Many Americans believe that they will improve their quality of life if they move to Europe. According to some American expats who live in Europe, the quality of life is actually better than in the United States. This may be true, but should not be taken for granted. Keep in mind that standard of living is not the same in each European country. Some countries have high standard of living (and high cost of living), while others have lower cost of living, and lower quality of life. Your life in Europe will depend on which country you choose, and how much money you have.
Moving to Europe
Different European countries have different immigration rules. It is not easy to get residency. You can get a work visa, or you can get some other type of temporary visa; in some countries, this may help you get a citizen status, whereas in others, getting citizenship can be next to impossible. Even if you marry a European citizen, you will still have to wait to get permanent residency (in most cases, this will last five years). Getting EU citizenship has many advantages. You will be able to travel to different EU countries and work there.
What Is the Difference between EU Citizenship and Residency?
Citizenship can be obtained through marriage, birth, family relations and long-term residency. EU passports are only given to the EU citizens. You can be a resident and have a foreign passport (and citizenship of a foreign country). Different European countries have different regulations, regarding how long you have to be a resident before you can apply for citizenship. If you are a resident, and you get married to an EU citizen, you can apply for EU citizenship. However, this process is not always simple.
What Are the Requirements for Permanent Residency?
The requirements are almost the same in all EU countries. Most European countries have accepted common standards for gaining residency. However, you need to know how these standards are implemented locally; hiring a lawyer will be a good idea. Here are several examples.
In Denmark, a registered partner can get a residence permit, and the application process usually starts in the country of origin. However, if he/she is already in Denmark (legally), the application process can start in the country. Partners have to be older than 24, need to be attached to Denmark (for example, fluency in Danish, other family members in Denmark, etc); the sponsor must have permanent residence in this country for three years minimum, and must prove that he/she can support the partner and provide accommodation.
In Netherlands, you can get permanent residency, if your relationship with a person who has habitual residence in the country is “permanent and serious”. You and the partner have to live together, both of you need to be older than 18 and unmarried. The sponsor needs to prove that he/she can provide financial support.
In Belgium: both partners have to be older than 18, and they need to prove that their relationship is permanent. They have to share a household. The sponsoring partner must prove that he /she can provide financial support.
In Germany: if the sponsor partner is a citizen of Germany, his/her partner will have the right to apply for a residence permit. If the sponsor comes from some other EU country, the process will be more complicated. The sponsoring partner must show that he/she has enough money to support both of them.
Learn more about the best places to live in Europe.
Read about the cost of living and the most expensive European cities.