Project Get-Away-From-North-America
February 4, 2008 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 21 year old Canadian considering moving to Europe, and I'm mostly looking at Germany. What difficulties might I face? Which country might be the easiest to get a EU citizenship in?

I have an incomplete Computer Science degree. Would it be worth completing if my goal is an EU citizenship? Might there be a skilled trade that might be in higher demand, and have better job security? I'm just sticking my toes in the water at this point.
posted by radgardener to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
First thing to do is to check if you have any recent european ancestors (grandparents). For some countries, such as Ireland, it could get you an "automatic" citizenship.
posted by bluefrog at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2008

As a Canadian, isn't there some freedom to immigrate to England through the Commonwealth?
posted by Reverend John at 8:01 AM on February 4, 2008

British citizen here. The UK has a Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, as do most European countries. A college degree is an enormous plus (without it, it's very difficult to get the required 'points' to get into the programme), but you'll also need an in-demand or very rare skill of some kind to be considered for it.

Your other options in the UK are to find work with a UK company who will get you a work permit (pretty difficult from what I understand, it's a chicken and egg thing, you need the offer to get the visa, but you need the visa to get job offers), or to marry a British citizen.

My understanding is that most of the original EU countries (France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands etc) are similar. You may have more success in emerging countries that have recently joined the EU such as Poland, where your skills would be comparatively more in-demand, although pay and living conditions would be very different.

Regardless, if you gain citizenship in an EU country (which in the UK at least you can do after five years living here on HSMP or a work permit, or three years if you marry) then you are pretty much free to work and live anywhere in the EU, although every country has slightly different rules governing things like access to government services, voting and so on.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:13 AM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Only as bluefrog says above, Rev John. I was able to get a work visa there with my grandma's UK birth certificate.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:13 AM on February 4, 2008

If you go on a student exchange you may be able to get a better idea of how you like someplace and make some contacts before moving there permanently. I expect it will be much simpler and chaper for you to finish your degree in Canada. Alternately, see if you can transfer to a European university on a student visa. As a "local" graduate you will probably find it easier to find work opportunities and then you can see about getting a work visa or permanent resident status.
posted by GuyZero at 8:16 AM on February 4, 2008

As a Canadian, isn't there some freedom to immigrate to England through the Commonwealth?

Sort of, but only if you have a British grandparent.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:17 AM on February 4, 2008

Canada and the UK have a bilateral agreement for working holiday programs which you could look into.
posted by chromatist at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2008

What GuyZero said. In some places (for example, Scotland), once you graduate it will be easier to continue.
posted by grouse at 8:44 AM on February 4, 2008

I recently completed the German immigration process as a software engineer with a company sponsoring me, and I didn't get the impression that it would be very easy, or even possible, if you don't already have a job offer and many years of experience. While Germany is desperate for software engineers, at least according to Computerwoche, I'm not sure they're desperate for fresh college grads from foreign countries.

The biggest part of the process as a non-EU citizen is the labor market test, where the government determines if you're 'stealing' a job from a local. Part of that is proving that you have specialized skills that the hiring company simply can't find in the EU, and if you don't have a degree, you need to get reference letters that back up your claims of specialized skills. So to save yourself a headache, completing your degree should definitely be the first step regardless of which country you end up attempting to migrate to.
posted by cmonkey at 8:55 AM on February 4, 2008

working holiday programs

There are A LOT of programs like this, for a whole bunch of countries. Pick one.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:57 AM on February 4, 2008

Funny. Our tv programme seem to consist mainly of shows about people wanting to leave our country, sometimes even to Canada(!).
If you could just give us some of the reasons you might want to come to germany some of us might give you some constructive feedback. Like in 'IT'S NOT AS GOOD AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE'. :)
On a side note, how hard is it to migrate to Canada? Can't we just switch places? :)
posted by Nightwind at 8:59 AM on February 4, 2008

As an American emigrating to Canada, I can say that having a degree is makes the process much easier, unless you've already got a citizen spouse lined up.

I came to Canada for graduate school and upon finishing, was able to use the contacts I'd maDe to line up a job. Once you've got a job, immigration is much easier. You might be able to do the same, either via student exchange or a working holiday.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:03 AM on February 4, 2008

If you could just give us some of the reasons you might want to come to germany some of us might give you some constructive feedback

This is a good point - make sure you spend lots of time in the area you intend to move to. I can see certain regions in Germany not being for everyone.
posted by cmonkey at 9:06 AM on February 4, 2008

Nightwind, maybe you guys could meet at an airport and swap passports.

An Irish parent or grandparent qualifies you for Irish citizenship, and so many people want these passports that the consulates have clear information about the steps available on their websites and at their receptions. Give them a call if this situation applies. Having said that, there is a large number of people living and working in Ireland who have been waiting several years for citizenship, including many from places like Nigeria for whom an Irish passport will make a huge difference to their ability to move around the world, so I don't think anyone should be jumping over them in the line unless they really want to contribute to the country.

Ireland also has a visa category called "highly needed professions" or some such , including some in the IT arena, and I know eirjobs has posted that info in the past. This, however, will not help you move to Germany.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:07 AM on February 4, 2008

Best answer: I looked into the Highly Skilled Migrant Program and it isn't that easy to get in. Previous salary plays a huge role, so if your most recent job paid a lot (as in 100k+) then it will help you, otherwise it probably won't. Programmers are kinda a dime a dozen these days, you really do need something to set you apart, starting at least with a degree.

That being said, I do know someone who had very good German who was able to get a job teaching English through some kind of program there. He's settled in but I'm not sure if he's planning on citizenship just yet.

All that being said, it was hard for many of my friends coming out of grad school to get decent jobs, and they were EU citizens. Now, obviously they were in a field that is kind of popular -- international relations -- and as a result (particularly in London, it seems) there are a glut of workers and not enough positions to go around (even unpaid internships at NGOs are fiercely competitive).

I'd think long and hard about why you want to become an EU citizen. There may be advantages to continuing to live in Canada, saving up money, and then living in another country for a while. If you do end up being clever in computer science, you can always become a freelance programmer and do all your work over the Internet while overseas. If you choose a cheap locale you might only have to work half of a work week to make ends meet, and you can spend the rest of the time exploring the locale and learning the language. All you have to do is leave the country when your visa expires, and then come back. There are also always options for visa extensions, etc. Once overseas you can also begin to make connections which may lead to a job, and, ultimately, citizenship.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:16 AM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

If one of your ancestors moved immigrated from Italy after 1850, you are eligible for Italian citizenship.
posted by koeselitz at 9:48 AM on February 4, 2008

posted by koeselitz at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2008

Latvia and Estonia are your friends
posted by A189Nut at 10:17 AM on February 4, 2008

The Italian citizenship issue is much more complicated than merely descending from someone who emigrated after 1850. Your ancestors through whom you derive your claim can't have naturalized before they passed the citizenship down to their children; women were unable to pass citizenship to their children before 1948; and you have to be able to prove and document everything to the satisfaction of the consulate.
I had a fairly straightforward case and it still took me seven years, start to finish, to get my Italian passport. It involved one proof of name change, amending my mother's birth certificate, and several trips to the consulate. More than half of my cousins are ineligible for citizenship through this ancestor because their parents were born before 1948 and our grandmother couldn't pass citizenship on to them.
posted by katemonster at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am a software engineer who is finishing up completing the same thing you're looking into now. I was looking at Ireland, the UK, and Germany. It turned out that's in increasing order of difficulty.

Ireland has a program called the 'Green Card'. There are a lot of immigrants in Dublin now and the economy has been doing great.

In the UK, the HSMP point-based programme is good but for this you will need the degree. You get extra points for being young which will offset the salary requirements. Your last yearly salary matters, so one way to go about this is to work for a Canadian software company for a year, then apply for the HSMP. When I did the math last June, it seemed like it was a high but reachable bar. (Since then the US dollar tanking and me getting a year older I think disqualified me, which is funny when I think about it)

I am (knock on wood) going to be working in Germany once my paperwork is approved. I think I was very very lucky to find work. Unemployment here is high and they don't pre-approve candidates. You need to get a contract for a German company and have them sponsor you, for a position that cannot be filled by a EU citizen. There are opportunities -- there is an overall shortage of IT workers so IT jobs are out there somewhere. Nonetheless, I found finding one difficult despite having a college degree, having 10 years of experience, and speaking conversational German. I think it will be very hard otherwise.

I found this page (even though it's US) moderately helpful. Well, more encouraging then helpful. I suspect it may be easier to get a job in North America with a multinational company, esp. a German company like SAP or Siemens, and get transferred.

Another possibility, especially since you are still considering school, is teaching English. I know a few people who are doing that here -- but the catch is, they got experience teaching English overseas first. And one person I know isn't teaching English as a second language, she is teaching regular subjects in an English language school. So, you can do the English teaching route, but many people speak decent English here already and the demand is for good teachers and not just anybody who speaks English. However, this is absolutely a job that most other EU citizens cannot compete for. If you want to study education and get certified, I think this is the easiest way for a young person without professional experience to get a work visa, aside from hitting the geneology jackpot.
posted by cotterpin at 2:07 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a friend in Germany on IAESTE. It's a program for technical/science students through university (all canadian ones), and they get you a job for a year and a visa. You do have to be in school though, or just graduated. If that's not for you, look into SWAP Canada. It's definitely the most popular option, they include tons of countries and some of the (working) visa's last up to 2 years. And you don't have to be in school! I say look into this and try it for a while, you might not want to make the move permanent.

Another thing, do you speak german? I don't hold out much hope for a job if you don't. When I graduate next year from engineering, I'm looking at New Zealand and Australia.
posted by piper4 at 4:03 PM on February 4, 2008

I had an easy time getting into Austria 7 years ago. I now have the Austrian equivalent of a green card, which allows me to work for any company in Austria and basically allows me to stay here the rest of my life. I could apply for citizenship if I wanted to (and I'd get it), but I have most of the benefits of having an Austrian citizenship without having to jeopardize my US citizenship, so there's not much motivation for me to do it.

I've answered this sort of question many times on AskMe, so you could search my comments for more detailed answers or feel free to MeMail me.

Previous questions along these lines:
Just graduated and moving to Europe with a girlfriend and no job
How can I move to Spain for a couple of years?
How to emigrate to Ireland?
posted by syzygy at 8:02 AM on February 5, 2008

« Older My cat is jealous of my wife and new daughter??   |   Do cats have the "terrible twos" phase as well? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.