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22nd June 2023

Moving to Europe? Here’s everything you need to know

Planning on moving to Europe? Here’s everything you need to know to take the worry out of the move.

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Love it or hate it, there’s no doubt that Brexit made things far more complicated if you’re considering moving to Europe.

Because of Brexit the UK has lost its special status and we are now defined as “third country citizens” because we are from a nation outside the European Union.

You can still visit most European countries and stay for up to 90 days in any 180 day period but if you are considering moving to Europe for good you’ll have to get a residency visa for the country you want to call home.

If work is tempting you into moving to Europe you should remember that your professional qualifications might not be recognised in the country you plan to relocate to and that a binding job offer may be a visa requirement. 

For most countries within the EU, when you travel you will need at least six months until your passport expires. If you don’t, you will run the risk of being turned back at the border.

moving to Europe
The attractions of a new life in the sun are obvious, but where will you go?

Moving to Europe? Where are you going?

Most expats who are thinking about moving to Europe head for France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, or Spain, and each country has its special rules of residency. 

Thinking about moving to France from the UK?

You’ll need to apply for a long-stay visa for France online. You’ll then have a year after you arrive in France to apply and obtain a full residency permit from your local prefecture.

Thinking about moving to Germany from the UK?

You can use this quick-check visa tool for Germany to find out if you are likely to be allowed to live and work there. 

If you’re moving for work, you’ll only be allowed to start working after you apply for a residency permit, which must be completed within 90 days of arrival in the country.

Thinking about moving to Italy from the UK?

If you are considering a move to Italy you will need to apply for a long stay visa. You can check if you are likely to qualify for a move to Italy by filling in the website form and paying around £100 when you make your application.

Long stay visas are available for those moving for work, education, family reunification or adoption, retirement, or religious purposes – but they’re not permanent.

You’ll be allowed to stay in Italy for a specific length of time, depending on your individual circumstances. The length of visas varies from three months to two years.

If you want to stay in Italy for longer, you must apply for a residency permit at an “immigration one-stop shop” and a police station – in that order – within eight working days of arriving in the country.

If you’re moving for work, you’ll need an Italian employer to get you a work permit, and then you can apply for a work visa.

Thinking about moving to Portugal from the UK?

As a UK national you’re allowed to stay in Portugal for three months but then you’ll need to get a “visto para obtenção de autorização de residência” – which is a visa to obtain a residency permit.

You can request a visa for work, scientific research or teaching, self-employment, and studying. It’ll allow you to stay in the country for four months during which time, if you want your move to be permanent, you must obtain a full residency permit — the autorização de residência.

When applying, you’ll have to prove you have enough money to cover your living costs. If successful, you’ll be allowed to stay in Portugal for one year, which can be renewed for up to five years – at which point you can apply for a permanent residence visa.

Thinking about moving to Spain from the UK?

If you’re considering moving to Spain, you’ll need a temporary residence visa — Tarjeta de Residencia — so you can stay in the country longer than 90 days.

Make an appointment with the Spanish Consulate in London by emailing [email protected]. The temporary visa will allow you to stay in Spain for three months to five years, depending on your circumstances. After five years you can apply for a permanent residence visa.

Other steps to take when considering moving to Europe

There’s a whole heap of things to think about if you are seriously considering moving to Europe.

Your new home and your old

If you’re moving to Europe you’ll need to decide whether you want to buy or rent a new home in your chosen country of residence. And if you own your current UK property you will also have to decide whether you will sell it or rent it out.

Renting your UK home is a good option for many as it provides a regular source of income and guarantees a way back in, should you wish to one day return. 

If you opt for renting it out you will need to decide how to manage the property, how you will find and vet tenants, collect rent and organise improvements or repairs on the property. The most common way is to find a letting agent who will take care of your property for a fee, usually of between 10% and 15% of the rental income.

moving to Europe
Will you rent or will you buy when you start your new life in a new country?

If you do rent it out you must talk to your mortgage provider to make sure you do not breach the terms of your loan agreement and your household insurer to make sure your property will be adequately covered for all eventualities in your absence.

You may also wish to consult a financial adviser as there will be tax considerations as a result of renting your property and moving to Europe. 

You will need to notify HMRC in the UK that you are planning to leave. If you don’t notify the relevant authorities, you may have to pay additional taxes which, as an expat, you will be exempt from. You will need a P85 form from Revenue and Customs.

Staying fit and healthy after your move abroad

If you are considering moving to Europe to live you should consider applying for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The EHIC should assist you with reduced, and sometimes free, health care costs. It’s valid across the EU including Switzerland and regardless of how long you intend to be abroad.

While the EHIC will be handy, for a long term stay you should integrate with the local social insurance system, if there is one, or take out private health insurance.

Before you head off abroad, tell your GP and dentist you are leaving.

You will also need to sort out your utility providers

Make a list of all your utility providers and make arrangements to cancel your agreements. If you don’t you may find yourself being chased for payment for services you have not used, whether you rent or sell your current home after moving to Europe. 

Stay connected at your new home

Familiarise yourself with service providers abroad and organise your gas, electricity, water supply, mobile phone, landline and internet provider before you set out so you are up and running the minute you arrive. 

How will you manage the move?

If you are moving to Europe you will have to work out if you are going to move your own belongings or if you are going to enlist the help of an international moving company. 

Managing your money

To avoid paying excessive transaction fees and losing out on currency fluctuations after moving to Europe you should open an international bank account that is specifically designed to facilitate the quick and cheap movement of money.

It’s also a good idea to open a local bank account to manage your day to day banking.

You should keep your UK account open to handle ongoing transactions, such as direct debits, standing orders or income from rent. This will also be handy if, and when, you choose to return to the UK.

Driving abroad

If you are intending to drive after moving to Europe you must ensure you know the local driving laws and regulations — they vary from country to country — which includes the paperwork you need to prove you are legal and the extra equipment you will need to keep in your car. 

If you are moving to Europe and planning to take your UK car with you, one thing you will definitely need is expat motor insurance cover. You will find out everything you need to know about driving in Europe in this blog.

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