Relocating to Europe. Visas and sponsorship explained + a great opportunity :-)

11 Jan 2011 - 4:29am
5 years ago
5 replies
5395 reads
Sean Pook

Hello everyone,

Happy New Year to you all.

So then, as part of my job I speak to hundreds of folks based in the EU who ask if I have roles for them in the US or Canada etc, and vice versa. My answer is invariably no, not due to a lack of opportunities, but due to the lack of the candidate having a correct work visa or the hiring firm not sponsoring said visas.

I know little about US and Canadian visas, so I thought I'd tell you a little more about the EU.

EU = European Union (a collective of countries that have special links for economic reasons). These relationships affect border control also. Under current laws, the majority of EU Passport/citizenship holders can freely travel throughout the EU and have the right to work in the country visited. There are a few exceptions, such as Bulgaria and Romania.

Here's some important information. 1) Gaining your US passport does not mean you have a visa or permit to work anywhere in Europe  (this might sound a strange assumption, but I've spoken to many folks who thought that a US passport = the right to work abroad). A US passport simply gives you the option to leave your country and enter another. 2) Gaining a work permit for an EU country ONLY allows you to work in that country. You will not benefit by the border treaties that EU CITIZENS enjoy. To do so, you must become first resident, then a citizen of your chosen EU country. Once an EU passport holder, you can then freely travel throughout the EU and work in any of its countries.


Despite the commonality, each EU country has very different laws around work visas. Some are easy to obtain, some are difficult. Each country's work visa system is out of the scope of this article, however, two countries I have a lot of business in is the UK and Germany. I'll use these as examples. Until recently it was somewhat easier to obtain a work permit in Germany than it was in the UK. It is now far more easy, or should I say, far more difficult to obtain a work permit for the UK. To gain a work permit in the UK you must either receive sponsorship from a company (Tier 2 visa type), or obtain your own independent  visa (Tier 1) which is a points based qualification system. Enough points + cash in the bank + application fee + 6 weeks = Tier 1 visa, which allows you to work for any UK firm without them needing to get involved. The Tier 1 system replaced the HSMP visa (Highly Skilled Migrant Program). HSMPs were dished out like candy. Some argue that far to many came to the UK under the HSMP scheme, and remain here still today. The points required were relatively low and the cost of the visa was around £300 ($500 perhaps).

Giving in to public pressure, the UK government has curtailed its visa allocation. Tier 1 was tougher to obtain and more expensive (£1000 / $1300). This meant only the most committed individuals applied when you consider this is a considerable sum in some countries. Now we also have caps on the number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas allowed. Competition will be fierce and many will not make the grade. Our very few clients that did offer visa sponsorship have been in touch and told us this is no longer an option. There's growing concern from some in the UK that this move will damage our economy. It's false to suggest that UK firms prefer to bring an employee in from thousands of miles away than to hire a local. The only times when they did this, was if the candidate was far better suited for the role. Anyway, this is a debate that continues. In the meantime, the UK is an island once more.

Not so in Germany though. As I understand things, if the company can prove they need to bring in foreign talent, they can get you a work permit. It takes a bit of time, and some money, but it can be done.

This brings me to say that I am currently working with a well known international firm in Berlin. They are offering visa sponsorship for Interaction Designers and Visual UI designers at several seniority levels (mid level to management).

Should you be interested in these opportunities or have any questions on coming to Europe to work, please get in touch.

sean[at]ic-creative[dot co dot uk]

Perhaps someone can write about how one goes about going from the EU to the US?

All the best and I hope 2011 is a good year for all

Sean Pook

Head of Design and User Experience Recruitment at IC Creative


11 Jan 2011 - 8:04am
Paul Bryan

Thanks, Sean. This is a very informative and timely post. I was already planning to spend much of 2011 doing UX strategy consulting in Germany, and this encourages me to continue moving forward with that plan.

Paul Bryan

Design Strategy Consultant

Linked In Group Owner: Digital Design Strategy

11 Jan 2011 - 8:05am
Dave Malouf
I love it! Thank you. Sponsored content! sure you're supposed to pay for thus job post through our job board, but instead of posting for free here, you at least gave us the courtesy of adding valuable content as your payment. Brilliant! - Dave
11 Jan 2011 - 10:03am
Paul Bryan

I see your point, Dave, and IxDA deserves to be compensated for delivering a targeted audience to recruiters, but this post is broader than a job announcement, and took a little more thought and consideration about the composition and needs of this audience.

The economy is improving, and people are looking for new opportunities (job cabin fever?). I was reading in a Deloitte report earlier today ("Measuring the Forces of Long-Term Change" at ) that there is a global trend developing in which creative, passionate people who are "interested in integrating their passions into their professions ... will look for situations that they believe will better support their development." What better way to get the creative passion flowing than a year in Paris or Berlin or Tokyo? The report went on to say, "The rapid growth of Internet activity reflects both broader availability and richer opportunities for connection with a growing range of people and resources." This forum is certainly evidence of that trend.


11 Jan 2011 - 10:39am
Sean Pook

Thanks Paul - glad this helps. Germany's a great place and well worth an extended visit.

@Dave - all very true. I know this may cross the line for some, but for others the information is more important. If anyone is greatly bothered I can consider removing the bold highlighter ;-) Just kidding.

12 Jan 2011 - 3:18pm
Dave Malouf
I actually think this is a great model. Payment doesn't have to be in cash. You paid in kind. In my mind it is totally in the spirit of IxDA. Like I said, brilliant! - dave
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