Moving to Europe from the US: Everything You Need to Know
Thinking of swapping stars and stripes for European flair? Although the pandemic is (thankfully) long behind us, the trend of moving to Europe from the US is still very much relevant.
But before you pack your bags and hop on the first flight to Europe, there are some important factors to consider. From visa requirements to healthcare systems, navigating the logistics of moving abroad can be overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll provide you with practical tips, insider advice, and expert insights to help you make a smooth transition to your new European home. Whether you’re moving for work, education, or simply seeking a change of scenery, we’ve got you covered. Let’s get started!
Reasons to Move to Europe as an American
Moving to Europe means an opportunity to live and work in a different continent, as well as a different culture, for Americans. European cities like Paris, London, and Berlin are home to vibrant tech scenes, booming start-ups, and world-renowned companies, making them ideal destinations for those seeking career opportunities overseas.
Europe also offers a high quality of life, with excellent and affordable healthcare, education, and social services. And let’s not forget the food! From French pastries to Italian pasta, the European cuisine is a gastronomic delight.
If you’re wondering what specific motives are behind Americans moving to Europe, take a look below:
1. Housing: In most European countries, the living costs are lower than in major American cities. This means more affordable and spacious housing options at charming neighborhoods surrounded with beautiful architecture.
2. Healthcare: Many European countries have universal healthcare systems, which provide affordable or free medical care to all residents. This can be a significant advantage for Americans, who often face notoriously high healthcare costs in the US.
3. Education: Europe is home to many world-renowned universities and educational institutions, making it an excellent destination for those seeking higher education. In some countries, such as Germany and Norway, public universities are free for international students.
4. Career opportunities: Many European countries have strong economies and offer excellent job opportunities in a wide range of industries. Additionally, some countries have generous vacation time and work-life balance policies compared to the US.
5. Travel opportunities: Europe is a diverse continent with many countries and cultures to explore. Living in Europe can allow you to break free of boundaries and travel more easily and frequently to different countries and experience new cultures.
6. Food and drink: European cuisine is known for its variety, freshness, and quality. Living in Europe can give you access to delicious and healthy food and drinks, as well as an opportunity to try new dishes and culinary traditions.
7. High quality of life: Many countries in Europe consistently rank high in quality of life indexes, thanks to factors such as strong social safety nets, excellent healthcare, and a high standard of living.
8. History and culture: Europe is rich in history and culture, with many ancient and medieval cities, museums, and landmarks to explore. Living in Europe can allow you to immerse yourself in these cultural experiences.
9. Taxes: Tax rates in Europe can be higher than the US, but they often come with benefits such as free healthcare, education, and other social services.
10. Safety: Most countries in Europe have lower crime rates than the US. The ownership and use of guns are strictly regulated by the European Union. Many European countries have robust social safety nets, which help reduce crime by addressing the root causes of poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to healthcare and education. Check out the Safest Cities in Europe.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Europe
Although living in Europe offers numerous improvements to your life in the US, there are certain drawbacks that you’ll need to consider as well. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide whether moving to Europe is right for you:
Pros of Moving to Europe from the US
- Cultural experience: Europe is a melting pot of different cultures, languages, and traditions, providing an opportunity to experience and learn about new ways of life.
- Travel opportunities: With its well-connected transportation systems, Europe offers plenty of opportunities for exploring different countries and cultures.
- High quality of life: European countries are typically known for their high standards of living, excellent healthcare, and social services.
- Career opportunities: Europe is home to many of the world's largest and most successful companies, offering plenty of career opportunities for professionals.
- Education: Europe is home to some of the world's oldest and most prestigious universities, making it an excellent destination for students looking to study abroad.
Cons of Moving to Europe from the US
- Language barriers: Depending on the country you move to, you may encounter language barriers that can make it difficult to communicate and integrate into society.
- Cost of living: In some European countries, particularly in major cities, can be expensive, with high rental prices and living expenses.
- Visa and residence permit requirements: Depending on the country, obtaining a visa or residence permit can be a lengthy and complicated process.
- Weather: Europe's weather vary greatly depending on the region, with some areas experiencing harsh winters or hot summers that may be challenging for some.
- Homesickness: Moving abroad can be challenging, and some individuals may struggle with homesickness or feeling disconnected from the culture of their home country.
Moving to Europe as an American
If you’re an American considering a move to Europe, here are some steps you can take to make the process smoother:
1. Research visa requirements: Depending on your destination in Europe, you may need a visa to live and work there. Research the requirements of the right visa for you, and make sure you apply well in advance of your planned move. Some visa applications could take up few months until they are processed.
2. Secure employment: Finding a job abroad can be challenging, but having a job offer can help you secure a visa and make the transition smoother. Look for job opportunities in your field and consider networking with professionals in your industry. The majority of European countries require a physical location for work, so you may need to avoid remote job offers until securing your permits.
3. Organize your finances: Moving is expensive even across states, but moving to a different continent is usually even pricier, so it’s important to have your finances in order. Consider saving up for living expenses and travel costs, and make sure you have enough money to support yourself while you look for a job.
4. Learn the language: Depending on your destination, it may be helpful or even necessary to learn the local language. Consider taking language classes before you move, or immersing yourself in the language once you arrive.
5. Obtain necessary documents: Make sure you have all the necessary documents in order, such as your passport, birth certificate, and medical records. You may also need to obtain a driver’s license in your new country.
6. Research housing options: Look for housing options in your new country, and consider whether you want to rent or buy. Keep in mind that housing costs can vary greatly depending on the country and the city.
7. Arrange a health insurance plan: If you’re moving to a country with a different healthcare system than the US, research your options for health insurance coverage and make sure you understand how the system works. Travel insurance usually works the best to start with, but you’ll need to transition into a specific and more covering healthcare plan. Note that the majority of European countries offer free or affordable healthcare to their residents, but it might require you to work or have specific conditions. Make sure to read the small footnotes.
How Much Does Moving to Europe Cost
The cost of moving to Europe is an ambiguous discussion as it can vary greatly depending on the location, the distance from your hometown, the number of belongings you are taking with you, and the mode of transportation. Alongside the physical moving of the belongings, some of the typical costs associated with moving to Europe include:
Transportation costs: These include the cost of flights, shipping, or hiring a mover. The cost of shipping your belongings can range from $2,000 to $5,000 or more, depending on the size of your shipment and the distance.
Visa and Immigration Fees: Visa and immigration fees can range from $200 to $500 or more, depending on the country you are moving to and the type of visa you require.
Travel Costs: Travel expenses, including airfare, can range from $500 to $1,500 or more per person.
Housing Costs: Housing costs vary widely across Europe, but expect to pay at least $1,000 to $2,000 per month for a basic apartment or house rental.
Utilities: Monthly utilities, such as electricity, gas, water, and internet, can cost $100 to $200 or more.
Insurance: Health insurance and other forms of insurance can add several hundred dollars per month to your expenses.
The amount can range from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on your individual circumstances. Please note that these are only preliminary and estimated expenses and the real costs will differ based on some factors like the country and city you are moving to, the time you need to arrive, the number of things you’ll carry, and mail.
Visa Options for Moving to Europe from the US
Depending on the purpose of your move, there are different visa options to consider:
Tourist Visa: This allows you to stay in the European Union (EU) for up to 90 days within 180 days. However, it does not permit you to work or study.
Work Visa: If you have a job offer in Europe, your employer can sponsor you for a work visa. The cost of a work visa varies by country and can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Student Visa: If you plan to study in Europe, you will need a visa. The cost of a student visa also varies by country and can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Entrepreneur Visa: Some European countries offer an entrepreneur visa for individuals who plan to start a business in Europe.
Digital Nomad Visa: Certain countries like Estonia and Czechia offer digital nomad visas for people who are working remotely with a foreign employer and have enough finances to sustain themselves. This type of visa is offered for a time usually between 3 months-1 year, and some of these places even offer extension possibilities.
It is important to note that the visa application process can be lengthy and require extensive documentation. Additionally, some countries may require proof of financial means to support yourself while living in Europe.
Golden Visas: A Popular Option for Americans to Move to Europe
Golden visas have become a popular option for Americans looking to move to Europe. Also referred to as ‘residency by investment’, these schemes allow investors to make a qualifying investment in exchange for a specific type of residency permit. The name “Golden Visa” comes from the fact that it provides a path to permanent residency and potential citizenship in exchange for investment.
Several European countries offer it, including Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Cyprus. The investment required for a golden visa varies depending on the country, but it typically ranges from €250,000 to €2 million.
The benefits of a golden visa include the ability to live and work in the country and travel freely throughout the Schengen Area. It can also lead to citizenship in the long run, depending on the country’s citizenship requirements.
However, it’s important to note that there are some criticisms of this type of visa. Some people argue that they can be used for money laundering and other illicit activities. Additionally, some people believe that the program unfairly benefits wealthy individuals at the expense of the local population.
Despite these criticisms, golden visas remain a popular option for Americans looking to move to Europe. With the right investment and planning, it can be an appealing route to permanent residency and potential citizenship.
14 Things to Do Before Moving to Europe
Now that you’ve decided to move to Europe, here are 15 things that you need to do before you make the move. Remember, it’s better to have a concrete plan and know what you are supposed to do before making the move. Also, don’t forget to take care of important tasks such as canceling or transferring utilities and subscriptions, obtaining health insurance, and setting up a bank account.
1# Research the requirements of the visa of your choice and collect the necessary documentation.
2# Save money and create a budget for the move.
3# Learn the local language and customs of the country you plan to move to.
4# Decide on a location to move to in Europe.
5# Find a place to live, either by renting or purchasing a property.
6# Determine how you will transport your belongings to Europe.
7# Notify your current employer and any other necessary parties about your move.
8# Obtain health insurance and research healthcare options in your destination country.
9# Cancel or transfer current utilities, subscriptions, and services.
10# Obtain necessary permits for pets or other animals you plan to bring with you, if there is any.
11# Obtain an international driver’s license if you plan to drive in Europe.
12# Research banking options and set up a bank account in your destination country.
13# Determine how you will communicate with friends and family back home.
14# Secure a job or source of income in Europe.
Relocating to Europe from the US: Conclusion
Moving to Europe from the US can be an exciting and life-changing experience, and it requires careful planning and preparation. From researching visa options and securing housing to budgeting for the cost of living and transportation, there are many important factors to consider before making the move. With proper planning and research, however, the process can be relatively smooth and straightforward.
Keep in mind that each European country has its own unique culture, language, and customs, so it is important to be open-minded and willing to adapt to new experiences. Whether you are moving for work, education, or simply a change of scenery, moving to Europe offers exciting opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is living in Europe better than living in the US?
It's difficult to definitively say whether living in Europe offers more of a good life than in the US as it ultimately depends on personal preferences and priorities. Both regions offer two different sets of unique advantages and disadvantages. Europe is known for its rich history, diverse cultures, and universal health care, while the US is known for its career opportunities, technological advancements, and higher salaries in certain fields. The cost of living and quality of life also vary greatly depending on the specific country and city within Europe or the US.
What is the easiest country in Europe for an American to move to?
Here are some European countries that are generally considered more welcoming and easier for Americans to move to:
Ireland: Americans can stay in Ireland for up to 90 days without a visa, and the country has a relatively lower cost of living compared to other countries in Europe. English is the primary language, which can make it easier for Americans to communicate and integrate into society.
United Kingdom: Americans can stay in the UK for up to six months without a visa, and the country shares a language and culture with the US. There are also many job opportunities, especially in fields such as finance, technology, and healthcare.
Germany: Germany has a strong economy and many job opportunities, especially in fields such as engineering and IT. Many Germans speak English, and the country has a high standard of living. Americans can stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa.
Portugal: Portugal is known for its warm weather, low cost of living, and friendly locals. Americans can stay in Portugal for up to 90 days without a visa, and the country has a relatively easy residency process.
Spain: Spain is a popular destination for Americans, thanks to its sunny climate, beautiful beaches, and relaxed lifestyle. Many Spaniards speak English, and the country has a relatively lower cost of living compared to other countries in Europe.
Is it cheaper to live in Europe or America?
Generally, Europe has a higher cost of living than America, but there are some exceptions. For example, some cities in America, such as New York and San Francisco, have a higher cost of living than many cities in Europe. Health care and education costs tend to be lower in Europe than in America. However, taxes can be higher in Europe, and the cost of imported goods can be more expensive due to tariffs and transportation costs.
Which EU country is easiest to get residency?
Some EU countries are known for having relatively easy processes for getting a residence permit, including:
Portugal: Portugal offers a Golden Visa program, which allows non-EU citizens to obtain a residence permit in exchange for an investment in the country. Additionally, the country has a relatively lower cost of living and a high quality of life.
Spain: Spain offers a non-lucrative visa, which allows non-EU citizens to acquire a residence permit if they can prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves. The country also has a warm climate, beautiful beaches, and a relaxed lifestyle.
Ireland: Ireland offers a Startup Entrepreneur Program, which allows non-EU citizens to obtain residence permit if they can prove they have a viable business idea. Additionally, English is the primary language, which can make it easier for foreigners to integrate into society.
Which EU country is easiest to get citizenship?
Some EU countries have more favorable citizenship laws than others, including:
Cyprus: Cyprus used to a citizenship-by-investment program, a.k.a. golden visa, which allows non-EU citizens to obtain citizenship in exchange for an investment in the country. Cyprus suspended its citizenship by investment program, effective from 1 November 2020.
Malta: Malta offers a citizenship-by-investment program, similar to Cyprus, as well as a citizenship-by-naturalization program for individuals who have lived in the country for at least one year.
Spain: Spain offers a fast-track citizenship program for individuals from former Spanish colonies, such as Latin America, as well as for Sephardic Jews who can prove their Spanish ancestry.
How long can a US citizen live abroad without losing citizenship?
A US citizen can live abroad indefinitely without losing their citizenship. There is no specific time limit for how long the citizen can live outside the country. However, it's important to note that certain actions can potentially jeopardize a US citizen's citizenship status, such as taking an oath of allegiance to another country, serving in a foreign military, or renouncing US citizenship. Additionally, citizens who live abroad may still be required to file US tax returns and pay income tax for both inside-US earnings and earnings abroad, depending on their individual circumstances.
Why do Americans pay taxes abroad?
Americans who living abroad are still required to pay US taxes on their worldwide income. This is because the US has a citizenship-based tax system, which means that US citizens are taxed on their income regardless of where they live and work in the world. However, the US does offer certain tax credits and exclusions for individuals who pay foreign taxes or earn income abroad. It's important for Americans living abroad to carefully navigate the complex tax laws and seek guidance from a qualified tax professional to ensure they comply with both US and foreign tax laws.
Is working in Europe better than working in the US?
It's difficult to make a blanket statement about whether Europe is better than the US in terms of jobs as it can vary depending on the specific industry and country. However, Europe is generally known for having better work-life balance and stronger labor laws than the US. Many European countries have laws that mandate paid vacation time, parental leave, and a maximum number of work hours per week. In addition, many companies in Europe prioritize work-life balance and offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and flexible schedules. In contrast, the US has less strict labor laws and generally does not mandate paid vacation time or parental leave. The average American worker also tends to work longer hours than their European counterparts, and there is a culture of valuing productivity over work life balance.
What is the cheapest EU country to live in?
Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary are some of the countries that are generally known for having a lower cost of living than others.
What are some of the ideal visas to move to Europe from the US?
If you're an American looking to get a one way ticket to Europe, there are several visa options to consider depending on your purpose of stay. For those who want to live without working, some countries offer retirement visa, such as Portugal's D7 visa or Spain's non-lucrative visa, which allow non-EU citizens to reside in the country as long-term residents. These visas generally require proof of sufficient income and health insurance coverage. Those looking for investment opportunities, on the other hand, may opt for Golden Visa programs. Self employed/remote workers and digital nomads can prefer digital nomad or self employment visas.
Is it difficult to make new friends as an American expat in Europe?
Making new friends as an expat can be challenging, especially if you're not familiar with the language and culture. However, there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people, and being open and willing to step out of your comfort zone can help. There are many ways to connect with fellow ex pats in Europe, such as joining expat groups or clubs, attending language classes, cultural events, or expat-oriented meetups.