Legal Requirements To Work In The European Union

July 27, 2015 Magda

Europe’s startup scene is thriving, which means that there are many startup jobs available here. Wouldn’t it be nice to work at a cool startup while exploring a new country? Well, many cool opportunities are rising on cities like Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and London that may entice you to cross the pond. But, before you do, here’s what you need to know about the legal regulations for working in the European Union.

In general, to work as an employee in one of the EU countries you don’t need to apply to any work permit if you are a national from another EU country, any of the countries belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

If you are a citizen from a country outside the EU/EEA, willing to work in the EU, you’ll need to fulfill several immigration laws, that can vary from one country to another and may also depend on your nationality. Nevertheless, there are some common trends that apply in all the European Union countries, in particular those regarding high qualified workers, researchers and students.


The EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card allows high qualified workers from outside the EU to live and work in the European Union, provided they have high professional qualifications and an employment contract of at least one year and with salary higher than the average pay in the country where the job is based.

The Blue Card applies in 24 of the EU countries –all of them except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

To get a Blue Card, you or your employer must submit an application to the competent authorities in the country where you are willing to work. The requirements to apply for a Blue Card may vary a little from one country to another, but the main requirements are:

  • You must prove to have ‘higher professional qualifications’, either by showing a higher education qualification (such as a university degree) or by having at least five years of relevant professional experience;

  • Your annual gross salary must be at least one and a half times the average national salary;

  • You must present a work contract or binding job offer in an EU country for at least one year;

  • You must have the necessary travel documents and health insurance;

  • You must prove that you fulfill the legal requirements to practice your profession, where this profession is regulated.

The EU Blue Card doesn’t apply to self-employed work or entrepreneurs.

Since May 27th 2015, the European Commission has opened a public consultation period to collect opinions on a range of issues related to economic migration, in order to review the Blue Card Directive and make it more effective and attractive.


National Laws

If you are not eligible for an EU Blue Card, you still can work in the EU if you meet the criteria from the specific country. I put together a list of some European countries and their work-related laws for foreigners. Let’s go through them.



To work in Spain as an employee, you need a work and residence permit and visa. In order to get a work permit, your employer must ask for it to the Immigration Affairs Office. A work permit will be granted if the job falls within the activities listed in the Shortage Occupations list. If not, the employer must advertise the job vacancy with the local Employment services. If no national worker is a suitable candidate with the required qualifications for the position, the employer may proceed with your work permit application.

Once the work permit has been authorised, you must apply for a work and residence visa at the Embassy or Consulate in your country of origin which will allow you to enter Spain to work.

More information here



To work as an employee in Germany, you must first obtain a visa to enter Germany (not necessary if you are from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea or the USA).

Once in Germany, you must apply for a residence permit for the purpose of employment. The Public Employment Service will consent to the granting of a permit if your recruitment doesn’t cause any negative impact on the labour market and if there is no qualified German or EU/EEA citizen regarded as equivalent and available to fill the position.

The Public Employment Service will also verify that you have been offered adequate wages and work conditions.

More information here



In order to work in Netherlands as an employee, the first thing you will need is a provisional residence permit (a special visa for stays of more than three months in the Netherlands) and/or a single permit, that combines both the residence permit and the work permit (nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States and the Vatican are exempt from this requirement).

To get a single permit, you or your employer should apply using a single application procedure that leads to a combined title encompassing both a residence and work permit within one single administrative act.

More information here



If you wish to work as an employee in France, you must get a work permit by obtaining a long-stay visa, an individual residence permit permitting employed activity and a work permit; also, you must have a work contract that has been accepted by DIRECCTE, the authority responsible for the foreign labour force.

Once your employer asks for an authorisation to DIRECCTE, they will verify your professional qualifications and experience and that the proposed job is suitable to your condition. They’ll also check the compliance with labour regulations and conditions by the employer, and that there is a shortage of employees for this position.

The decision will be favourable if all criteria set out in the Labour Code are met.

More Information here (in French)


United Kingdom

To work as an employee in the United Kingdom, you need to get a Tier 2 (General) Visa. In order to get the visa, the UK employer that has offered you the job must be willing to be your ‘sponsor’, and you must present a certificate of sponsorship (a reference number which holds information about the job and your personal details) from him/her.

Also, to be eligible for a Tier 2 visa, you must have been offered an “appropriate salary” (£20.800 or more), possess the required level of English and also your must show you have £945 in savings, to prove you can support yourself.

More information here


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