales office that doesn't have a branch of my department, I could work remotely and check in on a monthly basis at one of the larger offices in England, the Netherlands, and Germany. Almost everyone in my department, including our VP, works remotely - some even from Beijing. Off the top of my head, we have sales offices in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Glasgow, Dublin, Oslo, Paris, Lisbon, Zurich, and a few others.

this is all going to depend on your job and where they are willing to transfer you and what relocation services they have in place already

Yes, it does, and please take me at my word when I say that the company is very flexible and I have friends and coworkers that have ended up in the craziest places thanks to a very open-minded management and HR group. This is the least of my concerns, and something I've talked about extensively with HR and others that have moved.

"Inclusive, open minded" Berlin is demographically by far the least diverse place I have lived, including 6 years in San Diego

Sigh. I was hoping that this wasn't true, but it looks like some others have echoed similar sentiments. I've traveled extensively in the EU, and the only place I felt... isolated... was deep in eastern Europe - Lithuania, etc. OTOH, when I traveled with a black friend in Berlin, Prague and Warsaw, she said she felt 'invisible'. I thought perhaps this was a one-off occurrence, as this person also hated London and I have black friends who adore London, but perhaps she's on to something.

I truly appreciate all of these responses. My favorite part of Europe is Scandinavia, but I do agree that living there rather than just visiting is a whole different beast. It saddens me slightly to realize that if we weren't POC, this move may have been a bit less challenging. Mind you, we are still evaluating feasibility. If things weren't going to be optimal for our son, then we'd probably move to New York (our ideal U.S city is Manhattan, although cost is somewhat prohibitive, so we may live about an hour north where there are jobs for me.)

Thanks again!
posted by Everydayville at 11:51 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


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